The pulling of dairy contracts in the Aberdeen area meant that Roy Mitchell, who farms in the Inverurie area, made the tough decision to cease milk production and turn the farm over to beef finishing and arable production.
“Previously, the crops were used to feed the cows but increasing my arable to 70ha of winter barley, 80ha of winter wheat, 50ha of oilseed rape and 130ha of spring barley presented a big challenge,” he explained.
There had previously been no need to purchase a drier of his own, but the change in the farming system meant that Mr Mitchell had to consider the machines on the market.
“I didn’t have the drying or storage facilities, or the staff to be able to handle my increased grain tonnage,” Mr Mitchell added. “I had one large grain store and a telehandler but nothing else in place for harvest 2021. Using a contractor for combining, I am not always able to pick and choose the incoming moisture content, which in this area is historically higher than other parts of the UK, so I had to find a solution pretty quickly.”
Following some research and conversations with other farmers, he decided to invest in a 30-tonne batch drier from Master Farm Services. Having experienced how quickly things can change, the high residual values were appealing, as well as the build quality and flexibility of a batch drier.
He spoke with George Young at Master Farm Services and decided that a Master drier, with integrated Skandia Elevator handling equipment (from BDC Systems Ltd), installed by Ravenhill would meet the requirements at the right price.
“It was key that we supplied the right intake to, and discharge from, the drier to maximise the drying and handling process,” explained John Wilson, area manager for BDC Systems. “We based everything around installing 80tph Skandia I-Line equipment.”
The plant includes a large shed to hold the wet grain, which is then tipped into a 12m Skandia trench intake and fed into the intake hopper of the drier. The intake capacity is rated at 80 tonnes per hour, and the drier intake auger is rated at 90 tonnes, ensuring there is no change of overloading.
“The drier’s dust extraction and cleaning features are giving me an average of five points on my bushel weight, which is extremely helpful,” stated Mr Mitchell.
Once dried, grain is transported to the store via an inclined Skandia chain and flight conveyor, with two additional conveyors moving product to additional stores on site. Remote slide outlets with three-way and two-way valves allow the grain to fill either store.
“The upgraded plant has been a huge success. I have avoided employing additional harvest staff, helping the bottom line, and although the 2022 season was one of our easiest, the drier came into its own with its excellent cooling and cleaning capabilities,” said Mr Mitchell, who believes that return on investment (RoI) around the upgraded plant will be pretty quick.
“The biggest saving for me will be in the potential losses I would experience if I had to sell the grain straight off the combine, or put it into a commercial store for drying and storage. With the high mc we experience here, it doesn’t take long for any profits to be wiped out if you can’t dry and store your own grain.”
Additionally, he can market his grain to whoever he wants. The improvement in bushel weight is also a factor as buyers reportedly see the benefit of batch driers.
“As a one-man band, I would highly recommend a plant which consists of a batch drier combined with Skandia handling equipment. It has significantly reduced grain handling and is very easy to operate.
“Of course, you need to work with grain handling experts to make sure that all the different drying and grain handling components work together. Master Farm Services, BDC Systems and Ravenhill are the people to talk to. They are happy to put you in touch with their customers so you can talk farmer to farmer about what works best.
“By working closely together, the three companies have delivered an upgraded grain processing plant which has hugely reduced my stress levels during harvest and that is priceless,” concluded Mr Mitchell.