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Packing Bunkers

Today, many silage growers need to fill bunkers more quickly at harvest. They're finding they need to use more and/or larger tractors.

Growers should try to pack in thin layers to get silage fully compressed and limit air in the bunker. They can tell if they're keeping up with packing by monitoring how much new, unpacked forage is under the wheels at any time.

As much as 60 percent of a wheeled tractor's effective weight is lost when growers pack more than six inches of forage at a time. Growers should use 800 pounds of tractor for each ton per hour coming into the silo. For example, if you're hauling in 50 tons per hour, you should have 40,000 pounds of tractor (50 x 800) packing silage.

Growers need to cover and seal horizontal silos to keep air from entering the surface of the silo. Kansas State University studies find air can penetrate up to four feet into a well-packed bunker, resulting in 33 percent more dry matter loss in the upper four feet.

Growers should manage bunker faces by shaving rather than digging out with a front-end loader. Tearing at the face lifts layers of silage and allows air into the crevices. This air stimulates growth of aerobic organisms, and leads to heating and loss of nutrients. Pioneer® brand inoculants containing Lactobacillus buchneri can help alleviate this heating and preserve more nutrients to be available at feedout.