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Do the math on bins versus baggers

Bin prices have jumped sharply in the past decade, but producers 
need to carefully evaluate the pros and cons of grain bags

Recent record yields and transportation backlogs have increased interest in on-farm storage options.

“There are many different storage options available, either temporary or permanent,” said Todd Bergen-Henengouwen, project assistant with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development. “The two most popular options are steel grain bins (either corrugated or smooth walled with or without hoppers) and grain bags. Other options are sheds, producer-owned grain elevators, grain rings, piles and bunkers.”

The last 10 years have seen bin prices climbing, says Bergen-Henengouwen.

“In 2004, the average corrugated hopper bottom was priced at $2.50/bushel while in 2014 it is close to $4/bushel. With the price increase and the need for unexpected grain storage, producers have been looking at grain baggers as a viable option.”

Grain baggers are useful in situations when:

  • The land is either rented or leased and investment in permanent storage is not desired;
  • The operator only needs to store grain for a short period of time, or has plans to exit the business in a few years;
  • There is limited labour and trucking available during harvest;
  • Land is located long distances apart;
  • Storing low-quality crops such as feed wheat, barley and sample canola;
  • Grain is dry and has no need to be dried or aerated;
  • There is plastic recycling in the area;
  • There is a need to store large volumes of grain.

“Having developed a partial budget to compare bins from baggers it was found that operations need to store more than 70,000 bushels of grain per year to make the bagger economically competitive to bins,” says Bergen-Henengouwen.

Baggers have their disadvantages as storage is temporary and damage can occur to the plastic either through wildlife, trees or human damage (snowmobiles). As well, the plastic is difficult to roll after the grain has been emptied and recycling is limited.

“Choosing the right grain storage system can be a difficult decision for an operation but by looking at total costs, the farm future plans, existing systems and labour availability, producers can narrow down the best option for them,” adds Bergen-Henengouwen.

Visit the Alberta Agriculture website for more information on grain storage cost comparisons and storage considerations. You can also view a YouTube video entitled ‘Grain Storage Considerations.’

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