Dangers at Silo-Filling Time

Reader Contribution by Farm Collector
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Your request for reader input on silo filling (Farm Collector, September 2011) did not bring a response to one danger I remember. One fear was that fresh silage emitted a gas; I believe it was a nitrogen compound. It was known to overcome workers in the silo. To prevent this, my uncle left the silo filler running between loads to ventilate the silo.

Of course putting up the filler pipe and hooking the “gooseneck” over the top was dangerous. The opening for the gooseneck was called “the doghouse.” I believe some farmers left the pipe up all year.

My Uncle Amos preferred the Papek and Gehl silo fillers. It’s odd that Papek, made in Shortsville, N.Y., far from the Cornbelt, was one of the favorites. He used a McCormick-Deering 15-30 and later a Farmall F-30. These machines were good on the belt. It was hard to stall them on ensilage cutters.

During bountiful years of corn crop, they put up temporary silos made of snow fence and a reinforced tarpaper. I think the latter was called “sisal-kraft.” A ring of snow fence was lined with the tarpaper. When this silo was near full, a second fence was telescoped inside the first. They went up to three layers high. I never saw a trench silo in these parts.

To open up a silo filled with fresh silage, you had to remove a cap of spoiled (moldy) silage. This was up to a foot deep. On the one silo I opened up, about a dozen rats were up there. I pitched them down the chute along with the silage, where a couple of dogs eagerly dispatched them (no P.E.T.A. people around then).

Enclosed is a picture of my grandfather’s farm (later run by my two uncles) in northern Illinois (Capron). It shows the big stave silo on the left, and part of the smaller one on the right. The latter is where I encountered the rats. This photo was taken in about 1935.

A tornado took down the big silo, which was rebuilt. The conical roof was never found. A few years later the Challenge windmill went down. A new concrete block silo replaced both stave silos. I was never around when this one was filled. The barn is now dilapidated. I understand the big rambling farmhouse has burned down.

If you look closely, you can see the manure carrier between the big silo and the old corncrib. This is the one I was stranded on; I wrote about it in the July 2005 issue of Farm Collector.

Clyde Eide, Westerville, Ohio

Editor’s note: Clyde’s account of that memorable incident is worth a reprise. Revisit his story, Stranded on the Manure Carrier

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