When you’re processing and putting up silage in any type of structure, it’s a complicated job, and potentially dangerous.
- Silo gas also known as nitrogen dioxide. It’s a normal part of the silage making process. We start to see this gas a few hours to a day or so after a silo is filled. Then it’s produced for about 2-2.5 weeks.
- Depending on conditions – Silo gas is produced in ALL kinds of silos – tower or upright silos, bunkers, piles, bags. The biggest issue is when it’s in a confined space, such as, a tower silo, an adjoining room, silo chute or in the space between silo bags or bunker walls.
- In the air, nitrogen dioxide has a faint yellowish color though in low light conditions, you probably won’t see it. It smells a bit like bleach and is very irritating — even a few breaths can cause serious health problems.
- Avoid silo gas, especially during that initial three-week post-harvest window. Treat a tower silo and areas surrounding stored silage as a confined space. Ventilate thoroughly – generally with the blower. Get more information – entering any confined space incorrectly has deadly consequences.
Bunker Silo Rollovers & Other Issues
- There are special hazards with packing a bunker silo. Some great detailed information can be found in this article from Penn State Extension on horizontal silo safety.
- Tractor rollovers occur every season while people are packing bunkers and piles – It’s critical that you select the right tractor – it MUST have a ROPS (rollover protective structure) and a seatbelt.
- A wide front-end is also an absolute must. Front-wheel and front wheel-assist tractors provide extra traction and stability for packing. Duals usually increase stability as well as appropriately-placed weights.
- Backing a tractor up ANY slope is preferred – you achieve better stability AND CONTROL.
- On a slope – as you fill a bunker, make sure your packed, wedge-shaped surfaces are not too steep – We generally talk about a safe slope being 3 to 1 or something even less steep. On a pile or bunker that’s 20 feet high, you need a wedged surface to drive up that’s at least 60 feet long in the horizontal direction. Anything less, and you run a great chance of rolling a tractor.
- There are many other precautions to take with your employees and family members who are working at this time…Like these:
- Only experienced people should be permitted to operate equipment.
- Require all equipment operators to remain in their vehicles to avoid being run over.
- Keep visitors and children out of ANY farm work zone. A packing operation seems cool and fun to watch – but operators have a lot to pay attention to, and the chaos associated with visitors and bystanders can be very distracting.
- Have workers wear brightly colored safety vests or t-shirts to increase visibility.
This post was originally developed to support a series of silage harvest-related podcasts posted by colleague Liz Binversie , Agriculture Extension Educator, UW Madison, Division of Extension Brown County. This one is written to connect to the podcast covering processing and packing.
Silage packing pictures — Creative Commons — https://www.flickr.com/photos/thejesse/Link to license – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
Silo gas photo from John Shutske personal collection.
September 11, 2020