As alfalfa’s acreage and supply decline and prices stay high, dairy producers are searching for economical replacements for the milk-producing forage. Some are turning to corn silage processed through Shredlage units on forage harvesters.

Shredlage is a new harvesting method that shreds crop longitudinally at a 26-mm particle length compared to kernel-processed silage corn’s recommended 19-mm (¾”) length. Shredded silage is more digestible than conventionally harvested corn silage, says Roger Olson, a nutritionist and Shredlage technical director.

“Because Shredlage is longer, that’s allowed a lot of producers to take out the dry hay, feed less haylage and feed more Shredlage, which in turn lowers feed cost,” he points out.

“Shredlage typically will allow people to chop a bit longer and get more effective fiber out of corn silage,” agrees Randy Shaver, University of Wisconsin Extension dairy nutritionist.

He conducted feeding trials comparing conventionally processed corn silage with Shredlage and reported the results last January. “For a one-shot trial, it looked pretty encouraging in terms of milk production. We did see a trend for some higher intake, and we did see increased energy-corrected and fat-corrected milk.”

“It gave me 3.5-4 lbs more milk” per cow per day, says John Winkelman of Watertown, WI. Since last fall, he’s been feeding his 165-cow Holstein-Brown Swiss herd Shredlage-processed brown midrib (BMR) corn silage with alfalfa haylage and shelled corn.

“The cows clean it all up. There are bigger particles, but there is no separating.” When his haylage ran scarce this past spring, Winkelman increased the Shredlage portion of his ration with good results, he says.

BMR corn silage harvested as Shredlage will be studied in a second feeding trial in cooperation with Mycogen Seeds this winter, says Shaver. The results will be released next spring.

Another Wisconsin study, completed this August, compared the packing densities of Shredlage with conventionally processed corn silage. Producers thought the shredded product packed better, but trial results show both types of silage pack much the same, says Richard Muck, USDA-U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center ag engineer.

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The first set of Shredlage rolls, built by Olson’s father, Loren, had so much potential that the younger Olson and a fellow nutritionist, Ross Dale, Oskaloosa, IA, formed Shredlage, LLC. They then approached Bob Scherer of Scherer Design Engineering, Inc., whose Tea, SD, company builds conventional crop processors for Claas forage harvesters. Scherer designed a field model that was tested in farm fields in 2010.

The company now sells a High-Performance Shredlage processor that fits 2008-2011 Claas Jaguar 494 Series choppers as well as its 492 and 493 series. In 2012, Claas came out with a different crop processor, so a High-Performance Modified Shredlage model was developed to fit all 2012 and newer Claas machines.

For other harvester models, the company built Shredlage rolls – called Loren Cut rolls – to fit the stock processor frames of the Krone Big X, New Holland’s FR Series and John Deere’s 7000 Series and newer harvesters.

“We’ve had a lot of requests for Shredlage rolls for the other brands of choppers – mostly John Deere.” But that company has a new harvester series on the drawing board that could be available next year. Olson expects his company would then develop a Shredlage unit to fit it.

At this point, 220 Shredlage processors have been sold for the 2013 chopping season, adding to the 39 units already in fields, he says. The units sell for less than $30,000, and inquiries are coming in from across the U.S. as well as from Canada and Eastern European countries, Olson says.

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