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col Silage avalanches risk in bunkers, piles

Discussions of safety around bunker silos and silage piles have typically included warnings about overturning tractors, running over bystanders, getting crushed by a loader bucket and other hazards.

Anecdotal reports of avalanches from the silage face are becoming more frequent, says Wayne Schoper, Brown County (Minn.) Extension educator.

To minimize avalanche risk, use care when removing tires, plastic covers and spoiled feed from the top edge of the face, he said. Stay at least three feet from the edge and avoid undercutting silage during removal, and keep the face as smooth as possible. Be especially careful when removing frozen silage and watch for large chunks.

Common weeds can poison livestock

Poisonous plants can cause trouble for grazing livestock, says Dave Schwartz, regional Extension educator for crops with an office located in Litchfield, Minn.

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Common weeds that can be poisonous include bitter nightshade and black nightshade. Bitter nightshade is the weed that climbs, has alternate leaf pattern on the stem, egg-shaped leaves, and purple flowers that eventually produce red to black berries.

Schwartz said other poisonous plants include bracken fern, buttercup found in wet areas, chokecherries, cocklebur, common horsetail, jimson weed, white snakeroot and hoary alyssum.

Poisoning should be suspected if animals show acute disorders of the nervous system or of the digestive tract without fever but have weakness and loss of weight. To prevent poisonings in pastures, don't overgraze them.

Moisture the key to good corn silage

Moisture is the key to harvesting and storing high-quality corn silage, says Lee Milligan, St. Croix County (Wis.) Extension agent.

Excessively wet corn silage will "run'' taking with it lechate soluble proteins and carbohydrates.

High levels of butyric acid and clostridium bacteria may also develop leading to reduced milk production, he said.

Too dry corn silage results in reduced NDF and starch digestibility. There is also an increased potential for storage problems. Moisture is also critical to proper fermentation in different storage structures. The recommended moisture content in horizontal storage structures is 65 percent to 70 percent and 60 percent to 65 percent for upright concrete silos.

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Silage inoculants can be beneficial

Silage inoculants, when applied correctly, show a benefit 40 percent of the time on corn silage and 66 percent of the time on haylage, says Richard Muck, who works for the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, Wis.

The difference may be caused by the average population of naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria on corn at harvest time. Lactic acid in corn at harvest time is about 10 times higher than in alfalfa.

Inoculants more likely benefit corn silage when the corn is immature, overly dry or the day after a killing frost. This may be because the natural population is lower and/or less competitive under these conditions, he said.

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