Avoiding Silage Avalanches


The face of a silage pile can collapse without warning, unleashing an avalanche of potentially deadly forage materials on unsuspecting farmers or bystanders. While some may be fortunate to escape with only minor injuries or broken bones, these incidents often result in death by suffocation or asphyxiation. 

Keith Bolsen, Kansas State University professor emeritus, discussed the dangers of silage pile collapse at the PDPW conference, held in Madison, Wisconsin earlier this spring. Bolsen urges farmers and farm hands to follow these suggestions when working with silage:

  • Use the Buddy System. Never work in, on, or near a silage pile alone. At least one person should remain outside the bunker area to summon for help, if needed.
  • Keep Your Distance. Do not allow people to stand near the face of the pile. Bolsen suggests a safe working distance of three times the pile’s height. When working near a 20 foot tall pile, for example, bystanders should remain at least 60 feet away.
  • No Parking Zone. Do not park vehicles near the silage face, as falling silage can entrap passengers.
  • Establish Procedures. Train employees about the potential dangers associated with silage piles, and how to respond appropriately to silage emergencies.


Johnson, Ron. “Bunker silos, silage piles dangerous places.” Dairy Star.

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