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CLAYTON RYE

By Staff | Jun 19, 2009

Want to hear those three little words everyone wants to hear? No, not those three little words. These three little words: “I was wrong.”

Last week I wrote about being possibly the only person interested in types, sizes, and brands of silos, along with history, construction, and anything else silo related. In my approximately ten years of writing columns, I have not received as great a response to anything as my speculation about being maybe the only one who found silos interesting and I have learned there are a few more people like me.

However, I am not going to get carried away. Anyone who might have a curiosity about silos is likely to be a regular reader of this paper. Were my article submitted to other papers outside of farm country, it probably would not even been printed. Those of us who are silo watchers are few in number, but loyal and, I have learned after last week’s article, are passionate.

Apparently, there are like-minded people who look at silos who, like myself, when they see a silo, check first if it is being used. Are there any cattle close by? Is the blower pipe in place? Is there other feeding equipment nearby? We do that while moving at about 60 miles per hour and still pay attention to our driving.

There are some silos that sit isolated from anything around them. There is no barn, no feedlot, and no fence. In some instances, you can see where the rows of corn or soybeans go around the silo because it was in the way. Those silos stand like gravestones marking a place where there was a time when cattle were fed and livestock represented part of the farming enterprise.

There is no denying I have struck a chord with a few people and I am grateful they have made themselves known. I was surprised at the quick response of the people who contacted me. They all seemed to recognize silos were becoming part of the past and disappearing since livestock was being raised by a fewer number of producers.

Do not get me wrong. I am not bemoaning the change in livestock operations to larger numbers in fewer hands. That is the price paid for efficiency and tough decisions have to be made. If you are not being profitable, then you have an expensive hobby whether you are raising beef, building cars, selling shoes or growing crops.

Because of their size and permanence, those silos scattered across the country show us what existed at one time. Many small (by today’s standards) producers had enough faith in the cattle business to buy and erect a silo or several silos. Silos stand as monuments to the cattle that were once fed there and, in some cases, mark the place where a barn or sometimes even an entire farm once stood.

One can try to imagine when each silo was bought and erected, that it represented to the new owner a mark of achievement and a sign of a promising future. A few weeks before he died, my dad commented on all the money he had tied up in a concrete feeding floor and the six silos that stood empty as if he should not have done that. I told him that his feedlot and those silos let him do something he loved for many years while providing an income. They had paid for themselves and did not owe him a thing.

An empty silo has no other use. Silos are fixed in place. They have no wheels and cannot be moved. A person cannot collect silos the way a farmer collects old tractors. They cannot be taken to a show and put in a line to be polished and admired for all to see. They exist as reminders or are taken down.

Silos are a part of agriculture’s heritage that can be preserved and appreciated. Are there any more silo fans out there? Make yourselves known. In a week’s time, I have learned we are a small, but hardy band of loyalists and I am not the only one. Sometimes, it is good to be wrong.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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