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He Keeps Silage In Zip-Lock Bags
Last year, the transmission in David Wright's Deere 4630 went out just as he was getting ready to harvest silage. Since he normally used the tractor to spread and pack silage into his bunk silo, he had to quickly come up with a new way to handle his silage.
The Alexandria, Ala., dairy farmer decided to put his silage in a giant "Zip-Lock" plastic bag and then vacuum the air and moisture out of it. He discovered that the method holds several advantages over packing a bunk silo, Wright notes.
"The goal was to store the highest quality silage with the least expense and labor," he says. "We estimate per-ton cost at about $1.25 for the 160 tons of legumes, alfalfa, grasses and puna chicory that we vacuum bagged last year. By locating the plastic ęsilo' close to the field, we eliminated the need for a dump truck to haul it to our bunk silo. We also eliminated the need for a packing tractor."
Wright's bag ęsilo' consisted of two 40 by 100 ft. layers of 6 mil. black plastic laid out one on top of the other on a well-drained sloped area.
One side of the two layers of plastic is wrapped around a 110-ft. length of Schedule 40 2-in. dia. PVC pipe. The plastic is held tight to the PVC pipe with 4-in. long C clips made out of 2-in. dia. PVC pipe cut in thirds and tapped into place every 3 ft.
The top layer of plastic is pulled back across the seam and another 110-ft. length of PVC pipe is attached to the opposite end of the bottom layer in the same manner. A hand crank bolts to one end of this pipe. Plastic is then cranked to within about 15 ft. of the seam.
The silage is then dumped onto the 15-ft. span from Wright's 5-ton Richardton dump wagon starting about 10 ft. from one end. Subsequent loads are dumped so they overlap, forming a continuous windrow of 8 loads in the first row.
Wright made a vacuum pipe out of a 100 ft. length of 2-in. dia. PVC pipe with 3/8-in. dia. holes drilled every 8 in. The pipe lays next to the first row of silage with about 10 ft. extending out one end.
Next plastic is cranked out wider and four more rows of silage are dumped, forming a stack 80 ft. long by 25 to 30 ft. wide by 8 ft. high, for a total of 160 tons.
Once the stack is complete, the top layer of plastic is simply pulled over the top and secured with additional lengths of PVC pipe.
An old milking machine vacuum pump connects to the vacuum pipe to suck out air and moisture. Within 30 minutes, the plastic begins to tighten around the stack as air is removed. Within four hours, plastic is pulled tight against it.
Wright began feeding the silage five or six weeks after vacuum-bagging it. There was very little spoilage, he says, adding that a conventional front-end loader bucket fitted with grapplers on top works well for unloading the bag.
In addition, the stack could be self-fed, he adds.
The biggest surprise: "We expected to see 1,000 to 2,000 gallons of effluent come through the vacuum line since the green chop was showing a moisture level of over 78 percent. But we were pleasantly surprised to get less than 30 gallons. One explanation is that it was long-chopped, about 5 in., and another is that we didn't run a tractor over the pile to pack it."
Total cost of the silo was $390, including $200 for the plastic, the top sheet of which can be reused as well as the PVC pipe.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, David Wright, Canebrake Farms, 174 Cane Creek Farm Rd., Alexandria, Ala. 36250 (ph 205 820-3729).

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1997 - Volume #21, Issue #3