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A grain system redo

Plan ahead and build grain storage with room to expand.

Rod Swoboda 1

August 30, 2017

6 Min Read
ADDING ON: Expanding and upgrading his grain storage, drying and handling system, farmer Thurman Gaskill (left) worked with designer Adam Abels to use the new equipment and technology along with the existing bins.

After harvesting big crops and running short of bin space last year, Thurman Gaskill made the decision to expand his on-farm storage and grain handling setup. For several years he had been thinking about adding another bin or two. He stores both corn and soybeans on the family’s farm near Corwith in northern Iowa.

“We were short on storage capacity mainly for corn because of increased yields, and eventually decided to add 100,000 bushels of new bin capacity to meet our current needs,” says Gaskill.

Construction began in May and was nearly complete by mid-August, in time for this fall’s harvest.

There’s more to expanding a grain handling facility than just adding bins. A lot of planning went into this project. Other parts of the existing grain drying, storage and handling system needed updating to work well with the new bins he wanted to build.

Gaskill and wife Gerry have a fourth-generation family farm that has operated from its current location for about 125 years. The Gaskills were named Iowa Master Farmers by Wallaces Farmer in 2009 and are strong believers in preservation. Their farm home was originally a grain storage building used by his great-great-grandfather, which has been remodeled numerous times over the years. A barn built in 1912 was restored to include a kitchen, family area and living quarters, with both rustic and modern features.

Combining new with old

Maintaining that tradition of preservation, their grain storage expansion project combines newer with older components.

Why not build a totally new facility at a different location? “Preservation shows respect for past generations and what they have passed down to us,” says Gaskill. “By restoring, we show appreciation for what they have done.” It can also save some money.

Gaskill talked to other farmers who had expanded or built new grain facilities. He concluded that when planning an on-farm grain storage system, or expanding and updating an existing setup, one of the most important steps is taking into account location, accessibility and future expansion.

He sought the advice of Ag Advantage Systems, the local GSI grain equipment dealer, which ended up designing and building the new addition. The dealer told him to always assume there will be growth in yield and bushels, and that means having a well thought-out plan that factors in growth and future technology.

“We first looked at adding onto the existing site, and with so much involved, we considered locating the new expansion across the driveway into the field,” says Adam Abels, a grain systems specialist with Ag Advantage.

“However, after more thought and drawing some ideas using the CAD program on my computer, we came up with a plan to integrate the new addition with the existing system and still be able to expand as needed in the future, without any barriers from the existing bins,” he says.

Reuse bins to manage costs

Abels says the older bins at the Gaskill site may no longer be needed when the next stage of the project is undertaken and more bins are built.

“But reusing what they already have until then is a good way to help manage costs on this size project,” Abels adds. “And it gives them options to plan the stages of expansion and not have to do everything at once.”

Although including existing equipment is an efficient approach, it isn’t suitable for every project, notes Abels. “Working with our customers, we try to integrate their existing equipment into the design as much as possible, but sometimes it’s just not feasible, and the customer is better off starting over, building new at a different site.”

Planning is the key for any decision chosen, so you know you can have future growth down the road when needed, he says. “The design of this grain handling and storage system expansion for the Gaskills was centered around making the new equipment flow with the existing equipment and fit the yard, so it all blended together nicely and made operating everything very user-friendly.”

Why expansion was needed

Another factor prompting the expansion was to gain increased capacity in both wet and dry storage and in grain drying capacity, as well as ease in handling the grain on both the wet and dry side.

“Being able to dump a truck quickly is important, so they can get in and out fast and efficiently,” says Abels. “With the new 1,000-bushel pit installed in the Gaskill facility, a driver can pull in and unload as fast as the trailer can dump and head back to the field to get another load.”

Having a place to store wet grain keeps the combine running, so you can go hard when the time is right. The new storage and drying equipment lets the combine roll all day without repeated stops due to limited capacity and helps ensure the grain doesn’t have to sit in the wet holding bin too long.

Being able to load stored grain back out into trucks easily and quickly was also an important consideration in designing this facility.

Planning for future expansion

Three more expansion stages are planned in the future that would allow the Gaskill farming operation to double its dry grain holding capacity when that need arises by adding one bin at a time, and using the grain drying, filling and unloading equipment already in place.

Gaskill is impressed with the new design and believes it will add considerable efficiency to his operation, now and in years ahead. “For the next generation to continue farming, we need to move
forward with modern grain storage and handling equipment,” he says. “This project and future expansions will improve our ability to handle more grain, as the farm hopefully continues to grow with the next generation.”

Gaskill likes the integrated system approach. “Economically, it’s less expense to preserve our older bins that still have life in them,” he says. “They’re in pretty good shape, so I didn’t feel a need to tear them down. The integrated expansion, using new bins and equipment with the old, lets us spread out the cost of additional storage bins in later years as they are needed.”

For more information on planning an on-farm storage and handling system, visit grainsystems.com.

Grain storage expansion: Down to details

The project constructed this summer on the Gaskill farm includes:
• 1,200-bushel-per-hour tower dryer
• 1,000-bushel pit with 24-by-80-foot dump shed
• 77,700-bushel dry storage bin
• 23,700-bushel wet storage bin
• 2,900-bushel loadout overhead tank with super structure
• 120-foot dry leg
• 100-foot wet leg  
• wet and reclaim conveyors so augers never need to be set up and everything can be controlled by the touch of a button
• four existing grain bins with a combined storage capacity of roughly 70,000 bushels (Combined with the new expansion, total capacity increases to 172,000 bushels.)

About the Author(s)

Rod Swoboda 1

Editor, Wallaces Farmer

Rod, who has been a member of the editorial staff of Wallaces Farmer magazine since 1976, was appointed editor of the magazine in April 2003. He is widely recognized around the state, especially for his articles on crop production and soil conservation topics, and has won several writing awards, in addition to honors from farm, commodity and conservation organizations.

"As only the tenth person to hold the position of Wallaces Farmer editor in the past 100 years, I take seriously my responsibility to provide readers with timely articles useful to them in their farming operations," Rod says.

Raised on a farm that is still owned and operated by his family, Rod enjoys writing and interviewing farmers and others involved in agriculture, as well as planning and editing the magazine. You can also find Rod at other Farm Progress Company activities where he has responsibilities associated with the magazine, including hosting the Farm Progress Show, Farm Progress Hay Expo and the Iowa Master Farmer program.

A University of Illinois grad with a Bachelors of Science degree in agriculture (ag journalism major), Rod joined Wallaces Farmer after working several years in Washington D.C. as a writer for Farm Business Incorporated.

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