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Silage safety

Few farming operations invite as many different opportunities for injury or fatality as a silage program. Employees are exposed to numerous serious risks throughout the silage-making process from harvesting to feedout.

People are the greatest resource on any operation, and ensuring the safety of farm employees and visitors is the highest priority. When everyone understands silage safety rules, producers can focus on the numerous benefits of silage to livestock and farm productivity.

Prevention is the key to safety. When working near silage bunkers or piles, follow these seven safety tips.

  1. Keep a Safe Distance
  • SafetySilageSignNever stand closer to the silage face than three times its height.
  • Never park vehicles or equipment near the feedout face.
  • Never allow people to stand near the feedout face.
  • Post warning signs to ensure visitors and bystanders observe this rule.
  1. Bring a Buddy
  • Never work in or near a bunker or pile alone.
  • Wear safety vests while working around silage.
  • Maintain communication and visibility with a buddy in a safe location when working on, or in, a silage structure.
  1. Fill Safely
  • Do not fill higher than unloading equipment can safely reach.
  • Only allow trained and experienced personnel to operate silage equipment.
  • Use proper filling techniques.
  1. Maintain Carefully
  • Use caution when removing plastic, tires, tire sidewalls or gravel bags.
  1. Inspect Cautiously
  • Do not take core samples if the feedout face is more than eight feet, or 2.5 m, tall.
  • When sampling silage, take samples from a loader bucket after it is moved to a safe distance from the feedout face.
  • NEVER allow a person to ride in the bucket of a front-end loader to take samples.
  1. Feedout Correctly
  • Never dig the bucket into the bottom of the silage. This can create an overhang.
  • Never drive the unloader parallel to, and in close proximity of, the feedout face of an over-filled bunker or pile.
  1. Be Wary of Silage Gases
  • Avoid entering the silo during the first three days after filling.
  • If it’s necessary to enter the silo, ventilate the area first and always enter with another person.
  • If orange or brown gas is seeping from the silage, this is HIGHLY toxic. Allow it to fully dissipate before approaching the silage.
  • Carbon dioxide is colorless but can be very dangerous due to the risk of asphyxia. Take care when opening new season silages, especially in enclosed environments.

More on silage gases:

Dangerous gases are produced naturally during the early stages of the ensiling process. However, the right conditions can intensify the production or releases of these gases. Periods of droughts followed by heavy rainfall — as well as damage from frost and hail — can lead to increased production of silage gas.

Nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide are the two most important silage gases to understand.

  • Nitrogen dioxide can be dangerous if even small amounts are inhaled. It can lead to pneumonia-like symptoms and death if not recognized and treated properly. Even brief exposure can be fatal. The warning signs of nitrogen dioxide include a yellow or brownish color and a bleach-like odor. The gas can leave yellow stains in the silage or on other materials.
  • Carbon dioxide is colorless but can be very dangerous due to the risk of asphyxia.

Additional reading

Check out these resources written by experts for more information on silage safety.

  • Basics of Silage Safety Video. This 8-minute video is intended to make producers aware of the ever-present dangers when working around silage storage structures, and re-enforce good practices to reduce risks on their operations.
  • Silage Safety Handbook is a free download available in both English and Spanish. The handbook offers practical tips for building, maintaining and feeding out silage bunkers and piles, plus information about the potential dangers of gases formed naturally during the ensiling process. Printed copies are available upon request.

Interested in learning more about silage safety? Send us your contact information, and a Lallemand Animal Nutrition representative will respond to you with a special offering.

Lallemand Animal Nutrition does not purport, in this guide or in any other publication, to specify minimum safety or legal standards or to address all of the compliance requirements, risks, or safety problems associated with working on or around farms. This guide is intended to serve only as a beginning point for information and should not be construed as containing all the necessary compliance, safety, or warning information, nor should it be construed as representing the policy of Lallemand Animal Nutrition. No warranty, guarantee, or representation is made by Lallemand Animal Nutrition as to the accuracy or sufficiency of the information and guidelines contained herein, and Lallemand Animal Nutrition assumes no liability or responsibility in connection therewith. It is the responsibility of the users of this guide to consult and comply with pertinent local, state, and federal laws, regulations, and safety standards.