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Corn Silage Harvest – It’s a Team Sport

There, beyond the free stall barn of content Holsteins munching on last year’s crop, I begin to hear a familiar sound.  A kind of metal clinking, engine humming, and corn stalks whirring and crunching as the chopper works through the field and his ever constant companion of a wagon or truck works to keep up.  Silage chopping is a team sport – in this case the whole family is working to get feed put away for their herd for the next year.  I can sense the urgency in the air as I am warmly greeted on to the farm.  One of the two brothers, Mike, met me and we chatted quickly about why I was there.  But I knew I was not very high on the priority list for today – Corn silage was top priority today. At Aspirin Acres I am sure when each of them woke up this morning that is exactly what they thought. So after the cows were checked, fed, milked and moved; the heifers and calves were fed; machines were fixed, all the people were rounded up…finally they can start in the field.  Mike pointed over the hill to the next field where his son Joe was chopping and his wife and younger son were running wagons and invited me to ride in the chopper; this man had some bunker packing to do today and I am slowing him down.  I had never been in a self-propelled chopper before, and I thanked my lucky stars I don’t have motion sickness.  Joe and I chatted in the cab about the crop this year and how their silage was two weeks behind last. We also talked about how they work with their agronomist and nutritionist to make a plan from seed to feed.

Jacob Miller, Landmark Agronomist and Rio Location manager was good enough to introduce me to the Benish family and work with me to tell me how an agronomist is involved in the silage process.  He said that “an agronomist starts to set the stage for chopping in January when he works to select hybrids to plant.”  This is when you ask the questions like: How much starch are you looking for? How many acres did you plant last year? Was that many acres right for your silage needs?  Should we use a multipurpose hybrid on some for you to have some flexibility with your grain acres? Asking the right questions will put you on track for a successful season.

 Jacob is excellent at placement and you can tell his knowledge is highly valued on farm.   He helps to create a plan with the grower so that you have a pretty good idea what field will need to be harvested first.  A great way to spread out your silage season is to use multiple maturity hybrids.  That way you can have a greater window of opportunity for when you corn will be ready to chop.
Jim Stelse introduced me to the Animal Nutrition world of silage…and all the acronyms that come with.  We talked about CCP (Critical Control Points), DM (Dry Matter), NIR (Near Inferred) Gun for checking moisture, TLOC (Total Length of Cut), KPS (Kernel Processing)…I really could go on and on.  You should see all the tools and testing equipment that an animal nutritionist carries on the farm! It’s quite the carload.  Animal nutritionist use these “on farm tools”, along with lab testing to help make decisions like increasing the kernel processing, moisture and nutrition needs of the animal.
For an animal nutritionist getting the highest forage quality is very important.  Jim uses CCP to have a guide for his growers to go through the season with a plan for success.  The CCP includes decision making as to when the harvest of the silage starts or is altered.  When determining when to start silage, a number of factors go into this decision making- such as finding a maturity optimization for yield quantity and quality. The silage harvest season is very highly influenced by moisture.  This makes the window for harvesting very narrow and can make for a stressful event.  During the chopping season conditions change, but you have control over a few things…and weather is certainly not one! If your chopper is equipped with a kernel processor, you can alter processed taking into consideration their moisture and starches. Use a shaker box to see length of cut and how the plant in processing.  Another way to insure you are working for the best forage is to have excellent packing and then seal it.  In silage oxygen is the enemy.  A bunker must be packed to protect the feed from spoiling and to increase storage.
I also asked with Matt Solymossy from our Safety Manager about silage gas safety. He warned “Silo Gas is very dangerous gas made up of primarily Carbon Dioxide and Nitrogen Dioxide that are released during the early stages of the fermentation process. Silo gas hazards exist anytime farmers or employees enter silo storage structures, but there is increased risk in the days immediately following filling the silo.  Silo gas can typically be detected by its bleach like odor and faint red or yellow haze.  Never enter a silo if you detect the presence of silo gas.”
No one would argue the fact that dairy farmers are hard workers, but to think that they work to get the everyday chores done- then get to the field to chop between chores (which itself is a full time job).

I think it is good to remind ourselves and others that farming can be very dangerous…especially during silage season. As I left Aspirin Acres and I watched the wagons coming and going to the bunker area, I was reminded of all those familiar yellow signs on the road portraying a tractor and a farmer. Having so much farm equipment frequenting the road during silage season working feverishly to get a job done is stressful enough, having another person on the farm, I know from experience can make you very nervous.  So I want to extend a sincere thanks to the Benish Family of Aspirin Acres for allowing me onto their farm.  Whether you are packing a bunker, filling a bag or blowing it up a silo have a safe productive silage season! Thank you!

