Document Type


Publication Date



Agricultural Engineering Department

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silage, silage harvester, ensilage harvester


Since the invention of the field ensilage cutter in 1913 there has been a slow but steady acceptance by the Midwestern farmer. Up to 1925 there had been some 3000 machines manufactured. This was still 5 to 10 years before the advent of the power-takeoff (PTO) equipped tractor and the rubber-tired tractor, which partly explains its slow progress at first. During part of the depression years of the '30"s, production statistics were not made available. But in 1944 the annual production of row crop field ensilage harvesters was 237; in 1946, 7,034; and in 1949, 19,357.2 The earliest successful method of filling silos with corn silage was to cut the standing corn with the corn binder, use teams and racks to haul the bundles to the silo, and cut and elevate the corn with the standard ensilage cutter. This was a successful method but for one thing-the hard physical work involved for the men handling the heavy corn bundles. Contrasted with this is the field ensilage harvester method. Here the field harvester cuts the standing corn and chops it in one operation, delivering the ensilage to a trailed wagon or to a truck driven along with the harvester. The ensilage is then hauled to the silo, elevated or blown into the upright silo or dumped into the pit or trench silo. All handling of heavy corn bundles has been eliminated, although the unloading of the wagons, and tramping of the silage still takes considerable man power. The binder method has one slight advantage over the field harvester method in that the binder can be started first and supply a quantity of corn ahead of the silo filling operations. When both were running, a short stoppage of one machine would not hold back the work of the other. This is not true of the field cutter and the blower at the silo, for the operation of one depends on the operation of the other. The corn binder with the bundle elevator helped to eliminate some of the lifting of bundles, but some operators felt that the racks had to travel too far for a load in light corn. The 2- row corn binder with its elevator reduced the wagon travel per load. This machine when operating in tall hybrid corn produced a rack loading problem. Farmers remember this rack loading job from a 2-row binder in hybrid corn as hard and unpleasant. In 1932 Schwantes and Torrance3 found a 20 percent reduction in cost of the field harvester method of ensiling corn over the binder and ensilage cutter method. The major saving was from reduced labor. This, however, was in the days of steel-wheeled tractors and field harvesters with operating speeds of two to three miles per hour. Not all of the tractors had power-take-off drives at that time. Hauling was also done with teams and ordinary wagons, with resulting small loads and slow travel. In spite of the machines of those times, there was a reduction of cost, but the chief benefit was the elimination of the drudgery of handling the bundles.










South Dakota State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, Agricultural Experiment Station