Sunday, September 28, 2008

Chopping Corn

It's that time of year to harvest the corn. We have several pivots of field corn, and it has grown nice and tall, about eight feet tall. 

Corn is one of my all-time favorite vegetables, and it takes some restraint not to reach out and pluck those ears of corn, even though they are field corn. The deer don't show so much restraint--they hide happily in the corn fields and munch away to their heart's content.

When the corn has matured to just the right point and the weather is cooperating, it's time to cut it. What is that right point? According to my dear husband, it's the half milk point. I think that's what he said. If I understood him right, it's when the kernels on the ear have dented in deeply and are hard about half-way down. They are still adding a little starch to the ears, and this is the best time to cut for silage. If you just want to cut the ears (earlage), it's best to wait a little bit longer.

The big chopper is the machine of choice (and Desert Boy's favorite piece of equipment to climb). The chopper cuts six rows of corn at a time. As it drives along, the silage truck drives at the same speed so that the corn goes into the truck.

They start on the outside of the pivot, going in a huge semi-circle. Why not a circle that goes all around the field? Ah, the pivot is in the way, so it's simpler to do two semi-circles than a circle with a major detour. It generally takes three to four days to cut and chop an entire field.

Gradually the rows of cut corn keep expanding.

A silage truck can only hold so much cut corn, so after a few minutes, another silage truck comes in to take its place. The first truck heads off.

Where does it go? Not to worry, Desert Boy, Henry, and I followed it to see.

The truck backed up to this red machine next to a long white bag. It lifted its load, and the silage started coming out.

The red machine, called a bagger, compresses the corn silage into the plastic bag. In this closed environment it ferments slightly, preserving it. Fermentation is an anaerobic process, so the plastic helps keep that oxygen out. Just think fine wine...or not. 

Here's a view from the other side. The white bags are a football field long. The corn silage needs to stay in the bag for at least 30 days before it's used as feed.

Here's the loader getting some of last year's silage. After it gets its scoop... loads the feed wagon, which then makes a trip through the feed lot and distributes the mixture of corn, alfalfa, and barley silage to the cows.

The end result is some happy cows


Anonymous said...

Very interesting to see the harvesting process!

Anonymous said...

Now that's what I call a "chopping bag"!

Coloradolady said...

This was very interesting. I had not idea so many steps were in this process. I love the pictures on your blog. the post about the days getting shorter is so true....I myself like the long days of summer.

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