Put The Cart Before The Combine

Grain carts cost anywhere from $35,000 to $80,000, depending on size and features, but if you can eliminate a truck and driver or even a combine and operator during harvest, the savings of these 500 to 2,000 bushel capacity shuttles can be recovered in just a year or two. Added to that, say manufacturers and distributors, is the benefit of reduced soil compaction as these carts equipped with large flotation tires or tracks can operate under fairly soft field conditions.

With some improvement in grain prices, grain carts have been hot items among Western Canadian farmers in the past couple years. While about a dozen manufacturers produce carts, don’t wait until mid-August to make your purchase. Some companies such as Unverferth Manufacturing in the U. S. say there is good availability of the Unverferth and Brent brand grain carts among Western Canadian dealers, while some Canadian manufacturers say you better act quickly if you hope to have one of their carts this fall.

So what is the main attraction of a grain cart? Probably the single word is “speed.” Usually pulled with a tractor ranging from 170 to 400 horsepower (depending on size of cart), these units can scoot around a grain field, collect grain from three, four or even five combines without stopping, unload into a waiting B-train at the edge of the field in two to five minutes, and be back in the field along side a combine in no time.

Jerry Ecklund, advertising manager with Unverferth in Kalida, Ohio says customers report use of a grain cart can speed up harvest by up to 33 per cent, and in some cases eliminates the need for buying another combine.

Vic Zacharias, who has been building Tor-Master grain carts at Altona, Man., since 1977, says one customer uses one 1,600-bushel Tor-Master cart to keep five combines running. “They tell me at the end of the day the combine operators may sit down and have a sandwich and visit,” says Zacharias. “While the guy running the grain cart passes out. He’s exhausted.”

Brian Shygera, of Herbert, Sask., who’s Sage Brush Buyers company is one of three Canadian distributors of the Iowa-built Demco line grain carts, says using a grain cart reduces the need for several smaller trucks and saves wear and tear on a B-train.

“Pretty well every farmer has a four-wheel drive tractor that isn’t being used at harvest,” he says. “And very few people anymore have the three and five ton grain trucks. They now have tandems or semis for hauling grain.

“You can hook a 170-horsepower tractor on one of the 1050 bushel Demco grain carts and once you get the system going, it can keep three combines running without a problem. One of my customers says the grain cart has probably eliminated the need for two trucks. And they can work in fairly soft conditions, too, whereas if you tried driving a grain truck across the field you’d tear out the transmission, or the universal drive or something.”

Aside from carrying capacity, the unloading speed of grain carts is one important feature customers look for. As examples, Bourgault has an 18-inch diameter turret style auger in the centre of the cart that can unload at 350 bushels per minute. Degelman’s Shuttlekart has a 16-inch diameter auger at the front of the cart that unloads 1,200 bushels in less than five minutes. Unverferth has a double 22-inch auger system that can unload 1,100 bushels in 90 seconds. Southland International at Morris, Man., builds a 1,500 bushel cart equipped with conveyors that isn’t as fast at unloading as an auger system, but it is specially designed to reduce damage when handling special crops such as pulses.

As noted, about a dozen companies make carts. Here is a closer look at some of the features available from grain cart manufacturers who participated in the Grainews survey. If the brand you’re looking for isn’t listed, you’ll at least be able to use this information for comparison shopping.


This Morris, Man., company custom builds grain carts up to 1,500-bushel capacity, says Harold Klassen. They specialize in carts equipped with conveyors for handling special crops such as field beans and lentils. Conveyors come with up to 40-inch wide belts, with a reach of 26 to 30 feet. The conveyors fold back along the side of the cart for easy transport. The carts can also be equipped with up to a 30-inch auger instead of the conveyor. The type of tires

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

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



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