The old adage, it never rains but it pours, is one that farmers can certainly identify with. Over the last decade of growing seasons, prairie farmers saw several years with average annual rainfall amounts so far above average it actually had some farmers buying equipment to allow them to return to tillage practices. This year so far, almost everyone is praying for dark clouds and moisture.
However, today’s conditions are far from a guarantee combines will run steady and long hours this fall with good dry samples coming out of bins. Without on-farm dryer capacity, high moisture levels at harvest could once again shut down operations for long periods.
John Badry of Forestburg, Alta., thinks his decision to set up a new, high-capacity drying system on the farm last year will prove to be a good one over the long term.
“We started (construction) last spring, in April. So it was going last fall,” he said. “Had we not had it last year, we would have had to get the grain dried somewhere else. Who knows, crop might have been left out in the field. So I think last year pretty much paid for half of it. I think on average you could see a return back on it within five years pretty easily.
“If you can gain a grade on your wheat because you can get it off earlier and dry, it helps pay for itself that way, too.”
Badry purchased a double-stack GSI dryer with enough capacity to put through 1,500 bushels per hour and bring the grain down five moisture points.
“We went with a stackable, three burner dryer,” he added. “We were originally only going to go with a two burner, but we would have had to put up two cooling bins and another leg. But with a stackable dryer we could cool in the dryer and eliminate the two cooling bins and other leg. So it actually saved us money to go to the bigger dryer and having the grain come out cool instead of hot.”
After pricing out five or six different systems from different brands, Badry said he found them all to be generally price competitive. When determining which models and how much capacity his farm needed, he based the hourly drying rate required on how much grain his combines could send to the yard in a day.
“We had three combines, so we looked at how many bushels an hour of tough grain they could do and how long it would take to dry that. We wanted a dryer that would stay ahead of the three combines. So every day we could go out and combine for 10 hours and run the dryer through the night. By morning the dryer could catch up to what we’d done the day before. Plus we wanted to plan for future expansion. We got one a little bigger in case we got another combine, so it would be able to handle that as well.”
Badry thinks the GSI drying system was the equivalent of having an extra combine in the field, at least during last year’s wet conditions.
“The big advantage is you always go combine,” he said. “It really saved us last year. I’d say about 80 per cent of our crop went through the dryer, because everything was so tough and wasn’t drying at all.
“On a dry year, you’re never going to replace having that extra combine out there, but last year it sure saved us. Even if we’d had another combine and no dryer we still wouldn’t have been able to go. (On a drier year) with the drying system, when it’s tough out in the morning you can always get going for sure.”