With crop harvest getting into full swing, many producers are pulling their grain augers out of the weeds and taking a look at their grain bins for wear and a quick cleanout.
That might sound as if we all take grain moving and storage a bit for granted. And maybe we do. After all, not a lot has changed in grain augers and bins over the last 20 years or so, I guess.
Then again, the manufacturers of these essential pieces of harvest equipment beg to differ.
Take grain augers. During my visit to the Farm Progress Show in August, I was fortunate to talk with Arnie Josephson, general sales manager for Brandt Agricultural Products, and a few of his sales crew.
Brandt offers a full line of grain augers, conveyors, grain carts, grain vacs, and grain bagging and unloading equipment. According to the Brandt folks, there are quite a few considerations when choosing a grain auger for your particular application, not the least of which is how the grain will be handled by the auger. Some grains require gentler handling, so conveyor belts might be a better option.
Other areas to consider include the type of auger drive: tractor PTO, electric motor or hydraulics. You’ll also need to determine how you’ll unload the grain into the auger (a truck, grain cart, etc.), where you want the grain to be moved, the distance the grain will need to be moved, and the auger capacity you’ll want for best harvest productivity.
The Brandt folks also wanted me to see their grain bagging system. If the local elevator is backed up, and your bins are full, this bagging system can store your crop off the ground, protected from weather and insects. There are quite a few models available with varying capacities. Grain bag unloaders are also available.
When it comes to grain bins, producers have in fact seen quite a few advances in the past 5 to 10 years, including improved unloading systems. Sweep controls, in particular, have minimized the need for farmers to enter the bin. That’s a big safety improvement right there.
At the farm show, GSI gave a preview of its new bin unloading system called FlexWave technology. Zero entry has always been a difficult goal to reach, and this new product is a large step in that direction.
According to Gary Woodruff, conditioning applications manager for GSI, bin temperature monitoring has been around for a while, as well. However, today there are many options for control, including wireless connections and the ability to transfer data to the cloud to be analyzed and made available over any web-enabled device.
Woodruff offered a few ideas for farmers looking at adding grain bin storage:
- One key is making sure the product features and the dealer’s design abilities satisfy the needs of today and tomorrow. A quick and easy design today may be less expensive, but over the next 10 years, the lack of proper layout and design can increase costs tremendously.
- If a Farm Service Agency loan is involved, make sure you have a bridge loan to make progress payments easier.
- Make sure the contractor has adequate construction risk insurance, including workman’s compensation. If the company you are working with doesn’t have proper coverage, you will be responsible.
- Pay attention to past installations by the company and contractor. You’ll quickly see the level of expertise and finished work. A few site visits will cover that, as well as potentially provide ideas on how best to do your layout.
For those grain bins already set up and working on your place, Woodruff suggests some care and maintenance:
- A general inspection for rust, leaks or other issues should be done every year. Make sure any maintenance issues or repairs are done prior to harvest.
- A bin needs thorough cleaning to prevent transfer of past disease and insect issues.
- All unloading equipment, particularly any sweeps remaining in the bins, need to be inspected and serviced now, as they will not be accessible for as long as grain is in the bins. If not lubricated and maintained, they may not work as they should next spring.
- It’s best to check your local university websites for additional, more specific recommendations for bin cleanliness, repair and storage practices.
Obviously, grain handling and storage systems have become much more than just an afterthought.