Doug DeGroff no longer judges the safety of silage piles by how they look. Last August, DeGroff, a dairy nutritionist from Tulare, CA, had just taken a silage sample from a pile he’d considered safe when it collapsed on him, covering him with 20 tons of corn silage.

“This particular pile did not look unsafe at all,” says the 36-year-old. “It was only 11-12’ tall at the time that I sampled it and was mechanically shaven. I personally have taken feed samples from piles where I shouldn’t have been. I knew they weren’t safe, but I took the risk. This pile looked safe from any angle you looked at it from.”

Fortunately, he was able to brush away the silage covering his head and a nearby dairy employee rushed to unbury him and pull him from the pile.

He suffered a broken back, wore an uncomfortable back brace for 58 days, spent 12 days in the hospital and had blood clotting issues because of his injuries.

“But I feel very blessed to be here and that everything still works. Yes, it was a broken back, but it could have been so much more.”

DeGroff and his wife, Alison, who have two toddlers, own Diversified Dairy Solutions, specializing in dairy nutrition. After the accident, he decided he and his employee would be taking samples differently. They now have dairy workers use loaders and feed boxes to deliver silage for samples at safe distances from silage piles.

For the complete story on DeGroff’s accident, see “Surviving A Silage Avalanche” in the February issue of Hay & Forage Grower.