A relatively new way of processing corn silage, which shreds stalks, effectively crushes kernels and is said to contribute to a 2-lb/cow/day milk increase, has been a real pain for the custom forage harvesting business.

Shredlage requires a whole new set of processing rolls. As many custom operators can attest, it slows down harvest and has caused extra wear and tear on choppers.

But dairy-producer clients are telling them that this method, which shreds silage corn longitudinally at 26- to 30-millimeter lengths, is how they want their crop harvested.

Many are finding the feed’s longer particle lengths provide enough fiber, and its smashed kernels enough starch, to replace some purchased feeds, including dry hay. Some also say the highly digestible feed has increased their herds’ milk production.

And some have told their custom harvesters, if they don’t get on board with Shredlage, they’ll lose business.

The new crop-processing method is causing quite a sensation – as well as consternation – amongst dairy producers, nutritionists, forage harvester manufacturers and custom operators. Shredlage is bringing about a revolution in how corn silage is harvested and used.

The rolls are the brainchild of Roger Olson, a nutritionist, and his father Loren, an inventor. The younger Olson, along with nutritionist Ross Dale, created Shredlage LCC, and then joined forces with equipment manufacturer Bob Scherer to start producing the rolls commercially in 2010. Scherer also manufactures the conventional processers used on Claas choppers.

The first Shredlage processors were sold as aftermarket units fitting newer-model Claas forage harvesters. But rolls that worked in the stock processor frames of other chopper manufacturer models, called Loren Cut, were also soon built. Shredlage rolls intermesh to rip corn while conventional cylindrical kernel processing rolls cut it.

The company’s goal, says Olson, has been “to do the absolute best job we could processing the kernels, and we had hoped that we could increase the NDF (neutral detergent fiber) digestibility.”

Shredlage rolls were introduced in 2011 to a handful of dairies, largely in the Midwest, at a time when producers were looking to maximize homegrown feeds, observes Randy Shaver, University of Wisconsin Extension dairy nutritionist.

“The $6-8/bu corn prices got the dairymen interested, and there’s a lot of research looking at animal performance relative to kernel processing,” says Shaver, who conducted the only university feeding trial on Shredlage-processed crop.

Some producers and custom harvesters, as well as forage harvester manufacturing representatives, are skeptical of Shredlage. Many argue that producers are seeing milk yield increases because they’re paying more attention to kernel processing in general. They also say there is no scientific research showing that shredding silage and exposing more of its surface area actually increases NDF digestibility.

Yet, since 2011, more than 260 Shredlage units have been sold and put into service. Another 235 or more processors for Claas choppers have so far been sold for the 2014 season. There has been a significant increase in sales of the Loren Cut rolls for the other brands as well, Olson says.

“It’s pretty clear that we can process kernels” with Shredlage, says Shaver. “But we can process kernels with pretty much any equipment depending on length of cut and how the rolls are set up. I don’t know that that’s anything magical. What is interesting is that (Shredlage) has been able to increase the length of cut and still get good kernel processing.”