Farm Life - Visual Diary of Field Chopping 2020

emorgan451

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Western North Carolina
I wanted to share a visual diary of our experience this year of field chopping our corn and sorghum crop. It's always a fun and important time of the year and there are neat pieces of equipment. I haven't carried my camera along with me until this year, but photos were always secondary to actually doing my dump truck driving job :) .

We have a small family farm where we raise beef cattle in Western North Carolina, and this crop is turned into silage to provide a source of food for the cattle through the winter. For those not familiar, silage is "a type of fodder made from green foliage crops which have been preserved by acidification, achieved through fermentation". So in our case it's the corn and sorghum that gets chopped green, piled up and packed by a tractor, then sealed over with plastic to keep oxygen out and allow the fermentation process.

This is going to be image heavy and will likely have to go through multiple posts. Almost every shot is with the EM1.1 and Panasonic 25mm 1.7. The harvest spans a couple of days, so you'll see some varied light conditions.

The first thing that has to be done is to cut "roads" into the fields. The dump truck has to follow directly behind the the chopper for a couple of rounds until there is enough room for the truck to drive beside the chopper. This is always interesting and since the chopper has to blow the corn directly over the front of the truck, inevitably the windshield gets covered at some point. It's also possible to end up with a lap full of silage if you don't have the windows shut.

This image shows where we had a field split with corn on the left and sorghum on the right. We were cutting them as separate fields.
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My dad and his friend having a laugh after the first round with how much ended up on the windshield.
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This one taken with the Oly ZD 50-200 2.8-3.5
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Sorghum
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View across the sorghum
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My son playing on the tractor while watching. Also taken with Oly ZD 50-200 2.8-3.5
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Me
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My dad's friend was helping us out.
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My brother runs the chopper
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My dad using the tractor to spread out the loads of silage and compacting the pile by driving back and forth over it
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A handful of silage to show some detail



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continued to next post...
 

emorgan451

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Maintenance is done before starting for the day
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The self propelled chopper we borrowed has an old Ford V8 powerplant.... what a sound!
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Something is causing the flow of chopped corn to exit the spout prematurely, it can be a mess.

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Nothing special here, just the view from behind the wheel
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The self-propelled doesn't have good enough brakes to go to the next field which is very steep. We switched to the pull type chopper and had to travel down the road in a "train" to block for the tractor/chopper since it's so wide.

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Stuck the camera outside while driving, really afraid I'd drop it!

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Really overfilled. That happens sometimes when you are trying to make the full round, especially cutting the roads. There's no way around the chopper until you get back to the start!

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My dad driving
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Dumping a load

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Watching the spout

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Passenger view



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Chains are the only way to make it up the steep slopes

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I hope this was interesting for some of you guys. If you have questions about anything feel free to ask! Thanks for looking!
 

Panolyman

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Fascinating stuff, very well captured.
You've certainly given us a feel of what it's like doing that job; although mechanised, bl**dy hard work!
A farm backs onto my garden and just cuts hay and grass for silage, so much easier than your crops.
Thanks for showing.
 

Panolyman

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We've just got back from a local bike ride and were hassled by quite a few tractors and trailers on the (normally) quite lanes.
The trailers were full to overflowing and in the past when I've seen them full of this material I always wondered if it was Hops.
Having been educated by this thread, I now realise they are full of shredded maize, which we see plenty of growing hereabouts.
I confess I thought they fed the cattle with whole cobs of corn, though without all the butter we're used to having on ours. ;)
 
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Tasmania
Very interesting.
Didn't realise you'd make sileage from that.
Here we use grass.

Curious, but imagine once "cured" it's got that, to me, gorgeous sileage smell. But not being grass could have different aroma.

I see you make it in a heap. Do they bale it, and wrap there too?
A few here still do old fashioned pit sileage. At least the truck, loader doesn't fall off the heap! Ouch!

Wonder how a shield over the windscreen would work. That would be sticky gooey juice.

Thanks for posting.
 

