Shredlage: what is it and why?

11 Oct, 2018 12:13 PM
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Feed tests will not necessarily reflect nutrition available to the cow if kernels aren't crushed.

Shredlage is a patented and branded harvesting process that produces long chopped highly processed silage. It requires harvesters that can cut longer cut corn, 26-30 millimetre theoretical length of chop.

The Shredlage-type kernel processor rips stalks lengthways into planks and strings as well as effectively processing corn kernels. Improving the processing of the kernel and stover helps improve packing and increases exposure of the plant fibre to microbial activity.

Improving processing and increasing effective fibre creates opportunities to modify partial mixed ration and total mixed ration feeding practices and can potentially reduce the amount of additional fibre sources fed with corn silage, such as straw and hay.

Longer cut silage usually has a negative impact on compaction of the stack, but if the cut technique is right, Shredlage and other similar processing equipment should increase cut length without compromising silage fermentation quality, stack density and compaction, as well as reduce sorting of feed on the bunk by the cows. This is because the stalk is shredded, not just chopped at a longer length.

When to use it

The Shredlage process and long chopped highly processed corn silage have been used in Australia for a number of seasons. Lessons learnt so far are the need to stay focused on silage quality and fermentation above the pursuit of Shredlage or long cut corn silage if crop conditions don't allow.

This means that harvest processes have to be flexible to work towards those outcomes. If moisture range of the crop is too low, longer cut silage will still have difficulty compacting appropriately, even if it is shredded appropriately.

In these cases, the long cut length may have to be shortened in order to achieve optimum compaction and fermentation.

Harvest planning and timing

Regardless of the type of harvesting equipment used, the timing of harvest, as well as the effectiveness of processing, is critical to achieving high-quality silage.

Many issues that can crop up at harvest time should be addressed in the weeks leading up to it and cannot always be solved at harvest time.

Pre-harvest dry matter testing will assist farmers trying to avoid a stab in the dark when it comes to scheduling harvest, particularly around unexpected challenges such as rain events.

Dry matter is mostly always higher than what people expect, so optimal timing is often missed.

This is critical with Shredlage and long cut corn silage, as if the farmer waits too long for harvest, they may have to sacrifice the benefits from increased chop length to optimise compaction and fermentation.

Monitoring and measuring

Once the dry matter is assessed and harvest begins, there are a number of measures farmers can use to provide immediate feedback on the effectiveness of processing and whether any parameters need to be adjusted to improve the final product.

Processing effectiveness is just as important as harvest timing in maize silage.

Cows will not be able to digest whole grains. Grains account for 65 per cent of the energy and 46 per cent of the dry matter in the silage.

When feed tests are conducted, the sample is ground up and then tested. So nutritive results of feed tests will not necessarily reflect nutrition available to the cow if kernels are not processed adequately.

It is critical to undertake visual inspections as well as feed tests to determine quality. Kernels must be less than half-size to be deemed effectively processed. Damaged but not fully cut kernels are not effectively processed.

Monitoring of the processing of the plant stem is also important during harvest. Improved processing of the stem allows for better digestion by rumen bacteria as well as better packing density of the stack.

During harvest, monitoring of kernel and stem processing using a consistent method will allow farmers to make adjustments to processing if required.

Creating a good stack

Increasing monitoring of the stack as it is built will also allow the farmer to adjust processing if required to achieve the optimum density of the stack.

If packing density needs to be increased try:

  • A shorter length of cut.
  • Add more packing tractors.
  • Increase tractor weight.

    Reduce layer thickness or slow the harvest rate.

  • Improving record keeping of what is going into the stack can also assist the farmer to optimise how it is used at the other end. Keeping a diagram or some form of visual record of where everything is in the stack will assist farmers to know exactly what is coming out of the stack when, and what rations may have to be adjusted to compensate for differences in quality.D

    Article courtesy of Accelerating Change project. See website https://www.acceleratingchangeproject.com for more information.

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