Will shredlage become a rage in the processing of corn silage and possibly with grains, hay, and straw as forage feeds?
Shredlage is a trademarked term referring to a new method of processing corn silage, which shreds the plant stover lengthwise and in longer theoretical lengths of cut, making the fiber of the coarse stover more digestible in the rumen of dairy cows.
Representatives of the company that is making and selling the specialized cross-grooved processing rollers, which are adapted for use with some Claas self-propelled choppers, and potentially John Deere, spoke at the Calumet County forage council's 2012 summer twilight meeting at See Farms.
The technique was discovered when a Mennonite farmer used an old John Deere chopper that shredded the corn stalks rather than crossing cutting them, according to company partner Roger Olson, a livestock nutritionist at Baldwin. When that silage was fed to dairy cows, better performance was noted.
The unusually chopped silage came to the attention of Ross Dale, another partner, who is a livestock nutritionist at Oskalooska, IA. When Olson learned of this, he had his father Loren, of Westby, make a prototype model to chop corn silage in a similar manner.
The third owner is Bob Scherer, who operates Scherer Corrugation and Design at Tea, S.D.
The current version of the shredlage units sell for $29,200 with a five-year warranty on the frame and with the expectation that the rollers will need to be replaced about once a year, depending on the amount of use, Scherer indicated.
Scherer explained that the roller grinds and chews stalk stover rather than cross cutting it. He said one manufactured lot of 25 units sold out fast and that this year's units are approaching a sellout.
Olson reported that five dairy farmers in the Madison area intend to make shredlage with their corn this year.
Scherer said the units are adapted for five recent model Claas choppers and John Deere is working to fit them to its 7750 and 7950 choppers.
Most of the units introduced to the commercial market in 2011 are currently in use in Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin, Olson stated. He said it is likely to require a bit more horsepower and diesel fuel than the traditional silage processing unit.
Because of the intense physical requirements of the shredding process, the prototype had to be strengthened, Scherer stated.
He said buyers have to use the company's rolls, bearings, and springs and that, to protect the smaller parts, an oil mist is sprayed onto the bearings during operation and temperature, belt tension, and air pressure monitoring are provided.
A physical difference in the processing is a 30 millimeter or one and one-quarter inch theoretical length of cut compared to the three-fourths inch that is a common practice, Olson pointed out.
A bonus, he added, is how virtually all of the corn kernels are crushed.
One concern with the shredlage was that dairy cows might like to sort it at feed bunks but this has definitely not proven to a problem, Olson remarked.
This is happening although about 35 percent of the silage is being caught on the top or largest screen on the Penn State shaker box compared to about 10 percent with conventional silage, he said.
With a longer or skinny cut shaping of the corn stover, rather than block-like cuts, the silage tends to be more fluffy but it packs even better than conventional silage - an average of three more pounds more cubic foot, Olson reported. "We will try the shredlage unit with other forages, too."
The shredlage lends itself to harvest at between 60 and 65 percent moisture, Olson pointed out.
Because of a harvesting delay, the shredlage made at See Farms in the fall of 2011 was at only 45 to 47 percent moisture with black-layered kernels but it has stored well and is being fed, he observed. "But we don't recommend moisture that low."
With the shredlage, Olson believes that corn silage can account for up to 85 percent of the forage in a dairy ration with no need to tone down the ration or its moisture level with dry hay or wheat straw.
He said high-moisture corn would not be needed and more byproduct feeds could be accommodated.
One of Olson's clients, a dairy farmer who since has had to sell his cows because of serious health problems, had a herd whose daily milk production average per cow jumped from 85 to 92 pounds when introduced to the shredlage.
A mineral mix made up much of the remainder of the ration, he said.
In another herd, the daily milk per cow reached an average of 104 pounds, Olson noted.
He said he's confident that brown mid-rib corn would fare just as well as conventional corn although it already possesses traits of better fiber digestibility.
(That the claim of increased milk production, though at lower numbers, is valid according to an initial study conducted with the University of Wisconsin-Madison dairy herd in late 2011 at Arlington. See separate story for details.)
More information about corn shredlage and the new processing rolls used to make it is available on the www.shredlage.com