Consider this silage-sampling protocol

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Editor's note: The following Practice Builder was provided by Doug DeGroff, independent nutritionist with Diversified Dairy Solutions, located in Tulare, Calif.

August 27, 2009 is a day that Doug DeGroff, independent nutritionist from California, will never forget.

DeGroff was taking a silage sample just like he had 1,000 times before. "The particular pile that I needed to sample that day looked safer than many others I've sampled in the past," he says.

"Sometimes, you look at silage piles and worry that something could happen and you reconsider taking a sample. But, in this instance, the thought that the silage pile could give away never entered my mind."

The dairy used a silage defacer and the face of the pile was very smooth. The pile also was not very tall, approximately 12 feet tall.

DeGroff will never forget what happened next. The face of the silage pile broke away and fell on top of him. "It was like someone sliced a loaf of bread, and the slice fell right on top of me," he says.

Approximately 8 to 10 feet of the pile, 12 to 18 inches thick, broke away and landed on DeGroff, burying him. Thankfully, a feeder was nearby and dragged him out of the pile.

DeGroff immediately went to the hospital. The silage falling on him fractured two vertebrae in his back, damaged five discs and tore several of his ligaments. "People don't walk away from silage accidents," says DeGroff. "I am very fortunate and blessed."

Prior to the silage accident, DeGroff says he looked at silage sampling and safety very arrogantly. He thought, "It won't happen to me," "I'll be fast enough should the face ever fall," or "I can judge the pile."

"I'm here to tell you that it can happen to you: you won't be fast enough and you definitely can't judge the pile. Silage safety is a real deal."

Since the accident, DeGroff has developed a written protocol to safely sample silage. "Not only is the new protocol safe for the nutritionist, but it also gives you a more uniform sample," he explains. "It takes a little longer, no question. But, at the end of the day, I get to go home to my family."

Here is a look at the silage-sampling protocol developed by Diversified Dairy Solutions:

  • Have the feeder clean out the feed box thoroughly to prevent any contamination with leftover feed. Be sure not to sample the silage used to clean out the feed box.
  • Have the feeder load one day’s usage up to 10,000 pounds in the mixer. This should represent the silage face both vertical and horizontal. Have the feeder mix the silage in the feed box for approximately five minutes.
  • Have the feeder unload silage in a safe area.
  • Using a bucket, collect 10 to 15 handfuls of the silage from different areas.
  • Mix the silage thoroughly in the bucket and then fill and label the sample bag.

DeGroff notes that using a silage defacer and moving the defaced silage to a safe place to collect the sample is the best. But, if the dairy does not have a silage defacer, the above-mentioned protocol is something to consider.

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