Silo Provided Winter Feed Storage Solution

The American farm in the late 1800s needed a place to store winter feed, and the upright silo provided a solution


| September 1999



Filling the silo: from a turn-of-the-century postcard.

Filling the silo: from a turn-of-the-century postcard.

In the late 1800s, livestock farmers – especially dairymen – recognized the need to stockpile and preserve high quality winter feed. 

While the ensilage process of chopping and packing most of the plant was already known, it had previously been pitched into and packed in pits or bunkers. There, the feed underwent a process of fermentation and sweetening.

Then, the idea sprouted to build small rectangular or round structures to contain silage (or ensilage) vertically near the site where it would be fed. The upright silos generally packed more uniformly, and minimized surface exposure that lead to spoilage. The square or rectangular models, though, soon fell out of favor, says Joe Becker, Hartland, Wis. Joe and his wife encountered accounts of three square-store silos in the process of doing research for another project.

"These were 1890s vintage, and university literature of the time said there was too much spoilage in the square types," he says. "It didn't pack in the corners.

"The first silos I know about in our area were built in the late 1880s," he says. "The smallest poured cement silo I've seen was eight feet in diameter, and was built in the early part of this century."

Joe, a retired dairy farmer, says that silo diameter was determined by herd size. Height was determined by how high farmers could blow or elevate silage with equipment available at that time.