Crop Congress spotlights cutting-edge harvesting technique for dairy farmers

Area farmers gather at the Crop Congress and trade show held Tuesday by the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County at the Ramada Inn, Watertown. Photo by Norm Johnston/Watertown Daily Times.

Corn shredlage — not silage — could be the next big innovation for dairy farmers in the north country.

The new harvesting technique was highlighted during one of several presentations for dairy farmers and agribusiness workers at the annual Crop Congress on Tuesday at the Ramada Inn in Watertown, hosted by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County.

A crowd of more than 100 spectators watched a presentation made by Randy Shaver, who conducts research for the Dairy Science Department at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His hourlong presentation spotlighted the advantages of feeding dairy cattle corn shredlage — silage that’s produced differently by using a processing roll to cut it at a longer length than normal. Studies have shown that in most cases the starch and fiber content of corn processed this way is digested better by dairy cattle.

Mr. Shaver conducted a study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2011 to assess the effectiveness of shredlage in dairy cattle. The study tested 112 cows over a 10-week period. Half of the cows were fed conventional corn silage cut to a 19-millimeter length, and the other half were fed corn shredlage with a 30-millimeter cut.

During that feeding period, cows that were fed shredlage averaged an output of 96 pounds of milk per day, 2 pounds more than the other group. The starch digestibility was slightly better in the corn shredlage compared to the silage, along with its fiber digestibility.

Mr. Shaver said 40 dairy farms across the nation are now using the equipment, and he expects more to join in. “I think in the future this will be the way all farmers harvest,” he said. “This equipment should be on the market for most farmers to buy in the next two to three years.”

Dairy farmers Michael W. Hill and John W. Ferry, co-owners of Milk Street Dairy in Tylerville, said they were impressed with the presentation. The partners, who own farmland in Tylerville and Woodville, manage a total of 2,000 dairy cattle.

Mr. Hill said he’s waiting for John Deere to develop new processing equipment so that he can purchase equipment for his machines, which could significantly increase the milk output of his operation.

“If we get 2 pounds more per day from cattle, that’s $400 a day in milk. It’s a no-brainer, because the equipment would quickly pay for itself,” he said.

Processing rolls now sold on the market for the harvesting technique are only compatible with Claus farm equipment, Mr. Shaver said, but equipment is expected to be made available for other brands in the coming years. Visit for more information.

Twenty-seven exhibitors attended the event this year.

-Ted Booker, Watertown Daily Times staff writer