I mentioned in our planting update a couple of weeks ago that we took a break from planting corn to chop rye. Last fall we planted cereal rye for the first time, and we were really pleased with how it grew this spring. At the time we thought this would require about a three-day break from planting, but in typical fashion, it was much longer.
For those of you who don’t know what a chopper is, it looks a lot like a big, backward tractor. It has different “heads”, similar to a combine, depending on the crop you are chopping. To chop the rye, we first mowed it with our disc-bine (hay mower) and then used a “pickup head” to pick the rye up off the ground and chop it.
The chopper passes the rye over a rotating drum covered with knives to cut it into small pieces then shoots it out the back through the snoot into a dump box, wagon, or truck.
We started out using the better of two dump boxes. The first afternoon of chopping, the dump box broke, while dumping. It fell forward onto the chopper. Thankfully, the damage to the chopper was mainly cosmetic. The back end was dented and the snoot was bent, but there was no mechanical damage. If it had smashed the radiator or caused some other more severe problem, it would have cost us days or weeks. In the interest of time, instead of trying to repair the other old dump box, we first borrowed a wagon from David’s cousin Jeff.
The wagon was smaller, though, so they were having to stop and dump more often than with the dump box. The rye was also wet, thick and heavy, and the field was rocky. Every time a rock passed through the chopper, they had to stop and straighten the knives. In short, it was slow going.
After a few days, the guys ended up repairing the other dump box, and they finished chopping more quickly by dumping into a truck to haul to the silo while the chopper kept running.
About half of the ryelage was put in a pile on the ground, and the other half was put in a pit silo, or bunker that has a concrete floor and walls. We used a tractor and skid loader to pack both the pile and bunker. After packing, the silage is then covered with a plastic tarp.
After the silage was packed, our nutritionist came to the farm and took a sample of the ryelage for testing. He and David then worked together to adjust our cows’ ration based on the feed we now had available. We are hoping to see a jump in milk production because of the ration adjustments, however, initially we’ve seen production drop, so we will be tweaking it further.