Bagging offers solution to saving high volume of grains

Farm Forum

When there is a lot of high-moisture grain and the weather is closing in, what options are there?

A Richardton, N.D., farmer has found that bagging grain and doing custom work is really paying off.

Craig Fisher of Antelope Farms started bagging grain in 2009. He was going to put grain in a pile, but a friend in Canada suggested bagging could be an economical way to handle grain.

“The first bagging experience was terrible, but once we figured out what to do and how to do it, it was great,” Fisher said. “Now the only time I fill a bin is if I need to aerate the grain.”

With the weird weather patterns experienced in North Dakota, Fisher said that farmers have found that they can’t pile grain on the ground for any length of time. That’s really risky business, and farmers have lost a good percentage of the crop when they’ve done that.

Running 15 combines to harvest 14,000 acres of spring wheat this fall, Fisher was pleased with how things worked.

“The bagger kept up with the trucks,” Fisher said. “We would have had a real bottleneck if we were trying to dump it all in trucks and haul it out.”

Logistically, Fisher said they always wanted to keep the combines rolling. In one field, they ran nine combines and three grain carts. The 12-foot bagger kept up; about 33,000 bushels went into each 500 ft. long white tube. In another field, six combines ran with two grain carts and a 10-foot bagger. The 300-foot tubes used in that field hold around 14,000 bushels.

Grain carts take the dumps from the combines to the bagger located at the edge of a field near an approach. The amount of truck power that would have been needed to move that grain from the fields would have been phenomenal; Fisher said they couldn’t have done it.

“With spring wheat, the weather was crazy,” Fisher said. “We got it off way quicker and got it done before the weather created problems.” He said the bags offer the opportunity to put wheat in at 16 or 17 percent moisture and keep it in good condition for more than six months. He’s been bagging wheat for years and knows the grain doesn’t heat up. He has 700,000 bushels in bags. Once winter comes, it will be easier to get the wheat from the bags in the fields than from a grain bin site. “There’s a lot more maneuverability.”

With wheat harvest completed, Fisher and his crew are custom bagging corn for Red Trail Energy in Richardton, N.D. The ethanol plant can take corn with 18 or 19 percent moisture. Trying to keep up with the trucks bringing corn to the plant is hard, so Fisher and crew are putting it in bags that will be used at a later time. Using the bagging system helps Red Trail and farmers by providing them a place to take the wet corn.

An area was cleared off west of the ethanol plant where the bagger is set up, and the bags can be left until the company needs the corn. The bagging system can do about 80,000 bushels a day. Fisher and his crew plan to do a million bushels for Red Trail.

Fisher said corn was coming in that weighed 53 to 54 lbs. per bushel and moisture was 15 percent or greater. Yields are fair, not like last year, but OK for the area.

Other crops

Fischer has found that sunflowers can be bagged, but not for as long. He’s found that the oil reacts differently, and after a month in the bag, they can start to get a funny smell to them. So to get through harvest, the crop can be bagged, then after the harvest crunch, he suggests the seeds be moved to where they need to go.

Fisher planted spring wheat on ground that was wheat last year. He says that was luck. His agronomist wasn’t happy, but Fisher was.

“It’s not like I knew what was going to happen with the market, but it ended up pretty well for me,” he said. “I plan to get back into a rotation of canola, wheat and flowers. I’m not a corn grower, and this isn’t the time to start growing corn. Farmers aren’t trying to be greedy; you really can’t make a budget work when you’re getting $2 for corn.”

Cost of system

While Fisher considers himself a farmer, he has become a dealer for Loftness bagging systems. The local dealer retired, so Fisher took over and is a dealer for Up North grain bags.

The cost for farmers runs from 5 to 7 cents per bushel if the farmers are doing it themselves. The custom rate is 10 cents a bushel.

To get started with a bagging system, Fisher says the 10-foot bagger with set-up; trucking and tax would be $28,000. With adding a truck unloader, the price would be around $52,000. An extractor would be $37,000. A 12-foot system would run $90,000 for the bagger; $75,000 for the extractor. That is for commercial grade equipment.

Fisher said he’s learned that 500 ft. lengths will be available for the 10 ft. bags.