Awell-thought-out bin storage site will save money in both the short and long term. In the short term, having adequate on site storage gives producers the ability to hold on to grain and deliver when they can minimize delivery costs and get the most returns. In the long term, careful site planning allows producers to keep things running smoothly and to continue making changes and additions to the site without running into space restrictions and surprise expenses.
DECIDE TODAY’S NEED FOR SPACE, THEN DOUBLE IT
Storage sites often increase over time, and so every storage plan should address both the current and the future requirements of your farm.
“When it comes to the storage site, bigger is always better,” says Devon Spencer, sales manager at Grain Bin Direct ( www.grainbindirect.com). Spencer’s Saskatoon office sells and sets up grain hopper bins to customers across the Prairies, and over the years he’s seen his share of good (and bad) storage setups. “A bigger site means there’s just more room to manoeuvre semi trailers and other equipment. You can’t really have too much space.”
ADD ON, OR START OVER?
Many farms will already have on-site storage of some kind, and a good setup will ideally incorporate those existing structures. For farmers with large storage sites who have room to spare, adding additional bins or structures is just a matter of installing them. But for those who are already running short on space, adding another bin can be problematic.
“It really depends on what you’ve already got in place. If you have a lot of space to add new bins and still be able to get trucks in there then you’re probably OK,” says Spencer. “If you don’t have the space, it’s almost better to start a new site. I’ve seen some producers who decide to start a second site a couple of miles down the road, because it’s easier for the trucks to access, or because the soil is better for a base.”
Other considerations for your storage site should include proximity to access roads and power sources for aeration systems and other bin accessories (like sensors).
Large-diameter bins work better than tall, narrow bins when air drying grain. If your site doesn’t have access to a power source, choosing large-diameter bins for the site is probably a good idea.
“The biggest thing is to always plan for the future, for both the space and the size of your bins,” Spencer says. “I’ve seen a lot of guys who buy a new 5,000-bushel bin and then regret it a couple of years later when they need one to hold 10,000 bushels because they’ve acquired a few more acres.”
“Grain bags have become a new storage option in recent years,” says Shawn Cabak, farm production adviser at MAFRI’s Portage la Prairie GO Office. “Probably 95 per cent of producers still use bins for storage, but we are starting to see more and more grain bags in use now.”
The polyethylene bags can hold 15,000 bushels (or 400 tonnes) of grain and are portable, which means that farmers without space in their yards can fill the bags in the field and leave them there.
“They’re very useful if you have land several miles away from your yard, because you don’t have to transport the grain to a bin,” says Cabak.
The bags aren’t reusable, but at a storage cost of just seven to 10 cents per bushel, they are a low-cost solution for short-term grain storage. Producers looking to start using grain bags will have to deal with some upfront costs though.
“The bags are inexpensive, but you need a loader to fill them, and an unloader when you’re ready to empty them out,” Cabak says. “Each machine will cost between $30,000 and $35,000.”
“Grainbagshavebecomeanewstorageoptioninrecentyears. Probably95percentofproducersstillusebinsforstorage, butwearestartingtoseemoreandmoregrainbagsinusenow.”
– SHAWN CABAK, FARM PRODUCTION ADVISER AT MAFRI’S PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE GO OFFICE