By Action Steel
Are you needing to increase your grain storage capacity, or looking to maximize the efficiency of your loading and unloading sites? Wondering what is the best way to store grain? Maybe you’ve recently purchased a new property, and now you’re developing it from scratch. Or you’ve simply outgrown your current storage facilities.
Whatever the case, your grain needs to be stored, and as you know, there’s a few ways to go about it.
At Action Steel, while we specialise in building grain sheds, we believe that you should be aware of all the different grain storage options, and the advantages and disadvantages of each. And that’s exactly why we’ve taken the time to drill into this topic right here.
In this article we look at: grain tarps, grain bags, silos and grain sheds.
Having a suitable storage solution for grain on-farm not only protects your grain, but on-farm grain storage can help you increase your marketing opportunities and dollars-per-tonne when the time’s right to sell.
However, storing grain comes with a few challenges, so when it comes to deciding on the best option for your operations, it’s important to consider the following:
- How long are you planning to store the grain?
- What are your access requirements? Is the ability to load and unload quickly important to you?
- How will you manage the risk of cross contamination and infestation
- Will you require ventilation or aeration systems for your grain storage?
- How will you manage temperature control for your grain storage?
It is also important to consider the type of grain you will be storing, as some storage options are more suited to certain grain types than others.
So, what are your grain storage options? And which is the best way to store grain?
If you’re looking for a temporary solution for grain storage on your property, grain tarps or bunker tarps might be your best option – they’re practical, easy to use and cost effective.
Grain tarps are available in a huge range of sizes, and if you purchase a good-quality tarp with UV resistant material, it should last several seasons.
And there’s minimal preparation needed to use one. All you need is a suitably prepared space to dump the grain and a system to secure the tarp around the edge.
So, they’re practical, but of course, like any solution they come with some drawbacks:
- Controlling vermin like grain pests such as the lesser grain borer and the rice weevil can be a challenge
- Humidity building up under the tarp can lead to mold issues
- They are quite labour and resource intensive with labour and equipment require to move large tarp covers – large tarps can be heavy and cumbersome
Single use grain bags are another option which may maximize your marketing opportunities and are ideal when a permanent structure is not a feasible or practical option.
Although specialized equipment is required for filling the bags, they’re generally considered an economical (due to their low cost) and practical (due to quickly improving logistics at harvest) solution for short term storage – they are usually used for up to three months.
Another advantage of grain storage bags is that they do allow segregation and separation of grains.
It is important to pay special attention to site preparation for storage bags though. The area needs to be clean and elevated so that water will drain away from the bags. They are not always easily accessible in wet conditions, which can be inconvenient.
Bags must also be regularly checked for signs of vermin activity. Pests such as rats and mice, birds, foxes, and kangaroos can all puncture grain bags and contaminate the contents. Any damaged bags must be taped up immediately to avoid contaminated grain.
Maintaining an even temperature and controlling humidity inside the bags can also present some challenges. For example, if one side of the stack receives a lot of direct sunlight, the internal temperature of the bag will rise, and moisture accumulation on the other side of the stack could be an issue.
This may also be a challenge for pest control, as generally cool grain storage conditions are an effective way to control grain pests as many cannot survive in low temperatures. For example, the lesser grain borer will stop breeding and activity in temperatures below 18 degrees celsius.
Silos are a popular grain storage for a number of reasons.
As well as having a long service life (a good quality silo can be expected to last around 25 years), silos provide effective protection and well-sealed and segregated storage for a variety of grains. Silos are usually the storage option of choice for high-value grains or grains that cannot have protectants applied.
Silos are generally easy to load and unload, requiring very little manual labour in comparison to grain bags and tarps. Cone-bottom silos in particular require minimal labour as there is no need to shovel the grain out to completely empty the silo.
Silos aren’t without their disadvantages, though!
Disadvantages of silos include:
- They can be expensive and require extensive pad prep for each silo.
- Silos can fail when they collapse, split or spill, which can be caused by overfilling the silo or an extreme weather event.
- There are a number of serious safety issues associated with silo storage including injury or even death of workers inside silos, and the danger of silo gases.
- Silos are not an effective storage option for all grain, for example, high moisture grains do not empty well from silos. In these cases a grain shed would be a better option.
If you’re looking for an excellent all-round solution for both short-term and long-term grain storage, a grain shed is the way to go.
Sheds for grain storage require walls such as concrete panel walls that are engineered to stand up to the pressure of the grain inside. They also require a concrete slab floor and suitable access points and hatch systems for loading and unloading.
There are three main grain shed designs; the inside-out grain shed design, the concrete panel design and the open-front grain sheds design. The design that works best for your grain storage will depend on factors like the type of grain being stored. For example, grains such as feed grade wheat, faba beans, canola and barley are suited to shed storage.
There are a few key advantages that grain sheds offer:
- A fully-enclosed grain shed effectively protects grain with all weather protection.
- Good ventilation and airflow is easily achieved in a grain shed. There are a number of ventilation options for humidity and temperature control.
- Improve logistical efficiencies and facilitates fast storage at harvest reducing interruptions and delays.
- Barriers such as concrete walls can be erected between different sorts of grain for cross contamination control. If strict segregation is important, silos may be the better option.
- A concrete floor and and sealed, secure walls ensures effective vermin and pest control. Baiting can also be used effectively when storage is permanent.
Safety is another advantage of a grain storage shed, particularly in comparison to silos, having little or no risk of death or injury if used appropriately.
Disadvantage of grain sheds
Of course, grain sheds come with a few disadvantages too, for example, shed storage is not suited to all grain types.
A grain shed also has the highest inital cost of all your grain storage options. However, this is offset by the low cost per tonne, service life and versatility of a grain shed, which we discuss below.
A grain shed is a serious investment, and you can reasonably expect to pay in the vicinity of $300,000 for the complete setup, including the base prep and slab – depending on the shed size and design. It is worth noting that a grain shed offers the lowest cost per stored tonne of all your on-farm bulk grain storage options.
And don’t forget the impressive service life of a grain shed! A shed is neither a temporary or a portable storage solution – once it has been built, it is there for the long-term. Unlike any of the other options discussed above, the lifespan of a high-quality grain shed is literally a lifetime!
And finally, when you are not using your grain shed for grain storage, it can easily be repurposed as a machinery shed and used to store your machinery and equipment. Keep in mind though, that a high level of hygiene is required when the shed is multi-purpose (to prevent contamination of grain by other materials or machinery).
What Is The Best Way To Store Grain?
So, what is the best way to store grain? As we have discussed throughout this article, the best way for you to store your grain will depend on the type of grain your are storing, how long you will be storing your grain for and other factors like your budget and the resources you have available.
Grain bags, grain tarps, silos and grain sheds all serve their purpose and are suited to different storage requirements such as fast storage, segregated storage or well-ventilated grain storage.