The state of Shredlage in 2016 – Jon Urness, Vita Plus

Posted on November 29, 2016 in Forage Foundations
By Jon Urness, Vita Plus national forage specialist
When Shredlage® was introduced in 2008, it caused quite a stir among dairy producers, nutritionists, custom chopper operators, equipment manufacturers and university researchers.

Dairy producers and nutritionists hoped for better starch release, better corn silage fiber digestion and more milk.  Custom chopper operators wondered if they should get on board with Shredlage, if it would mean extra expenses, and how they could get paid for it. Processing roll manufacturers scrambled to evaluate their equipment and develop new technologies, and universities were interested in the science.

The state of Shredlage in 2016 is probably not what the technology’s inventors, Ross Dale and Roger Olsen, originally had in mind.  Nonetheless, it has stood the tests of time and is now marketed exclusively by the world’s largest forage harvester, Claas.  Other chopper manufacturers, like New Holland, Krone, John Deere and aftermarket companies, developed processing rolls of their own design with hopes of achieving the same reputation.

Research trials from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Cornell University suggest Shredlage has been responsible for a few extra pounds of milk or components.  But the big question remains, what exactly caused the enhanced production?

  • Greater starch release because of better kernel processing?
  • Improved fiber digestion because of lacerated fodder?
  • Healthier rumens because of lengthier material on the top screen of a Penn State Shaker Box (PSSB)?

The answer is likely all of the above, but sorting out the most critical factor has proven difficult.  To say which is best is like the old Ford, Chevy or Dodge pickup truck argument at the local coffee shop.  Nobody is going to win that one.

Progressive Dairyman recently published three articles in an attempt to find the most critical factor.

In the July 1 issue, Dr. Jud Heinrichs, professor of dairy and animal science at Penn State University, said he believes kernel processing has the most impact, not improved fiber digestion.  Although he states Shredlage does change the distribution of particles in a PSSB, he believes particles greater than 4 mm provide the cow with enough physically effective fiber and will be sorted out in the top two or three screens of a PSSB.  He says this does not provide an advantage over conventionally chopped corn silage.  However, trials with increased milk production point to inconsistent kernel processing scores (KPS) between trial groups, which alone could account for noted production differences.

Dr. John Goeser, director of nutrition, research and innovation at Rock River Laboratories, shared in an August article his observations from submitted samples.  Goeser says, when you compare Shredlage samples to conventional silage samples from 2012 to 2016, you see a higher KPS in Shredlage samples.  At the highest end of the spectrum, far more Shredlage samples achieved a KPS score of 85 or higher, while far fewer Shredlage samples were on the lower end of the spectrum.  At the same time, Goeser’s data suggests that optimum or poor kernel processing can be achieved regardless of processing method.

Tim Thompson, a Provimi® dairy specialist, wrote an article in September expressing the satisfaction of many dairy producers who have seen 2.5 pound increases in milk production from Shredlage, similar to the results from a Cornell University study.  The study reported 36.8 percent of Shredlage particles were in the top screen of a PSSB compared to 13.9 percent from conventionally processed silage.  He says the extra length of cut, combined with greater lengthwise fodder processing, results in less sorting and a greater packing density.

Regardless of processing equipment, all three experts believe harvesting at the right moisture, particle length and maturity can positively impact animal performance.

Category: Equipment
Feed quality and nutrition
Forage Foundations
Forage harvesting