By Lisa Stahl
Recently, I was visiting Alberta, Canada, when I got to see something done on a farm Id never seen before. The colony I was staying at, were in the midst of making silage.
Making silage is a yearly routine and has several advantages over making bales.
To start, for my readers who dont know what silage is, (I never knew myself since my own colony doesnt make any. Id only heard bits and pieces of making silage from the menfolks.)
First, green barley is swathed. Right behind the swather is the silage machine which picks up the swathed barley. It is then chopped up into small pieces. At the same time the barley is augured into a truck which constantly drives beside the silage machine. Right behind that truck is another truck, waiting for its turn to be filled. This way the silage machine is always moving.
Once the chopped barley is augured into the trucks, its taken to a nearby silage pit. Of course, anyone whos seen a silage pit will see right away it is not a pit. Really, its just two high cement walls (about 12 feet tall) which are about 100-150 feet apart from each other and 200-250 fee long (depending on the size of the pit.)
The silage is dumped in the center of the pit. Next, somebody driving a tractor with a huge blade pushes the dumped silage to one end making layers as he works. At the same time he concentrates on packing the silage with the weight of the tractor, for its the amount of pressure used to pack which helps preserve it longer.
When they are finished packing, a heavy tarp is put on top which covers the entire pit. The purpose of the tarp is to protect the silage from weather and also to preserve it for what some people call forever, though in reality its about three to four years.
The reasons people prefer making silage over bales, (though many do both) are, one: it lasts longer than bales. Two: it has more nutrition than bales. Three: it can be picked up right after swathing, as for bales, you have to wait for it to dry a bit first. Four: its a less time consuming job since you can do everything at once.
These are just a few of the advantages of making silage instead of bales, but Im sure there are many more. The ones listed above are the most common.
I asked some of the cowboys at our colony why we dont make silage, and I received a commonly heard answer: We dont have the equipment.