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How To Build A Better Bin Yard

Doug and Troy Prenevost have been working the last few years to develop a more centralized and convenient grain-handling and storage system on their southern Alberta farm.

It’s nothing fancy in terms of big bins, legs or grain transfer systems, but the father and son, who farm north of Lethbridge near Lomond, have put together a good, practical setup with about 230,000-bushel storage capacity for grains, canola and pulse crops produced on their 4,500-acre farm (including about 500 acres of irrigated cropland).

The Prenevosts began developing the system about five years ago. They selected two sites about five miles apart on the farm for consolidating a number of older grain bins built over the years that were scattered over several locations.

“Our objective was mainly to make it more convenient and easier to maintain,” says Doug. “We selected two sites beside existing farmsteads that have good access, plenty of room for truck movement, and were easy for us to monitor grain quality.

“The setup we have now has about 20 per cent more capacity than we need most years, but we felt that extra room is important to provide flexibility in handling and storage of different crops and grades and also flexibility in marketing if we hold a commodity longer for better pricing.”

AERATION OPTION

Along with consolidating the location of older Westeel and Butler bins, the Prenevosts also increased capacity as part of the development, adding 16, 7,300-bushel capacity Brock grain bins with full floor aeration systems. (The Brock bins are actually designed as 7,700- bushel bins, but about five per cent of storage space is lost to the raised aeration floor.)

They aim to harvest all crops “dry” but the aeration system allows them to bin crops that may be one to two per cent higher in moisture than ideal. They are especially useful in cooling commodities that are binned on hot, dry days. All bins in their yards are equipped with Circle King unloading systems, and OPI temperature sensors that are monitored and recorded weekly, while crops are in storage.

About half of the 41 bins they use today were spotted over various parts of the long time family farm. Doug and his wife Leeann have two children, Troy and Leah, and they also farm with Leeann’s mother Isabel Volesky and Leeann’s brother Wayne Volesky. Troy has a house on the original Volesky farmyard which was homesteaded by his great-grandfather Volesky 100 years ago this year.

One set of grain bins is located in a yard across the road from Troy’s house and the other is five miles northeast at the Isabel Volesky farmstead.

To accommodate the grain bins, the Prenevosts developed gravel pads at each site. At the northeast location the pad is roughly three acres in size (250 feet x 500 feet), while the pad near Troy’s place is about 1.5 acres (250 feet x 250 feet). The land was levelled; they put down an eight-inch base of pit run gravel, topped with four inches of three-quarter-inch road crush. Both sites have three-phase power to run aeration fans — at the northeast farmstead it is supplied through a buried electrical cable, with one outlet for each pair of bins. At Troy’s site three-phase power is produced by a natural gas generator.

CLEAN YARDS

With the grain bins located on the perimeter of the pads, both yards are spacious and clean. There are no weeds or grass growing on the pads and there is plenty of room for filling and unloading augers to be parked, and also for their own Super B or other grain trucks to move and turn.

There are 21 bins at Troy’s site, set on three sides of the pad perimeter. The bins range in size from 2,400-bushel to 7,300-bushel size with a total capacity of 99,800 bushels at this site. Eight of these are the newer, 7,300-bushel 24- foot-diameter Brock aeration bins.

At the northeast farmstead, 20 bins ranging in size from 3,600 to 7,900 bushels are in a row on two sides of the pad perimeter. Again, there are eight of the 7,300-bushel, 24 foot-diameter Brock bins at this location. There is a total storage capacity of 130,800 bushels at the northeast site.

The Prenevosts have two 7.5- horsepower aeration fans at each site, which can be moved to bins with aeration floors as needed.

“Our aim is to handle the crop as little as possible,” says Troy. “We want to have it dry when it goes in the bin, and then we don’t want to touch it again until it’s sold.”

DEALER IMPORTANCE

The Prenevosts follow a five-year canola/barley/peas/wheat/ fallow rotation. Most of the feed barley is sold and delivered early to an area feedlot. The rest of the commodities can be stored on-farm and marketed and delivered over the coming year. For many years they have dealt with ArMan Equipment in Vulcan for the supply of most grain-storage and-handling equipment.

“We have dealt with ArMan because they have good-quality products, but also because longtime owner Eric Patterson provides excellent service,” says Doug. “Service is important when you need it, and Eric Patterson has probably supplied a few million bushels of grain storage in southern Alberta over the years.” While Patterson is still with the company, one of the new owners, Eric Graumans is learning the short-line business.

