Dairy-producer clients are telling custom operators that shredlage, which shreds silage corn longitudinally at 26- to 30-millimeter lengths, is how they want their crop harvested.
"The whole theory of ripping the stalk apart and getting your kernels processed better sounded perfect,” said Myron Czech to those attending a February Midwest Forage Association meeting near his Little Falls, MN, dairy.
He and his son, Brent, from Rice, grow their own corn silage for their two 600- and 1,400-cow herds, respectively, and have used Shredlage for two years.
Brent Czech said the processor smashes kernels “far superior to anything else on the market at this point.”
Shredlage, he pointed out, offers more flexibility than regular corn silage in a dairy ration. “With Shredlage, if I want to go to a really high-silage diet, I’m able to do that with very good components; I’m able to get good butterfat tests. If I have to stretch my forage and can’t feed as much silage, the Shredlage also benefits at feeding around 14-15 lbs dry matter (per cow) because of the effective fiber.”
“To make good Shredlage,” adds his father, “you have to be pushing your machine. It’s harder on your machine, and you have to set your rolls real tight to do a good job.” Any producer using a custom operator “should not be afraid to pay him a little more money and tell him to slow down and watch your product. Make sure it’s getting processed the way you want it.”
Knowing how much to charge for chopping Shredlage – or whether they can charge for it – is causing angst among custom forage harvesters. A number are getting paid premiums of $1-3/ton of silage harvested as compensation for buying the $30,000 Shredlage rolls, for switching them in and out of their choppers as needed, and for machine wear and tear. Some are absorbing the costs.
“It’s not unreasonable to expect to charge for it,” says Shaver. “There’s at least $8 of real milk income sitting there after feed costs on the dairy side – if they get (an additional) 2 lbs of milk.”
He figures that 2-lb/cow/day milk increase at today’s $20+/cwt milk prices and feeding Shredlage at a 50-lb/cow/day rate will bring an average gross milk revenue of $16/ton of corn silage. “About half of that is going to disappear in higher feed intake if you get the extra milk, so you have about $8/ton left.”
Charging $1-3/ton of silage could probably be justified at current milk prices, he says.