California dairy producer Darren Dias holds a handful of the Shredlage corn silage he feeds his family’s Jersey herd. Pleased with their feed-cost savings and herd health benefits, Dias calls Shredlage “a no brainer.”
There’s growing buzz—and scrutiny—about this new corn silage harvesting technology
California dairy producer Darren Dias is so enthusiastic about the Shredlage harvesting process that he plans to use it to harvest 100% of his corn silage this fall.
His custom harvester, Dias & Fragoso, Inc. (no relation), will handle the job for him, but its manager, Jared Fragoso, remains neutral about Shredlage after his first-time experience with it last year.
Luciana Jonkman, a nutrition and management consultant with Progressive Dairy Solutions Inc., believes that dairy producers should understand the research, "not just the sales flyer," and study their existing silage processes before considering an investment in the new harvesting technology. [See sidebar]
Their diverse opinions about Shredlage point to the need for dairy producers and nutritionists to do their homework before switching from conventional silage harvesting equipment.
Shredlage is a processing system that uses a special piece of equipment fitted to a conventional chopper. During harvest, the unit crushes the corn kernel while ripping the corn stalk lengthwise into planks and strings of 26 mm to 30 mm long.
That potentially creates silage with more physically effective fiber and highly processed kernels. The result, when fed to dairy cows, can be greater digestibility. According to Shredlage promoters, that allows dairies to reduce or even eliminate straw, hay or haylage from herd rations while possibly boosting milk production.
Darren Dias, his brother Greg and their father Butch milk 2,000 Jersey cows at two adjoining dairies near Hanford, Calif. On their Delta View Farms’ 750 acres, they raise 100% of their forages for the dairy. They haven’t fed alfalfa hay since 2008.
Last year, for the first time, they harvested their entire conventional corn silage crop using a Shredlage processor. The Diases had lost some rented farm ground to nut tree plantings and needed to find a way to expand their forage production.
Their nutritionist, Jed Asmus, encouraged them to take a look at Shredlage. The Dias brothers, Asmus and a group of other dairy producers traveled to Wisconsin to see first-hand how two dairies there were using it. "Once I saw how they did it, and looked at their rations, I was ready to try it," Darren says.
The Diases convinced their custom harvester to make the investment in the Shredlage equipment. Fragoso and his father, Bud, purchased two Shredlage units at $30,000 each. Of the
50-plus dairies that use Fragoso’s custom harvesting business, only the Dias dairy used the Shredlage process.
During their first Shredlage harvest last September, the Dias family bagged 2,000 tons from part of their 500 corn silage acres. "We wanted to make sure it worked like we had seen back East," Darren says. "The rest of the 500 acres we harvested went into a pile." They paid Fragoso an extra $2 per ton to harvest their corn silage with the Shredlage equipment.
Fragoso also operates a 500-cow dairy a few miles south of the Diases’ dairies. Last year, he harvested his own corn silage with the Shredlage equipment before he took on the Dias job.
"We made mistakes on ours," he says. "We haven’t decided if we’ll do Shredlage again for our farm."
- May 2014