Agricultural Engineering News, Issues, and Research - Silage: Field to Feedbunk

Agricultural Engineering Specialist
WVU Extension Service

The following summaries are compiled from recent publications, research articles, and presented papers. They are intended to inform readers of agricultural engineering developments and related issues of interest to West Virginians. These brief summaries are not comprehensive; they do not represent all data, results, and conclusions of the articles. Readers should obtain the complete publications for more information. While the sources are considered reliable, use caution when applying this information.

Silage: Field to Feedbunk

The Silage: Field to Feedbunk North American Conference, held Feb.11-13, 1997 in Hershey, Pennsylvania, addressed many issues associated with silage production, harvest, storage, and feeding. The proceedings (Publication NRAES-99) are available from Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service for $30. Included are 36 papers divided into nine categories: introductory session; plant and field issues to meet the challenge; harvesting a high-quality silage; storage methods; additives management; mycotoxins and spoilage; quality evaluation; feeding; and silage system management. The proceedings will be of interest to silage producers and users, extension and other university educators, producer advisers and consultants, and other agricultural professionals.

Three of the papers presented at the conference are highlighted below.

Silage Leachate Control

Leachate from haylage or corn silage can present environmental problems on many farms. Silage leachate often has high nutrient values, low pH, and very high biological oxygen demand (BOD) which can degrade water quality (Wright 1997). Some recommendations to control the leachate include (1) harvest and store silage at optimum moisture content (between 62% and 68% moisture in tower silos) to optimize silage quality with little leachate, (2) control outside runoff water to reduce total volume of effluent, (3) grade new bunks to facilitate collection and subsequent treatment of runoff and leachate, and (4) store highly concentrated "low flow" silage effluent for future land spreading, and treat less concentrated "high flow" runoff in a vegetated filter system.

Wright, Peter. 1997. "Silage Leachate Control." In: Proceedings from the Silage: Field to Feedbunk North American Conference. NRAES-99. Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.


Effects of Mycotoxins on the Animal: The Producer's Perspective

Mycotoxins affect animal health primarily through alteration of nutrient absorption and metabolism, changes in the endocrine and neuroendocrine functions, and suppression of the immune system. These health effects can result in reduced productivity, poor reproductive performance, and increased incidence and severity of disease (Whitlow and Hagler 1997). Prevention of mycotoxin formation in silage includes preventing deterioration by eliminating oxygen in silage. Dry grains and feeds should be stored below 14% moisture content to limit mold growth.

Whitlow, L.W. and W.M. Hagler, Jr. 1997 "Effects of Mycotoxins on the Animal: The Producer's Perspective." In: Proceedings from the Silage: Field to Feedbunk North American Conference. NRAES-99. Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.


"To optimize crop yields and fertilizer use, it is important to perform quantitative soil and plant tissue tests before, during, and after the growing season. By monitoring certain components, a farmer can interpret fertilizer needs for the fields" (Szakas 1997). According to Tom Szakas, product manager of the Organics Division at Leco Corporation, improvements to the combustion method of total nitrogen determination have resulted in a technology that is faster and safer than previous combustion and Kjeldahl methods. The improved combustion-based method has gained accreditation from several organizations, including the Association of Official Analytical Chemists, American Oil Chemist's Society and American Association of Cereal Chemists.

Szakas, Tom. 1997. Conditioning Fields Scientifically. Resource: Engineering & Technology for a Sustainable World 4(1):9-10.