Tom Eppinga says one of the key features of the Neeralta Grain Bagger that appealed to him is the overall longer length of the machine, which helps make each of his 300-foot bags of stored grain, canola or peas much straighter.
The Edmonton-area farmer says straight bag lines not only look neater, is easier for unloading bags and makes better use of the area where bags are being filled. The Neeralta bagger is 27.5 feet long from ball hitch to the bag attachment in the rear. Part of the length is due to the design, which includes an attached swing auger at the front of the machine.
Eppinga, who farms near Gibbons, just north of Edmonton, used a Neeralta bagger for the first time in 2010, but has been researching grain bagging for several years. “We started out five or six years ago storing grain with silage bagging equipment,” says Eppinga, who crops about 6,000 acres of wheat, canola, peas and malt barley.
The Neeralta machine, manufactured by Neeralta Welding at Neerlandia, northwest of Edmonton, is the third brand of bagger he’s used on the farm. The two other makes worked “okay” but he really liked some of the features of the Neeralta Grain Bagger. As the bagger and tractor are pushed or creep ahead as the bag is being filled, he’s found it tracks a very straight line. He also says the company has a very convenient strap system for attaching the bag, and designed the machine so there is no back flow of grain when the bag is being attached.
Eppinga has used the bagging system for all commodities. While he has quite of bit of bin storage on the farm, he started bagging crops in fields which were further from his permanent bins. Rather than haul grain, he put the bagger in the field.
“That’s why we started, but even last year (2010) I bagged some grain right in the yard,” he says. “Depending on the situation and the condition of the crop being harvested, the bag gives you some options and flexibility. Personally, I think even if a farmer does have bin storage, the grain bagger is a tool that can have a fit at harvest.”
While bagging grain in the field is one option, Eppinga says the fact that the bags are sealed, with no oxygen, allows farmers some latitude at harvest.
“If you get in a pickle at harvest where you have to harvest canola at 12 to 13 per cent moisture, you can combine and bag it and deal with it later,” he says. “That is what we did in 2010. We bagged some 13 per cent moisture canola, sealed it up and came back three months later and it was exactly the same quality as when we combined. Then you have time to get it aerated or dried down.”
Eppinga says he wouldn’t put 100 per cent of his crops in bags, but likes having the option.
In the field, they operate with three combines and a grain cart. With the bagger at the edge of the field, the cart or a combine can run to the edge and unload grain and keep going. Because the Neeralta bagger tracks a straight line, Eppinga says they just leave the tractor on the bagger running at about half throttle. The cart operator can pickup grain from the combine, drive to the bagger, unload into the large 8’6″ x 10 foot loading/receiving hopper on the bagger, and the cart driver doesn’t even have to get off his tractor.
Expand blending options
Another option he has used with the bagger is for blending dry and damp grain. He can pull up on one side of the bagger with a grain cart with damp grain, for example, and bring in a Super B with dry grain on the other side. The damp grain goes from the cart into the loading hopper and the dry grain empties from the Super B into the swing auger hopper and everything gets blended 50/50 as it goes into the bag.
“The machine is built with a large diameter auger (14 inch) which is really gentle on peas, too,” he says. “We used it for peas last year and had a loss of about half of a per cent of cracks, compared to other machines where the per cent of cracks was double or triple that.”
Grain bagging isn’t a perfect solution, says Eppinga. They had a lot of snow in 2010, and it was deep and packed when it came time to empty some bags later in the season. He borrowed a neighbour’s three-point-hitch snow blower which worked well in clearing a path to the bags. Also, deer walking on bags can damage the plastic so they will bag some in the yard to avoid placing the bags in areas where deer might be problem. And he also advises “don’t cheap out” on light plastic. Go for the heavy material — nine mm or better — to protect grain quality.
“Grain bags do take some management, but at the same time, it is another tool for grain storage,” he says. While the Neeralta bagger, complete with swing auger, and large hopper costs $38,700, Eppinga says it is about the same as buying a large bin and it affords a lot of flexibility. He has a neighbour with a grain bagger and they share the cost of a bag unloader between the two farms. Eppinga figures, aside from the machine itself, cost of storage in the plastic tubes is five to six cents per bushel.
CUSTOMIZE FOR NEED
Neeralta Welding made their first grain bagger in 2008, says John Wierenga who along with his brother Rob, operate the long time business, which was started in 1984 by their father Bert Wierenga. They do a wide range of welding and fabrication work.
Wierenga says the common feed back from farmers is they like the fact the machine is extremely well built, and it comes with a permanently attached swing auger. Fact is the brackets for holding the swing auger are permanent but it can be removed quite quickly if the producer wants to use it elsewhere.
Both the swing auger and large loading hopper are options. “If a farmer is only going to use the bagger with a grain truck he may not want the big hopper,” says Wierenga. “Or if they only plan to use it in the field with a grain cart, then they may not want the swing auger. But our basic model comes with both features.”
The 20 foot long, hydraulic swing auger has a 14-inch diameter auger, which can handle 130 bushels of grain per minute, unloading a Super B truck in about 15 minutes. The large hopper at the back of the bagging machine has been outfitted with three windows so the operator can see what is happening inside the hopper. There is also an optional roll back cover for the hopper to protect if from the weather.
The complete machine weighs about 7,000 pounds, and can be driven by an 80 horsepower tractor, with 20 gallons per minute hydraulic capacity. “One nice feature farmers like too is that it is a direct drive PTO,” says Wierenga. “There are no gears or reduction drives. There are only three bearings and those are all standard or imperial measure. The machine hasn’t needed a lot of maintenance, but if you do need a new bearing, you can get one at any farm supply store, pop it in and you are ready to go.”
The swing auger folds back in against the side of machine for easy road transport. It has a 1,500 pound hitch weight making it easy to pull with any pickup. Wierenga says it is stable and can travel at regular highway speed when being moved. The machine was also designed with a removable panel or window in the housing where the bag attaches, so when in transport the pickup driver can actually see the road behind the unit through the rear view mirror.
The current Neeralta Grain Bagger accommodates a 10 foot diameter grain bag, but the prototype of a 12 foot diameter bagger is already in the shop. The company hopes to offer the larger size in this year. For more information on the Neeralta Grain Bagger visit the company website at: www.neeraltawelding.com. †