Caleb Ragland knew what he needed in a grain center after he returned to farm with his dad, David. His brother Josh is also part of the farm today. The family has a grain and hog operation near Magnolia, Ky., south of Elizabethtown.
“We wanted drying efficiency, because we intend to start harvest at around 28% moisture on corn,” Ragland says. That allows them to harvest their entire crop in a timely manner and plant cover crops. They no-till and use cover crops on their rolling land.
“Ideally, we would have three-phase electricity, and we needed to build in such a way so that we could expand in the future as needed,” Ragland adds. “The biggest thing was to be able to operate efficiently and keep corn away from the combine.”
Ragland put in a 48-foot, seven-ring bin in 2013 with 40,000 bushels of storage. “We had a great crop in 2013, but a tough harvest season,” he says. “We knew we needed more storage.”
A 48-foot, 11-ring bin holding 65,000 bushels went up in 2014. But Ragland was already thinking further ahead. He started a two-year planning process for a system that would meet their needs now and into the future.
Part of his planning was to explore what grants and loans were available at the state and federal levels to help him finance the project. He received a grant at the state level and one through USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program, known as a REAP grant. In addition, he worked through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation program offered through the Farm Service Agency to obtain loans for grain storage at competitive rates.
“It took time going though grant and loan processes, but it was worth it,” Ragland says.
At the same time, he was putting miles on his pickup truck, visiting existing grain center installations other farmers had erected throughout central and southern Kentucky. He was looking for ideas to make his system as efficient as possible.
“One common thread throughout these visits was that looking back, many people realized they didn’t put up nearly enough wet holding storage capacity,” he observes. When Ragland built his system, he included 24,000 bushels of wet holding capacity.
Today’s grain system
Ragland expanded in 2016, building off what he did initially three years earlier and incorporating what he learned during his travels. He worked closely with Taul Equipment, his local GSI dealer.
He invested in a TopDry system because he felt it gave him the best opportunity to dry grain quickly and efficiently. He can remove 5 points of moisture from 1,000 bushels of corn per hour.
He also installed a grain leg so he doesn’t have to use augers to fill bins like he did when he started with the first bin in 2013. He can dump a semiload in eight minutes, and the combine no longer sits idle because they can’t move grain away through the grain center fast enough.
“I can make adjustments to the TopDry system anywhere from my cellphone,” he says. “The system is fully automated.”
To help with grain management once grain is in the bin, he relies on automated aeration controllers.
“We put a lot of planning into the system, and we spend a lot of time managing grain,” Ragland adds. “It’s an important part of our crop operation.”
To see pictures of the Raglands grain setup, click through the slideshow.