What To Consider If Expanding

If you’re planning to grow your grain-handling system, Marvin Paulsen, retired University of Illinois ag engineer, has some advice:

  • Use three-phase power.
  • Make the site big enough to turn big semi trucks around.
  • Add a scale and large dump pit.
  • Include an overhead loadout bin in the design.
  • Build on high ground that’s well drained, especially around the dump pit.
  • Have access to all-weather roads.
  • Build a wet and dry leg.

Ideally, Paulsen says aligning bins in two straight rows provides the best economics. “Also, it’s ideal to have a dump pit to handle one full semi load at a time. The system has to keep up with the harvesting capacity so plan ahead; combines keep getting bigger,” he says.

“We used to say that farmers should plan for doubling their grain capacity every seven years; now that’s every three to five,” says Warren Odekirk, senior project manager for Growmark Grains Systems. “That’s especially true with bigger combines and higher-yielding hybrids.

“The biggest mistake farmers make is not designing for the future because of the up-front costs,” he says. “The tendency is to try and keep the current purchase price as low as possible without paying enough attention to the additional costs they will incur in the years ahead due to improper planning.” 

Odekirk advises farmers to be sure they have room to expand and not become landlocked. “When designing, ask yourself if you can easily add more bins.”

He says that some farmers are buying older country elevators, but he cautions to think carefully before doing this. “Many of them are just worn out and often can’t handle today’s big grain carts and semis,” he says.