Zman

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Great pics and story. I've always thought of farmers as the hardest workers on the planet. When I drive through farm country in my state of New York, doesn't matter the season or time of day ... those farmers were out and always busy doing something. Praise to you and all of the farmers on the globe for all they do for the rest of us.
 

emorgan451

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Western North Carolina
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I confess I thought they fed the cattle with whole cobs of corn, though without all the butter we're used to having on ours.
I do love buttered corn. If you feed cattle whole kernel or cob corn that's dried out, they really don't get any nutrition out of it. If it's not soft as in silage or cracked open in grain or dried feed their systems can't digest it fully.

An engaging, educational and well composed series. That it's your family doing the work adds another level of affinity to the hard work involved.
Thanks @felipegeek , I appreciate it.

Most interesting, informative, and beautiful!
Thanks @relic
 

emorgan451

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Western North Carolina
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Very interesting.
Didn't realise you'd make sileage from that.
Here we use grass.

Curious, but imagine once "cured" it's got that, to me, gorgeous sileage smell. But not being grass could have different aroma.

I see you make it in a heap. Do they bale it, and wrap there too?
A few here still do old fashioned pit sileage. At least the truck, loader doesn't fall off the heap! Ouch!

Wonder how a shield over the windscreen would work. That would be sticky gooey juice.

Thanks for posting.
We do some individually wrapped silage hay bales as well, but not as much as we used to. The cost of that plastic wrap has gone really expensive, so to have the same amount of feed it costs a lot more than doing the bulk silage. The corn silage definitely has that very recognizable silage smell, but there is a difference in smell between the two. Hard to put into words lol.
 

emorgan451

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Western North Carolina
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Great pics and story. I've always thought of farmers as the hardest workers on the planet. When I drive through farm country in my state of New York, doesn't matter the season or time of day ... those farmers were out and always busy doing something. Praise to you and all of the farmers on the globe for all they do for the rest of us.
Really appreciate the comments @Zman
 
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Brookfield, IL
Nice series of photos. They speak to me on a couple of different levels. First, I'm an agricultural engineer, and although I work in food processing, I did take and enjoy classes in agricultural machinery design in college. Also, I grew up on my parents small (100 acre) crop farm (operated mostly as a hobby), so I am familiar with operating well-used farm equipment. :)
 

Jakob Malm

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Sep 10, 2019
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Thanks for sharing! Perfect balance of pictures and text, to me.

Having absolutely no experience of agriculture and not being a native English speaker, I'm not sure I fully understood... Do you chop up the whole corn plant to feed your (or someone else's) animals?

The photo of of your dad driving the tractor back and forth over the dumped chopped material, is that where you store it in bulk, instead of in separate smaller packages (bales?) covered in plastic?
If so, do you get problems with rats, slugs, or other animals coming and eating/destroying the material? I've heard that slugs can cause problems here in Sweden in those plastic covered bales.
 

emorgan451

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Western North Carolina
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Nice series of photos. They speak to me on a couple of different levels. First, I'm an agricultural engineer, and although I work in food processing, I did take and enjoy classes in agricultural machinery design in college. Also, I grew up on my parents small (100 acre) crop farm (operated mostly as a hobby), so I am familiar with operating well-used farm equipment. :)
Thanks very much!
 

emorgan451

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Western North Carolina
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Thanks for sharing! Perfect balance of pictures and text, to me.

Having absolutely no experience of agriculture and not being a native English speaker, I'm not sure I fully understood... Do you chop up the whole corn plant to feed your (or someone else's) animals?

The photo of of your dad driving the tractor back and forth over the dumped chopped material, is that where you store it in bulk, instead of in separate smaller packages (bales?) covered in plastic?
If so, do you get problems with rats, slugs, or other animals coming and eating/destroying the material? I've heard that slugs can cause problems here in Sweden in those plastic covered bales.
Hi Jakob thanks for the feedback and for looking! We do chop up the whole corn plant to fee our own animals throughout the winter. You are correct that it is stored in bulk as shown with the tractor driving over it. The tractor spreads it out and compacts it down. It is then covered with a very large single sheet of plastic that is stretched tightly over the pile. When it's time to feed it, we uncover it a little bit at a time. If rats wanted any they can just get it from the open end. However, we have more of a problem with rats wanting to get any dried corn kernel that is done separately and kept to be ground up and mixed into supplemental grain.

We do some of the bales of silage hay as well, but we haven't noticed any issues with slugs.
 

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