A late season investment to maximise profits
by Rodie Jelleberg, Dryer Division Head at Superior Grain Equipment
Late planting seasons present many challenges. The old saying goes, "time is money," and that couldn't be more on the money when it comes to a late harvest. Racing the weather and not being able to get crops off is stressfulenough but having them spoil due to improper storage and conditioning is worse yet.
So how does one get some peace of mind when it comes to harvest time? One way is to install a grain dryer into your system.
Grain dryers benefit your operation in many ways. Most importantly you have the option of being able to get into the field sooner, which works two-fold:
You're getting the jump on harvest. Starting earlier gives you the ability to get all the crop off before the bad weather sets in and possibly prevents you from getting the last few fields off until spring. It's heartbreaking to see all that hard work you put in during the season hindered by an early snowstorm that makes it impossible to get the remainder of the crop off.
You're lessening your field loss. Research has shown that when it comes to corn harvest specifically, taking the crop off at 23-26 percent moisture is ideal. Field loss increases significantly as you take the crop off below 23 percent.
In-bin or on-bin drying systems have limitations when it comes to the amount of moisture you can take out of the grain when it is sitting in storage. Typically, 18-19 percent is the highest moisture that you can safely be able to condition down in a bin. That's if you have enough time and ideal drying days to be able to use natural air drying in the bin.
Despite the clear advantages of dryers, we still receive lots of questions from producers and would like to take time to address them, along with a few common misconceptions:
Producer: "Grain dryers are too expensive."
Superior: We hear this all the time. Granted grain dryers are a higher ticket item but they're an investment. What is the cost of your field loss if you're waiting to harvest until the corn is at 19 percent in the field? What is it costing you in lost profits when the last fields you're harvesting are already dried down to 12-13 percent?
What is the cost of drying at the elevator? You'd be surprised how quickly a dryer investment pays off when you look at even small amounts of grain being run through your system. If you had 100,000 bushels of grain to dry and you needed to take five points off and the elevator charges a nickel-per-point-per-bushel, your drying costs would be US $25,000. If you could dry it yourself at a nickel-per-bushel-per-five-point-removal, your drying costs are only $5,000. You just saved yourself $20,000.
P: "But I don't need to dry. I'll wait and let the sun do it for me."
S: So, let's take a look at that scenario with the same 100,000 bushels. If you can maximise your test weight and minimise your field loss by taking the corn off at 24 percent versus taking it off at 17 percent, one could easily see a net gain of 10 cents-per-bushel after drying costs.
You just gained another $10,000 on your bottom line. A producer down in Mississippi harvested corn starting at 28 percent and ended the year harvesting 13 percent corn from the field. His profits were much greater with the higher moisture corn than with the lower moisture crop.
P: "OK you sold me... I want a dryer, but which one should I get?"
S: Most modern grain dryers fall into two categories: Conventional or Screen dryers, and Mixed-Flow or Rack-style dryers. Screen dryers work well as far as moving product through quickly, however, the design isn't very "product friendly" when it comes to quality.
The heat front that moves through the sets of screens hits the inner column of grain with high heat and as it moves towards the outside column it loses heat and, as a result, the inner column can become overdried while the outer column becomes under dried.
Taking samples may show that the sample average is on target, however, when individual kernels are sampled you could have a wide range of 20 points or more. On the other hand, Mixed-flow dryers move the heated air through ducts that are not in direct contact with the product and treat every kernel the same. The result is a narrower band of moistures when individually sampled.
Better individual sampling will help return better average sampling, but that's just one piece of the puzzle as grain quality is also affected. Shock cooling can occur when the ambient air is significantly cooler than the grain temps, especially in late fall in the northern regions where the growing season is shorter as it is.
Shock cooling results in stress cracking and the more stress cracking you have the more dockage and discount you get at the elevator. Mixed-flow dryers lessen the shock cooling factor and the resulting stress cracking.
P: "So how do the different mixed-flow options compare?"
S: We have a dedicated dryer team that "lives and breathes" grain drying. We're constantly working to get the most out of our mixed-flow dryer design, with improvements being made year after year to increase efficiency.
Our mixed-flow dryers already by design have better quality products coming out of them so we're constantly trying to get more bushels dried-per-hour at a cheaper rate. We've already seen major improvements in efficiency and throughput in the last few years, yet we're still fine-tuning to enhance optimal operation.
Superior mixed-flow dryers offer easy expandability (from 10-26 tiers) so you can grow your equipment with your operation. Solid-state controls make them easy to work on and they don't require OEM parts so when time is critical, you won't be "dead in the water" for a week waiting for a special electronic part that can only be sourced from the manufacturer.
We still have the ability to remote monitor though the Dryer Master moisture controller. Here, all of the important drying information is available through an app on your phone which also allows you to see trends and historical data right on the screen.
P: "It's probably too late to get a dryer this year though?"
S: Not so. We are ready for the late 2019 harvest and are producing stock as we speak. Because it's been such a wet year our team has been busy preparing; we've paid attention to the late planting season and made sure we're ready to ship out some dryers.
Drying grain is an important part of the harvesting process, especially if you plan to store your grain to market it for the best return. On-farm solutions can be much more affordable than you think and over time can save you money.
If you think a dryer might be right for your operation or if you're on the fence and want to see how a dryer might benefit you, feel free to contact Superior for more information. Our dryer team looks forward to discussing whatever questions you might have and can provide solutions for any size operation.