PRESSURE to get grain off fast has seen Western Australian farmer Mic Fels head to the drawing board to solve a common issue.
With three harvesters running and trucks on a minimum three-hour turnaround, ways of managing grain flow without slowing harvesting had become paramount for the Esperance and Geraldton cropper.
In good weather one option to manage the grain has been to simply bunker it in the paddock – on the ground.
While they have been using that system successfully for years, the issue had been finding a similarly effective method to unload the paddock bunkers.
“We’ve been doing that since we started farming but I needed a more efficient system,” Mr Fels said.
“Getting it on the ground is easy, but getting it off, you’d waste a lot.
Mr Fels’ solution is the Unstacker – a neat tractor-towed cross auger system that reverses into the bunker, loading grain via a side auger into trucks running parallel to the pile.
Preparation for a bunker is simply cutting an area of crop as short as possible.
“If you are harvesting and the trucks are held up, we can be stacking within 20 minutes,” Mr Fels said.
Hydraulically controlled wheels maintain the auger height and lessen soil feeding in.
“The whole frame is like a big sled so unless your ground is really soft I just run it on the sled – we literally drop it on the sled and it slides along over bumps,” Mr Fels said.
“You can see from the tractor cabin what sort of job it is doing and adjust accordingly.” Given the grain is going directly onto the ground there is wastage, but when the losses are benchmarked, they can be acceptable.
In Mr Fels’ case a silo bag works out at about $5 tonne, takes two people and is slow. Or you could look at delaying harvesting around the truck movements and then possibly needing to dry grain.
Or you can get it off fast, bunker it and cop a few dollars a tonne in losses.
“I don’t mind spending a couple of bucks on storage when I am working on keeping under one inch (25 millimetres) of waste on a completely unprepared site,” Mr Fels said.
“You could use it on a hard floor, in a bunker, or on a tarp and I could also get an Agrivac afterwards and put it through a grain cleaner, but I’ve done the maths and one inch of grain on the ground equates to about one-per-cent loss, so from the farm gate price that is $2.50/t.
“What works for me is that I can do this anywhere, with no site preparation and when the stack is finished you fold the auger up and drive off,” he said.
“Importantly the harvesters are still running and that’s productivity and worth money to me.”
A prototype was tested last harvest and units will be available soon. See ipaddock.com.au.