February 6, 2012
A farmer recently showed me around his revamped grain system. He invested a large sum of money this past year for a larger dump pit, more capacity, a grain leg, and three-phase service to make everything work. Until this time, he had operated with augers and an air system that ran on one-phase service.
What he gained was the ability to dump a semi in 12 minutes. A 16-inch auger feeds another auger that takes corn to a large wet holding bin. The wet holding bin was originally used as a storage bin in days gone by when storage bins were much smaller. So his new system has much more flexibility, with both an air system and a grain leg to get grain where it belongs.
Loading out still takes him about 45 minutes, but what he gained was the ability to blend grain to different bins. When hot spots develop in one bin, that can be a valuable tool to have.
What he's debating now is whether to invest in another large bin. At 50,000 bushel capacity, it would nearly double how much corn he could store at his home base of operations. He would no longer have to rely on smaller bins at outlying rented farmers that he must fill with grain augers.
Whether or not the space that looks like it would be a natural for the next bin, thanks to good long-range planning, should have a bin there or not will take some calculations. Now is the time to be making such calculations, experts say. You don't want to wait until summer and decide you want a bin, and expect to have it up and operational for next harvest.
Whether storage pays this year or not is only a part of the equation to use in your decision-making process. A better guide would be long-term returns to storage, most ag economists would say. What happens in any one year, even in marketing, is not an indication of what you can expect to gain from storage over time.
If you're considering improving and expanding your grain bin system, take advantage of nearby farm shows this winter to talk to vendors, or visit grain bin dealers and get actual prices. Then ask for help in calculating a reasonable return on investment from your local Extension educator.
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