Posted in Agronomy, Animal Nutrition, Blog, Grain

Landmark members donate 9,430 meals to food banks

Cooperative and food banks have shared mission to feed the world

Members of Landmark Services Cooperative donated 9,430 meals to help feed hungry families in need in southern Wisconsin in August.

Second Harvest

Together, Landmark members raised more than $3,100 for Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin and its sister foodbank, Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin. The money was raised during three customer appreciation events in Cottage Grove, Union Grove and Albany. The donation will support services in Second Harvest’s 16-county service area in southwestern Wisconsin and Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin’s 36-county coverage area. One dollar donated to Second Harvest provides three meals for those in need.

Working with Second Harvest has been educational and moving, said Dave Henning, the northern feed operations manager at Landmark Services Cooperative in Cottage Grove.

“This has been an eye-opening experience,” Henning said. “I have learned a lot of facts about hunger and how many people are honestly affected. That’s a need you can’t turn away from once you learn about it.”

Lisa Gundlach, Second Harvest’s major gifts officer, attended the event in Cottage Grove to join Landmark employees selling raffle tickets to raise money for Second Harvest. She enjoyed the generous spirit of the members in attendance.

“We are trying to end hunger through community partnerships, and Landmark is a perfect example of that,” Gundlach said. “Great family-friendly events such as this help us reach new audiences with the message that you don’t always see hunger, but it is among us in rural and urban communities alike. One in nine people in southwestern Wisconsin can’t access the food they need, and that is why it is so important for us to be here.”

Landmark was inspired to work with Second Harvest through the “Drive to Feed Kids” program created by feed ingredient supplier NutraBlend. Drive to Feed Kids is a national organization dedicated to educating consumers about agriculture’s role in feeding the world.

“American farmers are the most efficient food producers in the world, and we produce the safest food in the world,” said John Charley, territory manager for NutraBlend. “By connecting to Second Harvest through our customer, Landmark, we can spread that message while supporting Second Harvest’s work to make food available to families who need support.”

Landmark looks forward to continuing to support Second Harvest, Henning said.

“The need is so great, and it’s only going to grow,” Henning said. “We have a shared mission to feed people, and we will continue working together to accomplish that.”

Second Harvest Foodbank of southern Wisconsin serves 16 counties in southwestern Wisconsin. To learn more or to support Second Harvest’s mission, contact Lisa Gundlach at 608-216-7212 or visit

For more information on Landmark Services Cooperative’s programs, contact Kristi Olson at or 414.416.3181.

Posted in Landmark News

Careful Calibration Makes Sense for Data Driven Management

With fall well underway and combines rolling through the fields, we want to direct your attention to the monitor you have in your CalBlog3WEBcombine ready to capture that ever important harvest data.  With that in mind I chatted with Kyle Stull recently and we discussed combine data and calibration.  He was very excited to be working with growers to calibrate their combines properly.  Preparing for harvest takes coordination and sometimes relearning what needs to be done in that monitor of yours.  Kyle was very knowledgeable about the steps of calibration; he said calibrate your combine right the first time, and then again if the moisture or test weight changes.  Why?  Yield monitor calibration is based on the flow of grain hitting the pressure plate.  By varying your speed while doing a calibration and being as close to your harvest moisture and test weight as possible to get a good reading, allows you to get as close as possible to the average rate on the pressure plate.   This is important because in some monitors the calibration at the beginning on the season will be used to calculate yield all harvest long.


You only get one chance to get your harvest data a year and if you put garbage in, you will get garbage out.  I know that you have probably heard that saying a thousand times, but it’s so true!  By getting accurate yield data, you really open up the possibilities for management decisions for your fields.  Kyle mentioned several management practices that you can Blog5WEBimplement once you have good data.  Fertilizer placement based on removal for P and K, variable rate seeding and nitrogen all depend on a good calibration and the corresponding yield data.  He also noted that better fertilizer placement helps on both your highly productive ground as well as the lower yielding areas by spreading fertilizer specific to those corresponding yields.  As you go through the season make sure you keep Kyle’s tips in mind and be sure to have a SAFE and BOUNTIFUL HARVEST!


Bonus: Weigh wagons are available to you, so contact your Landmark Agronomist for availability!  CalBlog4WEB


Annie Hopke2
Annie Hopke, Marketing & Communication Specialist, grew up on a small dairy farm in Tomah, WI where she found her passion for agriculture. She has been a member of the Landmark team for over three years.






Posted in Agronomy, Grain, Landmark News