Filling the Grain Bin Better
We buy grain for the pigs in two ton batches, delivered to us by the good folks at Cold Springs Farm in Sharon Springs. Our grain handling system is extremely inefficient, but it has the dubious virtue of being low cost. About $250 in tin and plywood for a two-ton grain storage box.
A “real” grain handling system would have a hopper bin with a pneumatic fill-pipe so grain could be blown right into the bin. And then the grain would flow down through the hopper’s funnel into an auger to drop the grain into grain wagons as needed. Then we would use the tractor to drive the grain wagon out into the pasture and auger the grain right into the hogs’ feeders. But we don’t have a hopper bin. Or an auger. Or a grain wagon. Or a tractor that can pull a wagon or power a wagon’s auger. Or hog feeders (actually we do have one, but it needs to be replaced). If we were in a different region of the country, we might be able to find some of this equipment in good used condition. Unlike what is available in the midwest, the bins and wagons I’ve looked at over the last few years have been rusted out and really only fit for scrap. And good, used outdoor hog feeders are nonexistent here.
So for now we use a cyclone fitting and hold onto the end of the pipe while the grain is blown into our plywood bunk. It is dusty, itchy work.
After the grain is in the bin, we do a lot of shoveling and carrying, moving 5 gallon buckets into the winter pen to fill the hog feeder. This works out tolerably for the winter since the pigs live close to the bin. But in the spring, summer, and fall they can be three quarters of a mile away, so the handling conditions become more adverse.
[Note to self: Fix that hole the rats chewed in the side of the plywood bin. And setup the rat traps out there.]
Right now we are woefully inefficient. We’d like to invest in efficiency improvements, but before we do that we need to look at our methods and figure out ways to do our work smarter. There is always a way to fix problems by spending money, and sometimes that is the best way. But there are often simple procedural improvements. We like process improvements. They don’t rust, get gnawed by rats, or depreciate.
Taking the high road with process improvements rather than spending sounds great, but who am I kidding? Actually, I’ve been looking at ready-made purchased solutions for grain handling equipment and tractors. The prospect of additional monthly debt payments is intimidating, but I think we’re inevitably going to be making some big purchases this year. Is this responsible spending? Maybe not. We’re not called Wrong Direction for nothing.