Sponsored By
Nebraska Farmer Logo

Silage has always been a ‘good bet’

Then and Now: According to a 1950 article in Nebraska Farmer, “Silage is a good bet.” It still is today, although technology has evolved.

Curt Arens

December 20, 2023

3 Min Read
tractor cutting sillage
READY TO CHOP: Cutting silage has changed from the old days, but we found an article from 1950 that talks about many of the same benefits of using silage in a livestock operation that we often tout today. Curt Arens

Nebraska is a silage state, ranking high in silage production nationally every year. Farmers put up about 430,000 acres of corn silage; 75,000 acres of sorghum silage; and another 75,000 acres of alfalfa and other hay silage in 2022, according to USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service data.

That amounts to about 5.375 million tons of corn silage and 698,000 tons of sorghum silage, for instance. That’s a lot of silage, but thanks to a thriving livestock industry in the state, it is all used.

Farm Progress - “Silage is a good bet,” on page 9 in the Oct. 7, 1950 Nebraska Farmer magazine

Silage production and utilization within the state goes way back, and we found an article on Page 9 of the Oct. 7, 1950, issue of Nebraska Farmer, “Silage is a good bet,” that touts the production of silage on a diversified farm.

The writer of the article visited O.H. Liebers and his son, Lawrence, of Skyline Farms, south of Lincoln. The photos accompanying the story were of Liebers chopping Atlas sorgo silage, and another of him packing the silage in a trench silo with a Farmall tractor.

Plenty of silage

“In 1932, Mr. Liebers built a trench silo with horses, plow and a Fresno scraper. It is 175 feet long and 24 feet wide. It holds 1,000 tons. He has filled it every year,” the article said. “Because of the increased yield this year, he has had to dig out and deepen another trench silo.”

Related:Corn drying has come a long way

Between the two silos, he had capacity for 1,500 tons of silage, enough for a two-year supply to keep his herd of Guernsey cattle fed.

In the article, Liebers noted, “Some people think about silage only when they believe their crop won’t make grain, but it’s good any year — I don’t know what we would do without it.”

He noted that packing is the key to making good silage, with his packing tractor moving over the silage pile 12 hours a day. For leveling, Liebers bolted a 2-by-10 plank to the cultivator attachment on the tractor, equipped with a hydraulic lift. The height of the plank was adjusted quickly and easily to keep the ensilage spread evenly as the tractor drove back and forth across the pile.

More capacity

Today, silage cutting is a little different than the days of a single-row chopper pulled by a Farmall tractor, for instance. Some of the latest forage harvesters have engines rated up to 900 hp, or even more with huge capacity, no matter which crop is being chopped and processed. Plus, the new machines can fly through the field, compared to the old Farmall.

Modern self-propelled forage harvesters can attain average speeds of 4.5 mph or more through corn, and up to 7.5 mph or more for alfalfa haylage, depending on the production of the crop and the terrain. An example of modern capacity would be a harvester with a 12-row header that could devour up to 400 tons of corn silage per hour at a rate of 7 tons per minute.

Plus, modern harvester manufacturers tout the highest quality of feed moving through the machine, and moving through the field at a fuel-efficient rate, processing more silage through the machine for every gallon of fuel used in the process than ever before.

Read more about:

SilageCorn Silage

About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like