With harvest on the horizon, grain growers will be relieved to hear around 99 per cent of old cone-bottom silos can be fully sealed and made OH&S compliant.
Brocklesby grower Chris Lloyd, of Silo Upgrades, will be at the Henty Machinery Field Days with practical and cost effective solutions to refurbishing old on-farm silos.
Chris will display a roof panel and top lid collar, fitted with a ground opening system, Phostoxin tablet dispenser and tube, and bottom chutes at the field days.
If there is moisture in the ground come September, grain storage is usually at the top of the shopping list, according to Chris.
“Henty is at the time of year when grain storage is at the top of people’s minds,’’ he said.
“And, the way the grain price has come back to the point of seller resistance, people are looking towards investing in on-farm grain storage.’’
Chris got his kick-start into business while using 40-tonne grain silos on the family farm at Brocklesby.
The older silos weren’t emptying the grain completely out of the bottom hoppers.
“When those silos were originally manufactured, they were good compared to a flat bottom silo but with larger augers, the cones weren’t working properly,’’ Chris said.
“Plus, silos made in the 1960s and 70s were having structural issues with the aluminium rivets holding the sheets together.
“We had bought some second hand silos to put on a second property and they needed attention.
“We hired a riveter and replaced the aluminium rivets with larger steel ones.’’
The on-farm restoration project caught the attention of silo manufacturer, Kotzur, and Chris was approached to service the company’s older silos out in the field more than 10 years ago.
Repairs progressed to installing lid openers, sight panels, phosphine dispensers, bottom manholes, centre emptying chutes, leg extensions, warning signage and sealing and waterproofing for all silo brands and types.
Chris now balances the business while farming with his father, John.
The family crops about 1093 ha and runs 2000 first cross ewes joined to Poll Dorset rams.
John passed his love of engineering onto his son, and sold drum feeders of his own design off the Kotzur stand at Henty for many years.
The fully mobile Silo Upgrades services clients from southern Queensland to southern Victoria.
“There has been a huge increase in on-farm storage in the past decade and the old silos shouldn’t have to be null and void,’’ Chris said.
“They are not worth much to sell so it pays to have them upgraded versus buying new ones.
“We pretty much store everything we grow now and it seems to be the way trends are going long term.’’
Many growers saw the standard inclusions on new silos and wanted them on their old silos as well.
“Life suddenly becomes easier as the old silos become useful again,’’ Chris said.
“I’ve seen old silos laying unused for years purely because the farmer found them too hard to use.
“They can’t get up to close the lids, are scared of heights or their knees are no good, and employees can’t be sent up there to do it.
“An upgrade takes it from a silo which is virtually worthless to as good as one coming out the door of the factory.’’
Chris starts each project working out the grower’s concerns or issues with the individual silo.
“If they are using these 40-tonne silos to store seed, they don’t want to be inside shovelling out grain in the dark at sowing time,’’ he said.
“Everything I do is to eliminate the climbing and the entry to comply with OH & S regulations.
“A lot of these old silos are capable of being sealed where it is cheap to gas and fumigate – any seam, join, bolt or screw needs to be covered with sealant.
“Attention has to be paid to the lids and bottom where everything has to be sealed off properly to meet the Australian Standards.
“When you break the sealant cost down to dollars per tonne, that can be lost in one hit with a weevil infestation in an unsealed silo.’’
The phosphine dispensers allow ground level application of phosphine tablets on a tray via a PVC pipe.
“The ease of access means timely fumigation of silos after harvest,’’ Chris said.
He installs sight glasses at the full and almost empty levels, so the operator knows when to order more grain.
“Once there is a lid opener and sight glass installed, the ladder essentially becomes obsolete,’’ he said.
“Some people prefer to use their new air tight silos for storing cereal grains and the older silos for legumes.
“But, not everyone needs or wants to buy new silos so it’s a safe way of knowing they can store grain cheaply.’’