Picture this: it’s harvest and bushels are rolling in. Everything is going perfectly, until your augers quit working and your dryer can’t keep up. Now, with thousands of bushels to go you’re in a sticky situation—do you sell at a loss? Or do you pay for storage and drying elsewhere?
A few steps today can keep you out of a mess at harvest. Examine your grain bins and handling systems, including augers, fans and heaters and dryer systems to make sure they’re all working. Then examine their capacity to see if it’s time to add on or upgrade.
“Right now, check service unloads on grain bins and sweeps, augers, gearboxes, motors, auger belts, chains and bearings, aeration floor and its components and take care of any rodent or pest problems for regular maintenance,” says Karl Guetter, GSI regional sales manager. “Also take a look at mid- to late-season upgrades.”
These upgrades could be products such as a new aeration system or grain monitoring system. Manufacturers are investing in grain monitoring. For example, Sukup Manufacturing recently partnered with OPIystems to offer grain management technology. GSI offers monitoring systems as well, in addition to sweeps and zero entry systems that can be retrofitted to any bin.
If you’re thinking about adding storage space such as a new bin you might still have time—but act quickly. “From a storage standpoint we expect a strong year and we’ve ramped up capacity to accommodate,” Guetter says. “In late August and September there will be demand for storage—but the later the decision, the more challenging it become to have bins ready for harvest.”
Working dryers are more important this year. Since planting was about two weeks behind the new ‘normal’ there’s a chance you’ll have wetter grain than you’re used to.
“Use this time early summer to check your dryer to make sure it’s ready for the fall harvest,” says Joe Shulfer, president of Mathews Company. “Make sure it powers up correctly, run fans, test fire burners, watch for seized bearings, grease where needed, check for debris or water in gas lines and look for animal damage from nesting or chewed wiring.”
If you’re bringing in grain that’s wetter than normal, say 22% or greater, drying capacity is down. Remember that at harvest when planning your harvest schedule or to have additional drying options bought or lined up.
Dryers also have remote monitoring systems so when you’re away from the farm you have control. These programs can be retrofitted onto older dryers, but it might be more cost effective to just get a new system—it varies depending on age and model.
If you don’t have a dryer system, Shulfer encourages farmers to at least ask about one. “On-farm drying is much simpler [than going to an elevator] and the ROI is quick,” he says. “It’s not too late to get a dryer installed before harvest—often times we can deliver a new machine as quickly as three weeks for certain models.”