By now most harvest operations in the west have wound down and machinery is back in the yard. Soon farmers will be busy power washing the dust off combines and chaff out of radiators, along with all the other post-season inspections equipment needs before getting put to bed for the winter.
This fall AGCO’s GSI division sent out a message to members of the farm media suggesting we remind producers that just like post-season equipment maintenance for combines, tractors and other equipment, now is a good time to evaluate the performance of on-farm grain storage facilities and perform any needed maintenance.
Of course they’re in the business of selling grain handling and storage equipment, so if that causes farmers to think about buying more or new equipment that helps their cause. But it is a fair point to suggest the efficiency, performance and condition of grain storage and handling systems ought to be reviewed periodically too.
“Evaluating how well their grain system handled the harvest season, and what improvements may be needed, is one of the most important steps farmers can take to help prepare for next year,” says Gary Woodruff, GSI conditioning applications manager.
To start with, there is the obvious question: was there enough bin space to handle the crop? But Woodruff says there’s much more to consider than that. And he starts with the unloading systems. Is the farm’s auger a bottleneck? Would a relatively modest investment there—at least compared to the price of another combine or major piece of equipment—increase capacity and significantly improve harvesting efficiency? If there is a more sophisticated system in place on the farm that uses a leg or other type of conveyor, the same question needs to be asked.
What about dryer and aeration capacity? Is there enough?
Having asked those questions, it’s fair to argue a farm could always have more and better systems, but would investing in improvements result in a payback? Clearly, every operation will have a different answer to that. And more investment only makes sense if it does.
But there is also one other thing to consider, could safety systems be improved? With today’s total on-farm storage bins rivalling or exceeding the size of some grain elevators in our father’s (or grandfather’s) day, getting to the top of them now involves much more than an extension ladder. Are all safety and protective systems in place? Those producers who have employees might find themselves in legal hot water if a worker is injured or killed on the farm because safety was overlooked. And to put it plainly, no one wants to see anyone injured, no matter what the legal consequences.
Although the GSI statement didn’t focus on other factors, I think the assessment could be expanded to include all aspects of the entire grain storage yard. Are there electrical lines that have been always getting in the way? Many farms are now completely serviced by underground lines, but some might not be. Investing in doing away with hazards like that would make harvest jobs easier and safer. That is worth the cost any day.
What about site drainage? Has getting loaded trucks in and out posed a problem with rutted up yards? Tidying up the little things could be time well spent.