Current Progressive Dairy digital edition
Advertisement

Shredlage: Fad or fashion?

Jim Mattox Published on 11 March 2014
If I had a nickel for every question I get about shredlage, I’d be living the good life by now, lounging on the beach in San Luis Obispo. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t work this way.

Shredlage is a hot topic in the forage industry, especially among dairy farmers. Driving this interest is the economics of being able to feed a higher percentage of corn silage in the ration and gain efficiency in the utilization of digestible fiber.

Shredlage is technically a trademarked product consisting of corn silage which has been cut at 26 to 30 mm with the stalks “shredded” by a shredlage processor. It’s believed that by processing the stalk in such a way, rumen fermentation is enhanced, thus optimizing feed efficiency.

advertisement

advertisement

The first shredlage was actually produced by mistake on a dairy farm in Missouri. Nutritionist Ross Dale made a follow-up visit to this farm in the fall of 2008 on a day when the dairyman was in a bad mood. He told Ross that he had just finished putting up his corn silage, but he was ashamed of the quality.

He wasn’t sure what had gone wrong; the chop length was extremely long and the chopper had done something funny to the stalks. They were shredded. Ross was intrigued and told the dairyman not to worry just yet. They would see how the cows responded. After all, what other option did they have?

For a couple of years, Ross and Roger Olsen, his fellow dairy nutritionist and future partner, had been questioning the industry trend to shorter chop lengths on corn silage. The reason for the shorter chop length was better packing and a better fermentation in the silo.

The problem, however, was that this goes against common-sense rumen nutrition. The shorter chop length limits the formation of the rumen mat and decreases the scratch factor. Since rumen fermentation is not as efficient, the amount of corn silage that could be fed as a percentage of the diet is limited.

In February of the next year, Ross returned to the farm and found the cows producing better than ever. In his mind, it just made sense.

advertisement

Ross boxed up a sample and sent it to Roger, and asked for his opinion. He thought that if his customer’s silage “mistake” could be consistently replicated – on every ton, every time – then they might be onto something big.

This is where Roger’s dad, Loren, entered the picture. Loren is one of those “old-school, build-anything” types. He went to work designing the processor rolls. After a year and a half, they had a prototype and a partnership.

Ross and Roger presented the shredlage processor to two different large companies and were turned down. Both had too many other projects in the pipelines. Not to be deterred, they approached Scherer Corrugating and Machine of Tea, South Dakota, with their idea.

A deal was struck, and five different configurations of the processor were created as prototypes for field trials. At the end of the field trials, they selected the best-performing processor and created 25 demo units to be used on Claas choppers. Today, there are more than 250 units commercially harvesting an estimated 5 to 7 percent of the nation’s total corn silage.

Current and future research
In 2011, Luiz Ferraretto and Randy Shaver of the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Dairy Science completed the only university feeding trial on shredlage.

The results were positive. When comparing conventionally processed corn silage with shredlage, cows eating shredlage had a higher fat-corrected milk yield (4.4 pounds per day per cow) after eight weeks.

advertisement

Other university studies are also in the works. Dr. Brian Holmes, extension professor with the University of Wisconsin, has performed some bunker evaluations, but the results have not yet been published. Cornell University is planning to do a feeding trial. Their farm has ensiled both shredlage and conventionally processed corn silage under controlled conditions.

Other things to know about shredlage
One of the biggest doubts about shredlage is its packability due to its much larger particle size. Dr. Luis C. Solórzano, senior market development manager for DSM Nutritional Products, suggests a minimum packing density for corn silage of 16 pounds dry matter per cubic foot.

Dr. Solórzano indicates that packing density measurements in the field show that this goal is achieved with shredlage, as long as proper packing practices are observed. Packing practices are highly variable from farm to farm, and the silage moisture and particle size makes comparing measurements very difficult.

Some users report that the longer, narrow pieces pack more like haylage. More data and trials are needed to say with certainty how well shredlage can be packed.

Another issue concerning shredlage is that many corn silage harvesters are claiming they are producing shredlage – when in reality, they are not. At this point in time, shredlage processors are only made for Claas choppers.

Loren Cut rollers are available for other brands of forage harvesters, like New Holland and John Deere, but these rollers only “explode the stalk.” They do not produce the 26-to-30 mm length of chop that is a key characteristic of shredlage.

What’s next?
Shredlage was born in Missouri, but it has taken root in the key dairy states of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan. The large dairy states of New York and California are also expected to see increased feeding of shredlage and silage processed with Loren Cut processor rolls.

My advice
Shredlage looks promising as a future technology in the dairy industry, but more research is needed. Keep in mind that packing density varies from farm to farm and so does kernel processing. Ask yourself if you are top-notch in these two categories before considering shredlage.

There are other management factors that could have a greater impact on your operation. You may consider upgrading your silo if needed. Have you thought about pouring a concrete pad for making a proper drive-over pile?

How about having the proper packing equipment available? These may be a better investment compared to buying a shredlage processor, even if it doesn’t sound as cool to tell your neighbor.

Take some time to analyze your entire silo program before jumping on the shredlage bandwagon, but definitely keep an eye on this technology. The thought of processing the fibrous part of the corn stalk more effectively is here to stay. Time will tell if this common-sense theory can be translated into a profitable, best practice. PD

References omitted due to space but are available upon request. Click here to email an editor.

Jim mattox

Jim Mattox
Feedtech Solution Manager
DeLaval Inc.

LATEST BLOG

LATEST NEWS