June 10, 2016
After installing a new stacked dryer and grain bin, Dixon farmers Kyle and Jim Sheaffer have one less thing to slow them down this fall. Kyle says the old full-heat dryer “was a real bottleneck” at harvest time. Jim agrees: their aged dryer was the driving force behind their decision to revamp their system.
“Selecting the right dryer and storage system takes careful planning and thinking,” says Gary Woodruff, conditioning applications manager with GSI. Now’s the time to think through your options, as Woodruff says many farmers begin planning new or expanded grain storage systems in the spring and summer.
Kyle, left, and Jim Sheaffer upgraded their grain dryer and added storage last year. The aged full-heat dryer was a ‘bottleneck” at harvest time.
Here’s a list of 10 things to consider on a new grain dryer and storage system:
1. Calculate your daily dryer load
Woodruff says farmers should calculate the daily number of bushels going through the dryer. For example: If a farmer will harvest 400,000 bushels, divide 400,000 by the number of anticipated harvest days to determine an approximate daily load. Then, divide that number by 20 hours, factoring daily down time for the dryer. Woodruff says that gives farmers an approximate per hour capacity.
“But that’s today’s requirement,” Woodruff notes. “Most dryers last 20-30 years, so farmers should build in some capacity to grow.”
2. Think about typical moisture levels
Woodruff says farmers should consider their average moisture at harvest and factor in how much moisture they need to take out. The amount of moisture farmers plan to take out impacts both the size and type of dryer they need.
3. Pick a dryer style
The Sheaffers considered stacked, horizontal and tower dryers. They chose a stacked dryer to help them achieve their capacity and quality goals, without adding a new grain leg.
Woodruff says picking the right dryer is a complicated process. “Most farmers will start with capacity and that will automatically eliminate some options,” Woodruff notes.
Jim and Kyle considered stacked, horizontal and tower dryers. They chose a stacked dryer to help them achieve their capacity and quality goals, without adding a new grain leg.
Woodruff advises against forcing a certain dryer type to fit: make sure the dryer fits the system and the capacity needs.
“The type of dryer depends on a number of factors that vary by farm,” Woodruff explains. “That includes how many bushels will come through the system, are there some bins already in place and how much labor is available.” From tower dryers to stacked dryers to TopDry dryers, farmers should work with their dryer and bin dealer to sort through available options.
4 Determine storage needs
Jim and Kyle started by calculating how much grain storage they need every year and if those needs will change. “We own most of our ground, so we know we’ll have the production to fill them,” Jim says. “We were running 100,000 bushels we couldn’t store, and getting trucks in the fall is a headache.”
5. Shop around
Jim and Kyle spoke with three different companies and compared quotes on eight dryers and three grain bins.
6. Think about the heavy lifting
Jim says this is the first time they worked with one company to install a new grain dryer and storage bin. In the past, they sourced materials from different companies and handled some of the labor themselves.
Woodruff notes that today, more farmers lean on their dryer and grain bin dealer to install the new system. “Farmers today still see themselves as farmers,” Woodruff says. “They are not farmers - they are small to medium commercial elevators.” Many farmers store 200,000 to more than 1,000,000 bushels and dry 2,000 bushels, or more, an hour.
“Today’s new systems are most often beyond the smaller ‘do it yourself’ grain bin projects of the past,” Woodruff says.
7. Make it yours
Jim and Kyle note they made several ‘tweaks’ to the system, including a revamped air system for their existing storage and a cat walk between a bin built in 2007 and the new Sukup bin. The cat walk was more cost effective and saves them time and energy from climbing up and down the two bins.
The Sheaffers also borrowed a neighbor’s idea by placing a portable shed around the motor and blower to reduce noise and protect them from dirt and dust.
8. Think long-term on location
Jim and Kyle accounted for adding grain storage, moving equipment within the dryer and storage area and allowing clearance for semis.
Woodruff notes the perfect site location includes a natural gas source, three-phase electric and good roads. That’s why many farmers install new systems on bare ground. “Twenty years ago, it was unusual to go on new ground,” Woodruff explains. Today, more farmers will find a new use for smaller bins, such as soybean storage, and start fresh with a new grain bin site for corn.
9. Double check power needs
Jim and Kyle checked with their electricity provider, but still ran into power issues. “We had 800 amp service, but we never pushed it to the limit before,” Jim notes.
“It’s a really good idea to have your electric company come out and look at your existing system and see if it’s adequate,” Woodruff says.
10. Check for grants
Woodruff notes farmers who install a more efficient dryer may be eligible for grant assistance. Jim and Kyle received the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant from the United States Department of Agriculture, which pays up to 25% of total eligible project costs. Woodruff says local electrical distribution companies may also offer grants to promote energy efficiency.
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