Shredlage or conventional processing: What makes the best business sense?

Posted on January 9, 2014 in Forage Foundations
When it comes to the latest technology in corn silage processing, Shredlage® has dominated the headlines in the farm papers. This new approach to processing corn silage – which emphasizes not only the kernel portion of corn silage but also the stover portion – shows a lot of promise.

A number of dairy producers from all over the country are singing its praises. Custom harvesters who recognize the potential value to their clients are taking a close look.  Others are a bit more cautious because of the added investment and ability to recoup that investment.

So, as you’re looking at your 2014 numbers and trying to choose the wisest investments for your business, do you join the Shredlage trend or stick to what you have?

Jason Brandt of J.A. Forage Service LLC, a custom harvester from Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, has opted for a wait-and-see attitude on spending the money on this new technology.  Instead, he is making the best out of the equipment he currently owns.

Attention to detail
In a survey conducted by Vita Plus staff looking at nearly 150 silage samples, Brandt consistently topped the survey and achieved optimally processed results, often in the high 70s and even 80s.

Having good equipment is important to Brandt, but beyond that, he keeps a close eye on the condition of that equipment and how it’s performing.  Here’s what he recommends at the beginning of the season and throughout the season:

  • Check the condition of the rolls (Are the teeth still sharp or are they worn?)
  • Check the condition of the belts (Are they in good shape or do they show signs of slippage or wear?)
  • Check the condition of the processor springs (Are they holding the rolls together properly?)
  • Know the roll gap (Measure at the rolls; don’t rely on what’s indicated in the cab.)

“Once a day, either myself or one of the crew members will check loads to make sure the processor is still set properly for the conditions we’re in. Everybody on my team knows what I and the customer are looking for.  Once in a while, I’ll take a bucket of water and dump a couple of handfuls of fresh silage in to separate the kernels from the stover. That way we can more closely look at what kind of a job we are doing,” Brandt explained. “I think just being conscious about what changes are happening – moisture and variety for example – then making changes to the processor where needed. I do believe when we get into dual-purpose or grain corn, it becomes harder to do a good job.”

Brandt has also experimented with increasing the speed differential of the processing rolls and believes that change alone has made a huge difference in improving kernel processing. He cautions though that over-processing can negatively impact length of cut and result in a poor analysis in a Penn State shaker box with too many fine particles.

Roll out the processing unit
Chris Wacek-Driver, forage products manager at Vita Plus, would concur with Brandt’s comments. Last summer, she conducted a field survey of more than 30 custom harvesters and learned that the common denominator among harvesters consistently achieving high kernel processing scores was constant observation and measurement.

“In this survey, the one practical piece of advice was to regularly roll out the processor and physically measure the actual roll gap with feeler gauges. The personnel that took the time to do this, rather than relying on the predicted reading on the cab screen, regularly recorded the highest kernel processing scores,” she said. “While getting desired fiber particle size and optimal kernel processing is not an easy task, there are people out there obtaining both with current kernel processors regardless of brand.  These people know how to use existing technology and, perhaps more importantly, know the costs.  Better design, testing, processes and technology can get us there.  However, if one thing was learned from this field survey it was this: while new technology and innovation may help us move forward toward a targeted goal, it does not come without knowledge and management of that technology.”

Investing in new technologies can payoff for your business.  But, if the numbers don’t seem right this year, routine maintenance and close management of your existing equipment can also make good financial sense.

Category: Equipment
Forage Foundations
Forage harvesting