“Our company was built around selling good-quality equipment and materials,” says Graumans. “These Brock bins are well built with sidewalls designed with four-inch- wide corrugations for extra strength, and 44-inch-wide sidewall sheets mean fewer seams and faster construction.”

The Brock farm bins, which range in size from 15-to 48-foot diameter, can be designed for capacities ranging from smaller bins holding 2,160 bushels up to the largest 60,000-bushel capacity. Bins also feature a large manhole in the roof for easy entry and exit, a 40-inch-diameter fill hole at the top, and gravity roof ventilators. Sidewall and roof ladders are optional.

MONITORING

All bins at the Prenevost farm are equipped with OPI temperature sensors which are monitored and recorded weekly until they feel bin temperatures are stable.

“We have about 120,000-bushel capacity in the aeration bins, which we try to hold to later in harvest in case we have crop that is slightly higher in moisture,” says Doug. “We don’t combine when conditions are tough, we just shut it down. But if there is something that is one or two points higher we can put it in aeration.

“Over the last few years we have probably used the aeration bins more for cooling crops down. On those hot days when the crop goes in there at 30 C to 35 C we want to get some air moving through it.”

UNLOADING FEATURES

The Prenevosts have a 13 inch x 70 foot Farm King auger for filling bins and use a self-propelled 8 inch x 39 foot auger when it comes time to unload bins and fill trucks. One other feature they have installed on all bins to simplify unloading is the Circle King hydraulic grain bin unloading system.

Developed by a local company based in nearby Vulcan, the Circle King system involves a permanent seven-inch-diameter tube that is mounted through the bin wall about two feet above the base and extends to the centre of the bin where the tube is anchored to the floor.

Once the tube is installed, unloading the bin involves inserting a length of seven-inch flighting (the same length as the diameter of the bin) into the tube. The flighting has a hydraulic power head which locks over the end of the tube on the outside of the bin. The system includes a bin sweep that is attached at the base of the tube on the bin floor. The hydraulic pump on the grain auger used for filling the truck or on a farm tractor is used to power the Circle King powerhead and bin sweep.

Marketed by ArMan Equipment, the Circle King system is popular among many area farmers, says Eric Graumans of ArMan.

“It is a simple and easy system for unloading bins,” says Graumans. “Each bin needs a tube which remains in place, but all you need is one powerhead, flighting, and sweep regardless of how many bins you have of similar size which can be moved from bin to bin.”

With a full bin, a producer can insert the flighting and powerhead into the tube and all run-off is augered out. Once run-off is complete, open the hatch on the tube beside the door to empty enough to gain entrance into the bin via the door so the farmer can install the sweep.

“The big investment is the powerhead, flighting and sweep package, but you only have to buy one of those and then it can be used on the rest of your bins,” he says. The Circle King unloading system comes in a range of sizes from 14 to 27 feet. Cost of the powerhead, flighting and sweep ranges from $4,800 to $5,200 depending on bin diameter, and permanent tubes range from $590 to $730 depending on bin diameter.

“It took some time and investment over the years to develop this bin setup, but it is very convenient and easy to maintain,” says Doug Prenevost. “We have storage capacity with flexibility, plenty of room for moving around the yard, and that good gravel base makes it so easy to move trucks in and out of the yard regardless of the weather. It is a well-drained site which makes it possible for us to load and deliver grain often when some farmyards are too soft, and that helps too so you can deliver grain on days when the elevator may not be as busy.”

As part of the storage system, the Prenevosts also have six other hopper bottom bins they use for storing only treated seed. They use recommended seed treatments on all cereals, for example, and store all that in these designated bins. They also have a designated auger for moving treated seed to avoid the risk of contaminating any marketable commodities with seed treatments.

These seed bins are being relocated to concrete pads in the northeast yard, and they also plan this year to add three 120-tonne hopper bottom bins for fertilizer storage to the yard as well.

“We like the idea of having fertilizer stored on the farm,” says Doug. “This year for example, Troy has probably made 20 trips to town to pick up fertilizer and depending on the year even if you pre-order the fertilizer it may not be there when you need it. We will be installing these bins this summer and again it will give us the flexibility of taking delivery and having fertilizer here when we need it.”

LeeHartisafieldeditorforGrainewsat Calgary.Contacthimat403-592-1964orby emailat [email protected]

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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