Ask your nutritionist if he has heard about infrared cameras for detecting heat loss in bunker silos.

When pointed at the face of a bunker silo, the camera displays a colorimetric reading of thermal activity. If a lot of reds are showing up across the face, intense heating is taking place. Undoubtedly, yeast organisms are eating sugars in the silage, heat is being given off, and the silage is losing energy value. If, on the other hand, blues and greens are showing up consistently across the face, the silage is stable.

This offers several benefits:

  • It tells how well the bunkers were packed. 
  • It tells the nutritionist whether the ration needs to be adjusted for decreased energy values in the silage.
  • It allows people to stand back a safe distance from the face of the bunker in order to get a reading.

Granted, it is too late to do anything about it if the bunker was not packed properly and heat losses are occurring. But it does tell you — in the event of heat loss due to improperly packed bunker silos — that you need to step up your management in other areas, such as face management, plastic management and the use of inoculants, points out Kevin Putnam, dairy specialist for Pioneer Hi-Bred Intl.

The infrared cameras are available from FLIR, with corporate offices in Portland, Ore. The Web site is and the phone number is (800) 464-6372.

FLIR sells a number of different cameras ranging from $2,000 all the way to $100,000-plus. A FLIR representative emphasized that many of the cameras cost less than $10,000.