The Evolution of Custom Silage Choppers by Steve Dick
When I was a young boy, it was a major production when the custom silage cutter came to our farm! Brothers Hank and Leonard Anderson and their crew would come to the farm with their International 826 tractor pulling a Gehl two row silage cutter, a fleet of small trucks, and a silage blower. It really was an orchestrated effort watching all of the pieces move into place.
However, the real orchestrated effort was the detail and the work my mother put into feeding the small army. Feeding the crew of a dozen involved her planning to have enough beef, pork, potatoes, vegetables and pies on hand to ensure that no one went away hungry. To serve a sit-down meal it meant moving a dining table into the living room and using every leaf to expand the table. On the rare occasion I would get a seat at the table and listen to the banter amongst the crew talking about the yield of the crop, who was slowest driver, their next job — all things that made me feel like I was part of the crew!
The whole process usually took three days: two days to fill the earthen bunker and one day to fill the upright silo. I don’t remember the total acres chopped, but it probably was no more than 40.
In comparison, this week a custom chopper will come to my family’s small farm in McCook County. They will arrive with a 10-row silage cutter, two trucks and one tractor to push the silage. Because of changes to seed genetics they will harvest about 15 acres to get the same amount of silage that my father had to harvest 40 acres to achieve.
The entire process will take about two hours. There will be no stick-to-your-ribs roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy lunch; no taking half of a day to setup; the entire process will look very different from what is was in my childhood days.
However, some things never change. The custom silage chopping crew that will come to our farm is two brothers, Kevin and Jim Hoffman.
After they are done at our small farm they will move on to the neighbor’s 2,000 cow dairy farm where they will join another custom crew to chop 1,000 plus acres in less than a week!