Happy (Farm) Friday!
After a slight rain delay, harvest is back in full swing. It was fun to be normal again for a couple of nights, but the corn won’t harvest itself!
On our farm, we are currently chopping earlage and silage. This was a process that I had never heard of before meeting Farmer J. Growing up in Iowa, I was quite familiar with harvesting corn using combines. Combines harvest corn by separating the the corn cob from the plant, taking the individual corn kernels off the cob, and collecting only the kernels while depositing the rest of the plant back on the ground. They are monstrous pieces of equipment which are quite complicated . . . and expensive! This is how farmers typically harvest corn if they are going to sell the grain to the local elevator or the ethanol plant.
Since we are feeding the cattle with our corn, instead of combining the crop, we chop it up. There are nutrients the corn beyond the kernels, so there are benefits for our operation in keeping the components combines traditionally spits out as waste.
There are two ways the corn gets chopped on our farm. This first is silage. In this method of chopping, basically the entire corn plant gets chopped into pieces . . . leaves, stock, corn cob, kernels. The second way we slice it is earlage. Like the name implies, instead of chopping the whole plant, only the ear of the corn is harvested and chopped into feed. Earlage has a higher feed value than silage, so for the purpose of our operation, it does a better job of helping the calves put meat on their bones.
An inoculate is added to the chopped crop to ferment the corn and the end product is hauled to the bunker. The feed is carefully packed into a huge pile that is covered until it’s time to feed it to the hungry bovines. The harvest this year will be enough to feed the cattle until this time next year, when the process will start all over again!