The demands put on a grain system have increased. If you’re planning to construct a new grain bin site or expand an existing one, consider road access, electrical service, accessibility for expansion, drainage and soil structure.
There’s no one-size-fits-all grain system, which means every farmer needs to put some thought behind its design.
“Grain systems are an investment tool to manage assets,” says Gary Sorgius, vice president of Ripco Ltd., a family-owned business that specializes in custom design and construction of grain systems. “With a harvest season like 2009, farmers were exposed to every weakness in their grain system. With late crops, late harvest, wet bushels and tremendous production, all those factors added up.”
It’s not just unpredictable conditions that are prompting many farmers to rethink their grain storage.
“Lots of customers who have built a system in recent times now have to look at more storage because yields are increasing,” Sorgius says. “It used to be that we would plan for a grain system with 70 bu. to 100 bu. per acre yields. Farmers haven’t doubled average yields yet, but we certainly will in the next few years.”
According to Sorgius, in 1965 the average bin size was 24' diameter with 8,000-bu. capacity. Today the average is 54' diameter with 100,000-bu. capacity. That represents a doubling of the bin diameter and a more than tenfold increase in tank capacity.
“The short-term plan is to buy a big bin so it will be the last one, but a system needs to be able to expand,”
he says. “If you plan ahead, your grain system will be able to grow with your business.”
Whether expanding a grain system or constructing a new site, the Ripco team uses the acronym READS: road access, electrical service, accessibility for expansion, drainage and soil test.
“Good road access is so you can get in and out whenever you want to,” Sorgius says. “Your grain is an asset. When the market dictates you need to be hauling, you shouldn’t be limited.”
Something as basic as electrical and gas service seems like a given, but investigating the possibilities before finalizing a location is a must. Sorgius says some farmer clients have had to change sites because getting service was prohibitive. He adds that you want three-phase or at least good single-phase electric service available.
The ability to expand, even if you think it’s years down the road, hinges on planning for that possibility now.
“You need plenty of room around the site, especially when starting over from scratch with a new site. You need a place that is somewhat level,” Sorgius says.
- December 2010