Consolidation in the dairy industry has led to fewer producers and larger herd sizes. Problem is, the upright silos you've used for years to store high-moisture forage and grain are the same size as they always were.

Hanson Silo Company, the only company that still manufactures both upright silos and unloaders, introduces two new products that increase your silo's unloading capacity and cut feeding time in half.

Silo unloader.

Unload feed from your vertical silos three to four times faster than you can with a conventional silo unloader with the Mega-Trac high-capacity silo unloader, designed for upright silos 20 ft. or larger in diameter.

"It can throw a ton of haylage in four minutes," says Kevin Fladeboe, Hanson sales representative. It is designed to handle all types of forages and grains, including wet, packed and frozen feed.

The Mega-Trac features a large, 12-in.-dia. auger with ripping teeth and a smaller, 9-in.-dia. auger that moves 40% faster than the back auger to prevent feed from roping and to eliminate plugging.

An 8-in.-dia. blower throat, compared with a 4-in. throat in conventional unloaders,provides for unobstructed, high-volume discharge of feed. The blower is set at an angle over the main auger, which allows both the auger and blower to pivot in the center of the silo to reduce rotational drag, increase volume and add stability.

Finally, a two-motor system, versus a single motor used in conventional unloaders, powers the blower and auger independently for more consistent power.This type of high-capacity unloader is unique to the market, Fladeboe says. "It gives you the unloading capacity of a bunker silo while maintaining conventional silo feed quality."

The company released a limited quantity in 1997 and went into full-scale production this year. Suggested list price: $13,500 to $17,000, depending on size.

In October, Hanson came out with a smaller, more affordable version of the Mega-Trac called the Forage X-Treme. It shares many of the same patented features but is designed to unload problem haylage from silos under 20 ft. in diameter and at half the cost. Suggested list price: $5,000 to $8,000.

Silo conversion kit. Turn your bottom-unloading upright silo to a top-unloading one with Hanson's concrete or steel conversion kit.

Bottom-unloading silos remove feed from the bottom of the silo, which means the weight of the entire feed column is bearing down on the unloader components.Top unloading results in a lighter load, less stress on equipment and fewer repairs, Fladeboe says. It also speeds unloading time and allows you to store higher moisture feed than you otherwise could for better packing and higher feed value.

Conversion involves three steps. First, a door is cut every 5 ft. up the entire height of the silo. Second, a door frame and chute are added to cover the door and confine the feed. Third, an unloader is installed at the top of the silo.Suggested list price for conversion (including the silo unloader): $7,000 to $13,000. Contact Hanson Silo Co., Dept. FIN, 11587 Cty. Rd. 8 SE, Lake Lillian, MN 56253, 800/450-4171.

Time to buy a bunker?

If your dairy herd size is reaching 150 cows or more, it may be time to consider a bunker silo, says Kevin Fladeboe, sales representative for Hanson Silo Co.

Hanson Silo started to manufacture bunkers in 1996 in response to producer demand for a larger, more central place to store high-moisture forages and grains. Other manufacturers also make them.

Hanson's bunker silo consists of concrete T-panels lined up to form a U-shaped alleyway. Each panel weighs up to 7 tons and measure 8 ft. long, up to 7 ft. wide and up to 12 ft. tall. Feed is stored between the panels, either on the ground or on a concrete slab.

A bunker stores the equivalent of several vertical silos, but you need at least 100 cows to fully utilize one, Fladeboe says. Consider your current setup to determine if it is time to upgrade.

"For example, if you have 50 cows and plan to expand to 100 cows, then it may be easier just to add another vertical silo to get the extra capacity, and you can build up as you go," he says. "Whereas if you are starting fresh, you may want to put up a bunker instead of two or more upright silos."

A bunker silo also is quicker to unload than a vertical silo because you can use a skid steer loader to scoop up the feed. And it is portable, which allows for alteration or resale.

Drawbacks are that a bunker is more labor intensive to fill than an upright and can result in lower feed quality because bunkers often are not fully enclosed.

You can help preserve feed quality by covering the bunker with plastic, driving over the mount of feed with a tractor to compress it and then piling tires over the top to seal it, Fladeboe says.

Suggested list price: $250 to $800/panel, depending on size.