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Each dot represents fifty silos. The inset shows the Steele silo, the oldest silo in continuous use in the United States.
enemies is mentioned by ancient writers. But the use of the silo as we now understand it appears to have been commenced in 1861 by A. Reihlen, of Stuttgart, Germany, who probably stored the first green maize in pits. He had lived in the United States a number of years and on his return to Germany began the cultivation of large dent corn. A quantity of his corn was injured by frost, which made it unfit for soiling purposes. Wishing to preserve it, he dug trenches in which he stored the maize; when he opened these a few months later he found the corn well preserved and discovered that his cattle would eat it readily.
The chief credit for what may be termed the practical modernizing of ensilage undoubtedly belongs to M. Goffart, of France. Goffart began as early as 1852 to study the preservation of forage. In 1877 he published a book on ensilage which laid the foundation of all modern practice. This book was translated and published in the winter of 1878-79 in New York, by J. B. Brown of the New York Plow Company.
For many years there was considerable discussion as to who built the first silo in this country, early writers giving the credit to John M. Bailey, of Bellerica, Massachusetts. In 1879 Mr. Bailey demonstrated the possibility of the system on a large scale. He wrote and published the Book of Ensilage or The New Dispensation for Farmers, the first edition appearing in the winter of 1879-80. Later writers credit Dr. Manly Miles, of Lansing, Michigan, who built two silos in 1879, and Francis Morris, of Oakland Manor, Maryland, who built his silo in 1876, with being the first to prepare silage in the United States. Dr. Miles learned about the silos in France and had experiments conducted under his direction at Champaign, Illinois. His silos were of trench construction, twelve feet long and six feet wide. Mr. Morris' silos were also of the trench type. The first
silo in Wisconsin was built in 1877 by Levi P. Gilbert, of Fort Atkinson. Mr. Gilbert conceived the idea from reading in 1876 a government report on the making of ensilage in European countries. He decided to try the venture, and during the summer of 1877 dug a trench six feet wide, six feet deep, and thirty feet long. For a time it was thought that this was the first silo in America. W. D. Hoard, who was then editor of the Jefferson County Union, took issue with eastern writers who claimed priority for Mr. Bailey's silo at Bellerica, Massachusetts. A paper written by Mr. Gilbert was read by Governor Hoard before the Wisconsin Dairymen's Association at Elkhorn, January 15, 1880. Hoard was very enthusiastic about the possibilities of the silo, for in an article in the Jefferson County Union of November 19, 1880, he stated:
The system of ensilage or preserving fodder in its most perfect and succulent state in a pit or silo is attracting great attention, especially among dairy farmers. L. P. Gilbert of this town has successfully practiced this system for three years. He is decided and enthusiastic as to its economy and effectiveness, yet we do not know of a single farmer who has followed his example. Seven tons is calculated to winter a cow. Now the cost of the fodder, all expenses reckoned, is eighty cents per ton. This makes the entire cost of wintering a cow $5.60. Not a farmer in Jefferson County but will claim that it will cost from $20 to $25 to winter a cow well, whereas by this method and with this kind of fodder three cows can be wintered at the expense of one.
The first above-ground silo to be built in the state was erected in the summer of 1880 by Dr. L. W. Weeks, of Oconomowoc. Weeks got from the French his idea relative to silos. He was a man of means and could well afford to experiment on this new venture. Only two of his silos were original constructions. These were built of stone and cement twelve by thirty by twelve feet deep, and had a wooden superstructure double-boarded on the inside, bringing the entire depth to about twenty feet. They still stand on the farm that is now owned and operated by Fred Pabst as a part of his large Holstein breeding establishment.
The farm of Dr. Weeks (which consisted of forty-eight acres) was not considered by his neighbors to be much of a farm. Previous to 1880 Weeks operated the farm at a loss, keeping only a half-dozen cows. In an attempt to make the farm pay he made fine butter, adopting the Danish system of cold setting milk, of which he had learned something during his wanderings in Europe. He increased his herd to twelve cows, purchasing hay and grain for winter feed. Finding this did not make the farm pay, he was about ready to quit farming when he obtained a copy of Goffart's treatise on ensilage. He decided as a last resort to try this new venture and built two silos, putting up one hundred tons of fodder corn the first year. He was able to increase his herd to nineteen head that year, and the year following to forty-two head. In a letter to Dean W. A. Henry he stated that before he commenced using ensilage his farm paid a yearly loss, but since then it had given a liberal profit.
Dr. Weeks experimented to see how much of this ensilage a cow could eat. He took a cow and kept increasing her feed until he fed her ninety pounds per day, but she could not digest that and lost her appetite. He then put her on marsh hay and in three days she began to bellow for regular food, so he put her back on it. It may be interesting to know that Dr. Weeks supplied the Plankinton House at Milwaukee with cream from his ensilage-fed cows.
The third silo to be erected in Wisconsin was built by John Steele, of Alderly, Dodge County, who is still living. Government reports gave Steele the idea of making ensilage. Weeks and Steele built their silos at practically the same time, neither knowing about the other's plan. While Steele was in Oconomowoc buying some cement preparatory to fixing his silo, the dealer told him that Weeks was that day filling his silo. Steele drove over to the Weeks farm to see the process. This was about the middle of August. It was