On a farm, even a simple task can turn dangerous in an instant. Many seemingly simple tasks during annual silage production and harvest are so familiar that producers can become distracted and lose the focus required to ensure safety.
“In the farming community, every year we hear stories of on-farm accidents while working around silage that affect both workers and bystanders, regardless of their age and experience,” noted Dr. Bob Charley, forage products management with Lallemand Animal Nutrition.
However, these tragic accidents can be prevented with strict adherence to good silage management and silage safety resources.
“It is unfortunate that many people are not aware there is a danger, but in reality, there is,” Charley said. “Given the right resources and awareness of the issues, potential risks and fatalities can be understood and avoided.”
One area of silage safety that is often overlooked is silage face management. Improper face management is one of the biggest contributors to silage avalanches or cave-offs. Proper management of the face on a daily basis is crucial to safety. Plus, these practices benefit the quality and consistency of the feed, so there is no reason not to adopt them.
With the right tools and resources, injury and death can be prevented by:
* Practicing caution around silage. This includes keeping a safe distance from the face and inspecting surroundings cautiously.
* Executing the proper feedout. Never dig the bucket into the bottom of the pile, as this can create an overhang that could lead to a potential silage avalanche. Additionally, never drive the unloader parallel, and in close proximity, to the feedout face in an overfilled bunker or pile.
* Use caution when removing plastic, tires, tire sidewalls or gravel bags. When working in, around or on a pile, always wear a harness connected to a safety line, and bring a buddy to monitor.
“People are the greatest resource in any operation, and ensuring the safety of farm employees and visitors is the highest priority. For this reason, (Lallemand has) created a silage safety kit to help provide the best materials for silage safety,” Charley said.
The information and resource kit was developed in conjunction with leading silage safety experts Dr. Keith Bolsen, professor emeritus at Kansas State University, and Ruthie Bolsen. The kit includes:
* The "Silage Safety Handbook," which offers practical tips for building, maintaining and feeding out silage bunkers and piles safely;
* A quick-reference poster, which demonstrates the main principles for silage safety;
* Safety vests to improve staff visibility when working in, at or near silage storage facilities;
* A warning sign to be placed strategically to raise awareness of visitors and staff, and
* The "Basics of Silage Safety" video — a quick video resource that reiterates the importance of safe practices.
Producers can request these free resources by contacting their Lallemand Animal Nutrition representative or by visiting QualitySilage.com.
“We want to ensure all livestock producers practice silage safety. By offering these free resources, people have the opportunity to improve their safety practices — and even their silage quality,” Charley said.