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Bins vs. Bags: Which Is the Best Grain Storage Method?

If you own a farm, feed mill, commercial elevator or serve a similar role that works with grains regularly, you need a reliable and safe way to store your grain. With several different grain storage techniques out there, you want to be sure you pick the right one.

Grain storage bags, grain piles and grain bins are some common methods of storage. Each has its own set of advantages, but we believe that one method is the best solution.

Grain Bins

Grain bins are your permanent long-term grain storage solution. These are permanent structures on your property that you can commission to be any size. The potential for customization for your grain bin structure is high. Grain bins can hold anywhere between 1,000 to over a million bushels of grain per structure.

Advantages of Grain Bin Storage

Whatever your yearly yields, you can build a structure that fits your storage needs. Whether you operate on a small scale or handle millions of bushels each year, you can personalize the structures to meet your needs. Because grain bins are a fixed asset, they can also be leased to other farmers upon retirement.

Since grain bins are a permanent storage solution, there are also ways to condition the stored grain in a grain bin that you can’t do as easily with grain bags. Grain bins can be aerated to keep grain at cooler temperatures for safer storage. Moisture and condensation inside any grain storage device can occur when the grain temperature and ambient temperature are too far apart. Aeration fans on grain bins change the grain temperature to match ambient conditions, reducing spoilage risk from condensation.

You can treat grain bins with insecticides to deter bugs and to keep them from reproducing as quickly. This treatment can improve the overall quality of your grain over time as it’s stored.

In addition, grain bins are often accompanied by fill and unload conveyors. The grain handling systems allow a truck driver to place a load of grain in permanent storage in about 10 to 30 minutes. This means that the labor input for filling and unloading grain bins is very low.

Disadvantages of Grain Bin Storage

This option is more expensive upfront but pays for itself in the long run. It’s a one-time cost, and you can continue using the structures for many years. Because it’s a permanent solution, you don’t have to worry about buying storage materials each year — your storage method will be conveniently located right on your property.

Grain bins are also eligible for a government loan program, while grain bags are not.

Grain Bags

Grain bags and piles are the options for temporary grain storage. The bags are made from a plastic material and typically stay out in the field for pickup later on. These bags are big — usually around 200 feet long.

Advantages of Grain Bags

There are a few main reasons why people choose grain bags over grain bins. Some good uses for them include when you’re renting the land that you’re growing on, if you’re planning to sell or otherwise leave the business, have excess yields, or are storing lower-quality grains. Because the bags are not a permanent structure, you can use them almost anywhere.

Compared to grain bins, grain bags have a lower cost upfront. Grain bags don’t come with storage fees or property taxes, and because they are not a fixed asset, the cost of grain bags gets slightly lower with each bushel you run through the system. Additionally, only one person is needed to run a bagger, saving you more money on employee wages.

Although grain piles allow for larger volumes of storage than grain bags, they are typically covered with the same plastic material and are subject to a similar set of challenges, making them a poor alternative.

Disadvantages of Grain Bags

This storage option holds less grain per container than a grain bin. Bags can usually hold around 8,000 bushels of grain per bag. To fill the bags with your grain, you need other specialized equipment. You need a bagging machine and an extractor. If you don’t already have this equipment, expect to buy or rent it. The operation of this equipment can also be labor-intensive, and once you have started to fill or unload a bag, it must be completed over a very short time period.

Because grain bags are usually left outside after being filled, they’re susceptible to elemental effects. Insect problems tend to be a common worry when using grain bags, as are other animal issues. Animals, such as rodents, raccoons or coyotes, can damage the stored grain by taking a bite out of the bags and exposing their contents to the elements.

Location is another key variable when considering grain bags for storing food grains. Depending on where the bags are placed, water can leak through and spoil the grain as well. Placing the bags at the base of an incline or another unideal spot can allow moisture to build up underneath the bag.

Grain bags don’t work well in winter, either. High moisture is a big concern with grain bags because there is no drying system for a grain bag. If it snows, you have to clear the snow off the bag to keep moisture out. If you have several grain bags, this means a lot of time and hard work.

What Is the Best Grain Storage Method?

While both grain storage methods have their place, bins are the better solution for routine grain storage. A grain bin is the better choice because it’s safer and more reliable. Grains can be securely stored in a grain bin for a short or long period, while grain bags offer only short-term storage.

You’ll pay more for the bins upfront, but there will be a return on that investment. After construction is complete, you won’t have to worry about buying storage bags each season. If you’re a long-term career farmer or millwright, buying grain bags to store grain each year just doesn’t make sense.

The potential damage is also a knock against grain bags. With a tougher exterior and ways to keep grain clean and safe, a grain bin has the strength and reliability you need for long-term grain storage and a better product overall.

If you’re planning on building a permanent grain bin structure, choose LCDM for custom design and engineering. Our team will help you create the perfect layout to improve efficiency and use. And our other custom grain handling products, like the DBAR adjustable cushion box, will supplement your new grain bin storage method.

To learn more about our products and services, or to begin the process, please contact us today.

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