Why these farmers like their grain systems
In 2008, just one year before the harvest that lasted through Christmas, Effingham, Ill., farmer Gary Wachtel boosted his wet holding capacity and installed a new tower dryer.
In 2009, Wachtel started shelling corn at 30% moisture. With the new 22,000 bushels of wet storage and a tower dryer that could handle 2,000 bushels an hour at 5 points removal, he was able to harvest 30,000 to 40,000 bushels a day with two combines.
“I guess it was pretty good timing,” he says with a chuckle. Obviously, extra wet-storage capacity is one of the things Wachtel likes about his system.
In more relaxed years, the extra wet holding capacity allows him to dry more slowly, thereby storing better-quality bushels. “We like being able to turn the heat down and handle the grain more gently,” Wachtel says.
• Farmers appreciate extra wet holding capacity.
• Good planning results in a system that can grow over time.
• A convenient scale and large dump pit allow fast unloading.
Prior to the upgrade, his wet holding capacity was 7,000 bushels. “Removing that bottleneck has really allowed us to push hard during harvest,” he notes. “Now we can run two combines with no problem.”
Plenty of wet holding capacity is something many people appreciate if they have it, and dream about getting if they don’t. How easily they can provide for it may depend upon how well their system was laid out.
Space to grow
Proper layout from the beginning, even for systems started by a father or grandfather, is another thing farmers appreciate today. Tim Swanson farms 3,000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat in Bannister, Mich. The farm was transitioned to him in 2002 from his father, Ken, who was a self-made farmer.
Ken constructed his first 30,000-bushel bin in the early 1970s, and quickly added another 30,000-bushel bin the next year, which was followed by steady expansion. The farm now includes 800,000 bushels of grain storage and another 400,000 bushels of outdoor temporary storage. Today, their operation also serves as an elevator for local farmers.
“It was never our intent to be a merchandiser,” Tim says. “It was for on-farm storage.”
But as the operation grew and local farmers recognized Ken’s marketing abilities, the farm started taking on grain from the surrounding area. According to Tim, his dad started using the futures market early on when most farmers didn’t understand the practice yet.
“One key feature to consider when you start laying a storage facility out is to always leave room for expansion,” Tim says. “As our farm and bushels grew, we never had any wasted equipment or space.
“The facility was never under-utilized, and we didn’t have to abandon anything. Everything that we originally put up, we are using yet today.”
Allowing room for expansion was the mantra of Bruce McKenzie, a retired Purdue University ag engineer who specialized in advising farmers about construction of grain systems.
“Plan how big you think it should be; then double it,” McKenzie often advised.
Don Villwock, Edwardsport, Ind., incorporated both strategies — plenty of space and copious amounts of wet storage — when he built a new facility. After a utility took his farmstead, he had to build from scratch. Villwock is also president of Indiana Farm Bureau Inc. Jason Misiniec, Edwardsport, keeps the farm purring when Villwock is away.
Villwock knew he wanted two things: a scale long enough for a semi, and a bigger unloading pit so trucks could dump more quickly. He incorporated both features into his new grain setup.
The scale is 70 feet long. “It sits above the ground, so we don’t have to mess around with a pit,” Villwock says. “This way we don’t have to fight water.”
The pit they constructed for dumping trucks holds 300 bushels. “We want to be able to dump as fast as we can,” he notes. “As it is, we can dump a semiload of corn in about seven minutes.”
Farm Progress editors Josh Flint, Jennifer Vincent and Tom J. Bechman contributed to this story.
This article published in the February, 2011 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.