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Grain Handling: A better way to move that corn

A pneumatic grain-handling system adds efficiency to grain handling on the family farm

The Neufelds have been growing corn on the family farm, Maple Creek Acres, since the 1990s, but when they decided to significantly expand their corn acres a few years ago they had a few issues to resolve in terms of corn drying and storing.

“We were spending a bunch a time in the morning and a lot of time late into the evening so that we could keep the grain dryer going, and we were also moving grain to different yards all the time,” says Neufeld, who farms 2,500 acres near Halbstadt, Man., with his dad, brother and uncle.

Once the family knew they would be growing corn for the long term they put up a new bin close to the dryer, but as the farm expanded they extended the yard and built a bigger bin there, leaving space for another one to accommodate future growth. “At this point, we decided to put up a grain- handling system to streamline it, and set it up in a way to allow for future expansion as well,” says Neufeld. “With this upgrade we also added the capability of more wet and dry bins for the grain dryer to make things run smoother and faster. The system was designed from the start to save us time and ease the workload.”

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photo: Maple Creek Acres

An efficient, smoother system

The Neufelds installed a DMC five-inch pneumatic grain-handling system, which consists of an air lock under the bin or a meter where the grain flows through into the airstream and then a blower that pneumatically moves the air to the bins. A moveable distributor at ground level channels the grain to different bins. The system has two, 15 horsepower, single-phase blowers — the largest they could install for the electrical service available to their yard.

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photo: Maple Creek Acres

U-troughs installed under four existing hopper bins add wet grain storage in front of the dryer instead of just having one wet bin. “It lets us manage corn harvest a lot nicer, instead of harvesting for a while in the morning, letting the dryer make more room, and going in out in the evening again we now just go out and harvest for a longer period of time mid-day to fill up the bins and let the dryer work,” says Neufeld. “We try to keep the dryer running 24 hours.”

The control panel can be set to fully automatic so that the grain dryer continues to run overnight. “When the grain dryer is running and the dry bin fills up, there’s a sensor that automatically, when it gets to a certain level, fires up the whole grain- handling system and then starts emptying that bin and pushing grain into other storage bins,” says Neufeld. “When those bins fill up, there are sensors in those bins that tell the system to shut down.” As well a safety shut off feature shuts the system down — if for example, a pipe plugs — and prevents damage.

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photo: Maple Creek Acres

Improved Safety

Although corn was the impetus behind the grain-handling system, the farm uses it for cereal crops once in a while. “We do use the blower in cereals the odd time if we’re harvesting higher moisture product that will need aeration in one of the large bins before moving to final storage,” says Neufeld. “The reason for using the blower in this case is that we just setup the auger to the one hopper (blower) bin and don’t have to move it during busy harvest periods.”

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photo: Maple Creek Acres

Neufeld says the biggest benefits of the grain-handling system are better productivity and less labour. “Reducing the labour involved was the big push and in that regards it’s done exactly what we wanted it to do,” says Neufeld. “It streamlines the operation and allows the dryer to be more efficient. We are able to harvest more acres per day. As well, it’s improved safety on the farm because we’re not quite as tired when we’re so busy, and we’re not running up and down the bins as much anymore.”

There were a few surprises with the installation of the system including the need for two extra electrical components called soft starters — which cost $3,000 apiece —that prevent the big electric motors on the system from putting too much draw on the hydro lines when they start up. The whole system cost around $60,000, but it’s easily paid for itself, says Neufeld.

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photo: Maple Creek Acres

A good investment

“It’s maybe tough for some guys to get over the initial cost of it, but if you can look past that and look at it as a longer term investment, it’s not as big an investment as you might think it is,” he says. “I haven’t done any calculations but we’re not having trucks running all over the place with augers as much, so that’s probably offsetting the cost of electricity to run the system. It’s made the job go a lot faster and smoother, and we can have someone concentrate on doing some field work in the evenings as well, which is incredibly important to do because your time is limited before it freezes up. You can’t always measure it in dollars and cents but the safety aspect, and not having to run as much is worth a lot.”

About the author

Contributor

Angela Lovell is a freelance writer based in Manitou, Manitoba. Visit her website at http://alovell.ca or follow her on Twitter @angelalovell10.

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