Stay Safe When Making Silage

Jul 28, 2021
Making silage can be a dangerous time on farms. Take steps to eliminate or control hazards and keep everyone safe.

Machinery dangers

Machinery is powerful, and accidents can happen quickly. Make sure to follow all safety protocals. That means you should never repair machinery while it's running. Always switch it off, isolate it from the source of power and make sure it has stopped before you try to unplug a blower pipe or fix a broken part.

Keep machine guards and shields in place at all times. They're there for your protection. Bypassing guards and shields can leave operators exposed to rotating shafts, chain and v-belt drives, gears and pully wheels and more. 

If you're driving a tractor or truck, make sure to adjust your rearview mirrors so you can see what's behind you. Install back-up warning alarms to keep everyone safe.

When filling a bunker silo or drive-over pile, don't let anyone in or near the pile. Make sure everyone -- especially children -- know the rules and are a safe distance away.

Fall from height

Bunker silos and drive-over piles can be a risk for falls. It's important to install guardrails on all above-ground level walls and to use caution when removing plastic, tires, tire sidewalls and gravel bags from the top of the pile. Avoid standing near the walls or the edge of the feedout face.

Use equipment operating from the ground level to remove surface-spoiled silage from the surface of bunkers and piles, and never allow a person to ride in the bucket of a front-end loader to take samples from the silage feedout face.

Avalance or collapsing silage

Silage avalances are dangerous and unpredictable. A chunk of a silage feedout face can break off and fall in a fraction of a second, which can be deadly for anyone standing beneath it. The taller the silage face, the more dangerous it is.

Although you can't stop silage avalanches from happening, you can follow some safety guildelines to prevent people from being trapped underneath them. Following are guidelines that can decrease the chance of having a serious accident caused by collapsing silage.

  • Never allow people to stand near the feedout face. A good rule of thumb is to never stand closer to the silage face than three times its height.
  • Follow the "buddy rule." That means never work in or near a bunker or pile by yourself. 
  • Bunker silos and drive-over piles should not be filled higher than the unloading equipment can reach safely. For most unloaders, that's 12 to 14 feet.
  • Do not "pitch" spoiled silage. It is simply too dangerous to remove spoilage from the top of many bunkers and piles. Only remove spoiled silage with equipment operated safely from the ground.
  • Use proper unloading techniques, which includes shaving silage down the feedout face.
  • Never "dig" the bucket into the bottom of the silage. Undercutting creates an overhang of silage that can loosen and fall to the ground. Never drive the unloader parallel to and in close proximity of the feedout face.
  • When sampling silage, take samples from a loader bucket after it is moved a safe distance away from the feedout face.
  • Never park vehicles or equipment near teh feedout face.
  • When working in or on an overfilled bunker or pile, always wear a harness connected to a safety line. 
  • Wear a safety vest when working around silage.
  • Post warning signs saying, "Danger! Silage Face Might Collapse" around the perimeter of a bunker or pile. If the bunker or pile is in a  remote area on the farm, fence in the perimeter and posta  sign saying, "Danger: Do Not Enter. Authorized Personnel Only."


David Cramer

Filed Under: AgronomyDairyFeedGrainHarvestSafety