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Tips For Improved Grain Bag Storage

CROP STORAGE

Judging from the number of bags sold each year, it’s estimated about 50 million bushels of grain are stored in grain bags in

Western Canada each year. The amount is increasing as more farmers see the benefits from using this system.

Industry reps say the big reason is improved harvesting efficiency, as grain moisture at harvest is not as critical when storing in a bag versus a bin. So you can keep combining when the grain is tough instead of having to wait for the grain to dry down or wait for a grain dryer to keep ahead of the combines.

Murray Lewis, from Hillsboro Farms at Cleardale, Alta., has used a grain bagger for two years and he recommends talking to farmrs who have used them before buying one. There are a few different models on the market with different features. Lewis favours models which are easy to load bags onto when starting a new bag, and have a hopper attachment on top of the bagger (so you can unload the grain cart directly into the bagger) and a swing auger attachment for unloading trucks.

Lewis likes the time savings at harvest and says grain bags are excellent surge storage, and much better than making grain piles. The quality of the grain is maintained in grain bags and the cleanup operation is much easier from a bag than in piles. Lewis figures there is actually less chance of a wreck with grain in a bag than in a bin. He says you might get a spot in a bag that is heated, but it is localized compared to heated grain in a bin that will likely affect the whole bin. He also believes the theory that there should be less of an issue with grain bugs in bagged grain as the oxygen in the bag is eliminated and the bugs can’t survive.

BAGGING COSTS, CONSIDERATIONS

Farmers should budget the cost of a grain bagging system at about $0.06/ bu. for the bag, $0.02/bu. for loading and $0.02/bu. for unloading. A ten-foot diameter bag will hold 40 to 50 bushels per foot of bag depending on the crop. Bags are 300 feet long and will provide enough storage for at least 12,000 bushels of grain.

When setting up a site for a bag there are a few things to watch for. Pick a fairly level area with no low spots where water can pond. Water is a big nuisance if it is allowed to get in and around the bag. If water gets in a bag, you will get a layer of sprouted grain that sticks to the bag and makes it hard to unload. You may also get ice during any freeze/ thaw cycles that will be slippery to work around and drive on. Prepare the area so there aren’t any big lumps of dirt that the bagger wheels might get stuck on while loading. These clumps will act like a brake when filling and stretch the bag too much. The bagging area has to be reasonably smooth, so knock down stalks when making bag on canola stubble so there’s no chance of puncturing the bottom of the bag, which will let air and moisture in. Growers also have to plan when setting up bags to have enough room for the unloader and trucks.

Leave lots of plastic when finishing bags to be able to start the unloading. In winter, you might have to plow snow beside the bags before unloading, so make sure you can get in and around them with equipment.

Extractors are designed to unload grain bags by driving into the bags and augering the grain out of the bag. They work very well with bags that are in good shape, but you will have more shoveling if there are any rips or damaged bags. Grain vacuums will also work to unload bags and will easily clean up any spillage.

Grain bags can be damaged by wildlife. Deer will rub their antlers on the sides of the bags and rip them open. They will also walk on the bags and poke holes on the top of the bags, which allow birds to peck away at the grain. Bears will also be curious around bags if the bags are filled before they hibernate, and they will rip the plastic. Damage can happen fast — Lewis had a bag damaged by a bear within a few hours of filling it. Bags that are on their own or in a remote area can be the most susceptible to damage, but it seems bags near high traffic locations or in yard sites are less affected.

Some farmers say a wolf silhouette or something similar near the bags deters wildlife, but you have to be vigilant because animals become accustomed to those items over time. If the bags are kept near a main yard, good dogs will keep the wildlife away. Growers in areas where the potential for wildlife damage is high should plan to put grain bags in a more secure central location.

Lewis says he is planning to set up fenced central bag sites where he has enough grain from within a mile radius to fill a number of bags. Lewis figures he can haul the grain with a grain cart to the bagger within a mile and still keep two combines going. Canola could probably be hauled a little bit further away because there is less volume compared to cereals. His plan is to put bags in the middle of four sections so that furthest haul is one mile and put up a deer fence around a common site with access roads for all-season access. If you don’t have all-season access to the grain bag, you may have to unload from the bag into a grain cart to dump into a truck on the road. This additional step is also required if you can’t get a set of Super B’s into the field because of soft field conditions. You may want to preload your grain cart if you are shipping grain with commercial haulers in order to keep loading time to a minimum.

FERTILIZER STORAGE

Farmers are also having success using grain bagging equipment to fill bags with fertilizer. When doing this, you want to be a little more selective on site preparation and when filling the bags. You don’t need to have the bags stretched as tight when filling with fertilizer and when unloading bags make sure they are sealed up water tight if you aren’t unloading all at once.

Grain bags are an excellent tool to help farmers improve harvest efficiency and increase storage without great capital cost. By following these tips and planning ahead of time, some of the challenges of working with grain bags in the field can be managed and the security of the grain ensured.

JasonCasselmanispartnerandagronomistwith DunveganAGSolutionsatRycroft,Alta.Visit www.howtogotoagsi.com

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