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Filling Silo

Updated: Aug 10, 2020

John H. Cooley was born in 1929—the youngest of five children—and grew up on the Cooley Farm in Randolph Center, Vermont. John's son Mark asked him to write down this story, which is how many family stories get recorded: The kids, or grandkids, want them preserved.


By John H. Cooley

Right after I came home to help dad on the farm, he designed and bought the components for chopping hay instead of baling it. It proved to be faster and required much less heavy lifting than handling bales. The first year we did our haying with it, Dad, the hired man and I got all our hay in without hiring any other help. I could never figure out why other farmers did not adopt the method. The basic machine was simpler than a baler and required very little repair or upkeep.

It could be used for dry hay, green hay and other green forage crops and, with an easy modification, corn.

The first time we used it for corn we had little idea of how fast we could fill a silo. In order to pay off some of the initial cost, dad had contracted to fill silos for three other farmers. We started with our own and we started a little early because we didn’t know how long it would all take. The corn we put in our own silos was very green and juicy. In the past we had started cutting corn later and let it lay on the ground after it was cut so it was a little drier. 

After finishing filling our own silos, we loaded all our equipment into the wagons that the chopper blew whatever it was chopping into and headed for the first farm. We made quite a caravan. The chopper came first with one wagon trailing. Next came another tractor pulling a second wagon if we were going to need a second tractor on the job. Sometimes the farmer provided the second tractor. Then the second thing in our caravan was the Jeep pulling the second wagon with the blower trailing.

Our home silos were quite old and made of wood so they were not as tight as they could have been. Twenty or thirty feet of green corn silage exerts considerable pressure on the corn below it. Within a few days after the silos were filled we began to see trickles of juice down the cement foundations. Then juice started spurting out joints between staves. Sometimes spurting out three or four feet. And it wasn’t long before there were little rills of juice flowing away from the bases of both silos.

At first the smell wasn’t too bad. A little like I imagine a still might smell. Then it turned to a very strong acid smell. Long before the silos stopped leaking, the juice started turning to butyric acid. It smelled so bad that I began to wonder if the cows would eat what was left in the silos. They did, but we had to be careful when we fed it. If we fed it before milking or even while we were milking it would give the milk an “off” taste and smell.

We never put such green corn in our own or anyone else’s silo again. 


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