A recent study at the University of Wisconsin Arlington Research Station compared corn shredlage® with kernel-processed corn silage.
Corn shredlage is silage produced from the whole-plant corn that has been harvested with a much-longer-than-usual theoretical length cut.
Traditionally, corn silage has a cut of about 19 mm (approximately .63 inch), whereas with shredlage the self-propelled forage harvester is fitted with aftermarket cross-grooved crop processing rolls that cut at 30 mm (approximately 1.25 inches). This results in a greater proportion of coarse particles in the feed.
The long-cut shredded forage has more surface area than other silage, has smashed corn kernels and seems softer and fluffier.
"This is not your grandpa's shredlage," says Randy Shaver of the UW-Madison dairy science department.
Speaking at the recent Fond du Lac County Dairy-Forage Day, Shaver said the differences are obvious when looking at the shredlage next to conventional corn silage.
The proportion of material on the top (coarsest) screen of the Penn State Shaker separator box was greater for shredlage. This was also the case for the TMR, which contained the shredlage.
Shaver adds, "There was no sorting at the bunk, either."
In the study both the corn shredlage and the kernel-processed corn silage were allowed 30 days to ferment and then fed for about eight weeks to 112 cows.
"It was interesting that the dry matter intake actually went up with shredlage," says Shaver.
That study concluded that fat-corrected milk and energy-corrected milk also tended to be greater, as did the ruminal and total tract starch digestibility.
In fact, fat corrected milk actually increased more as the treatment period progressed and Shaver said he wished they had not run out of the feed and would have been able to conduct the study a little longer to see if this trend continued.
Shaver said the shredlage was a little harder to get out of the bag but it was not a big problem. Those feeding it were pleased with the consistency of the product.
The patented and trade-marked processing rollers used to create the shredlage® was the idea of Roger Olson, a Baldwin nutritionist who said, "We're actually chopping longer and ripping and tearing the forage. It annihilates corn kernels."
He developed the idea after working with a young Missouri dairyman who was working on ways to harvest corn silage with a longer cut.
Olson asked his dad, Loren, to help build a prototype in his Iowa machine shop. He then brought in other partners including nutritionist Ross Dale and Bob Scherer who was the founder of Scherer Processors.
Within 60 days they had a working prototype and have tweaked it numerous times, testing the resulting shredlage on a local Jersey herd.
Olson explains, "The frame is a lot heavier with the rolls set up so no kernels can get through whole. It rips things apart rather than crushing. There is a lot more pressure on the unit and that's why the frame needs to be so heavy."
He states, "It's all about the cow and the rumen. It produces physically effective fiber while increasing fiber digestibility."
Because it shreds the crop more lengthways and creates a lot more surface area on the silage, it allows for more rumen bugs to attach to and help digest the feed. This makes the corn silage more digestible, he says.
In the beginning the attachment only fit newer-model Claas forage harvesters, and is manufactured by Scherer Corrugating and Design, which makes processors for Claas.
PROPER SET UP IMPORTANT
Olson sold 49 units this year and there are currently 24 shredder units on choppers in Wisconsin.
He adds he is eager to work with the operators, however, to make sure that they are set up right. He encourages operators to chop a little silage and then take a photo of the material and send it to him.
Olson states, "We will be able to tell just looking at a picture of the material if you have it set up right. That's important."
He explains if it is set up properly the chopper will not have to go slower in order for it to work.
Olson also points out that those who have attempted to make this type of material with a conventional processor chopper have found the machine doesn't hold up and they have damaged their processor.
He adds, "If it is set up right it should process the kernels as good or better than previously and it opens up the harvest window to start drier while still having palatable feed."
While the length of cut is longer, there is a limit because if it is too long the cows will sort.
Those farmers who have produced shredlage have found they can feed a little more corn silage, a lower cost feed, and still get the same amount of milk. That has been beneficial to some producers who are finding feed costs increasing.
VARIETIES REQUIRE DIFFERENT SETTINGS
Asked about differences in corn varieties, he mentioned that BMR stalks are spongier and the rollers need to be set closer together. If this isn't done, the product will be too long and the cows will sort at the bunk.
While the material is fluffier than traditional corn silage, he said it actually packs very well in the bunk.