The Importance of Cleaning and Maintaining Your Grain Bins

Spring is the time to get grain bins ready for your fall grain storage needs. Cleaning and maintaining your grain bins early in the season gives you time to handle unexpected issues with long before you are into the frenzy of harvesting and storing your crop bounty.

Once bins are empty; then a visual inspection of the entire structure is warranted. Start by walking the perimeter of the bin and assessing the condition of the grain bin base.

Safety First

  • Never enter a grain bin until it is empty.
  • Never enter a grain bin without appropriate breathing protection.
  • Use a tag out system on all electrical and powered equipment associated with the bin before entering an empty bin for cleaning so no one can accidently turn on equipment while you are inside the bin.

Things to look for include:

Soil erosion around or under the edge of the grain bin pad can compromise the structural integrity of your grain bins. A 10,000 bushel bin is supporting nearly 230,000 kgs of grain plus the weight of the bin and the concrete pad.

Erosion from water run-off indicates that you need to grade the bin site to redirect water away from the grain bin pad:

  • Rodent damage caused by them digging tunnels near or under the bin pad needs to be filled in and prevented from re-occurrence with additional soil and gravel base
  • Frost heaves may be creating frost boils and sink holes around the bins and these areas will require management

Weeds and trash around the grain bins:

  • Removing weeds and grass from around the base of the grain bins will discourage rodents and insects by reducing forage and cover
  • Weeds, grass and trash close to grain bins can also hold moisture, trap snow and can decrease the lifespan of your concrete pads
  • Remove any old grain bags, rags and other debris from around the bins as these can harbor rodents, insects, moulds and grain diseases that can infest newly stored grain
Tip: Don’t shovel old grain out of a grain bin and directly onto the ground during bin cleaning as the residual grain you can’t pick up later will attract pests.

If you detect evidence of rodents and insects around the bin then preventative measures such as traps, bait stations, chemical spraying and site cleanup of spilled grain are indicated.

Check the concrete foundation pad for cracks and structural damage and also examine the seal between the steel and concrete pad for integrity.

Activities such as snow clearing or collisions with heavy machinery during bin filling or emptying can crack or chip concrete pads and even break the grain bin seal. They can also damage the unload tube or fan, so have a look at those as well. Fixing these damaged zones early can increase the longevity of the structure and decrease the areas where moisture and pests can gain ingress into the grain bin.

Interior Grain Bin Cleaning

Any residual grain debris left inside a grain bin can be the source of insect or mould contamination in your new crop. The bins should be swept and vacuumed to remove all traces of dust, mould and old grain. Ensure that all fines, broken pieces of grain and dust are removed from any seams, ledges and flooring. Scrape, brush and thoroughly clean any areas that have caked on grain or mould and let dry thoroughly. Inspect the integrity of the grain bin walls for signs of rust and buckling. Rust caused by wet grain sitting against the grain bin sides can create rapid metal corrosion. Bins showing rust may have structural damage and should be inspected by an expert before the bin is put back in service. Repairs and repainting may be required.

As the interior cleaning is being done; a visual inspection of all grain bin seams should be undertaken to make sure the bin is sealed and impervious to moisture, insects and rodents.

The seal around the bottom of the bin where it is in contact with the concrete pad should be closely inspected as there is tremendous force applied to this area when the grain bin is full. Broken seals will result in moisture ingress and potential grain spoilage and can also decrease the lifespan of the bin by encouraging rust and metal corrosion.

Associated grain bin equipment should also be inspected and thoroughly cleaned at this time including combines, augers, dryers, fans, truck beds, grain carts, bin lids, shovels and all other tools used around the grain.

Exterior Grain Bin Inspection and Maintenance

On the exterior of the grain bins you should clean bin lids, vents and drying equipment that is attached to the bins. Any sensor equipment, temperature cables, bin monitoring equipment, ladders and staircases should also be inspected, cleaned and maintained at this time. Inspect the anchor bolts securing the bin to the concrete pad, if loose snug them back up.

Site Management

Spring site management around the bins can also ensure that traffic moves easily and quickly around the bin during harvest saving you time and money. Road entrances to the grain bin site may need grading and maintenance after winter stresses. Some areas may benefit from adding gravel to the site pad to prevent vehicles getting stuck or having to avoid ruts during loading and unloading. Ensure that the bin yard roadways can handle heavy farm equipment even in wet conditions.

Lastly, inspect each bin visually to ensure that they are sitting square and flat. Stresses from uneven loading and unloading can warp or damage the exterior walls of some bins. These structurally damaged bins are very hazardous and can collapse unexpectedly.

Clean, well maintained bins reduce contamination; admixtures and pest damage are all factors that affect your profits. Take the time early in the season to maximize your profits for the coming crop season.

Wall Grain experts are here to help. Contact Wall Grain for tips on concrete pad repairs. Or for advice on how to seal over any openings or gaps where rodents can enter your grain bin.

Call us at +1 844-744-9255 for all your grain bin needs.

"When speaking to your sales rep, we learned a lot about the advantages of stiffened walls as well as how temperature monitoring and fan control can keep you from losing value on your grain."

Don Chapman (farmer)