While not usually regarded as a dangerous job, there are many hazards associated with silage storage and handling. Here are 4 tips to maximize your safety when working with silage:
Be Aware of Silage Gases
Stored forages ferment in the absence of oxygen, creating silage. The fermentation process also results in the creation of dangerous gases. Exposure to these gases can cause long-term respiratory problems or death.
Often found in tower silos, carbon dioxide (CO2) is an odorless, colorless gas that can cause dizziness, loss of consciousness, and asphyxiation. CO2 is heavier than air and will displace oxygen.
More dangerous, yet more detectable, is nitrogen dioxide (NO2). Produced from corn silage, nitrogen dioxide’s strong bleach scent and orange-colored indicate immediate danger – if exposed to nitrogen dioxide, hold your breath and exit the affected area as soon as possible.
The Sky’s The Limit?
Silage piles should not be taller than equipment can reach (12-16 feet) safely. Piles should not exceed bunker walls, if applicable. Silage that is stacked too tall increase the risk of collapse, which can lead to serious injury or death.
When feeding, ensure that the silage is removed from the face of the pile (shaved), rather than scooped from the bottom of the pile (undercut). Undercutting creates dangerous silage overhangs which can collapse or avalanche on to anyone below. Always work with a buddy if you are near the silage pile face, and keep away unless you are collecting for feeding or testing.
Packing Density Matters
Silage that is not packed correctly loses valuable nutrients. Overpacked silage can seep from the pile. Poorly packed silage introduces too much oxygen, degrading the feed quality. For best results, match silage delivery rate to packing time, monitor your dry matter content, and use feed-tracking systems to record any losses.
Cover the Pile As You Go
Covering your silage piles prevents oxygen-induced feed degradation and dry matter losses, while also limiting the amount of mold and yeast that grows on outer layers of silage.