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«Silo Sense Table of Contents Page Introduction 1 Unloader Suspensions and Cables 2 Leaning Silos 3 Silo Chutes 4 Silo Doors 5 Fill Pipes 6 Hydric ...»

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Silo Sense

Table of Contents

Page

Introduction 1

Unloader Suspensions and Cables 2

Leaning Silos 3

Silo Chutes 4

Silo Doors 5

Fill Pipes 6

Hydric Lifting 7

Concrete Deterioration 8

Silo Roofs 9

Silo Hoops 10

Feed Distribution 11 Silo Insurance 12 Silo Ladders and Cages 13 Unloader Service 14 Shell Corn in Conventional Silos 15 Overfilling Your Silo 16 Silo Footing Concerns 17 Silo Footings 18 Introduction Like soldiers standing at attention, upright silos stand all over the country preserving and protecting farmers’ valuable feed. These silos have performed so well and for so long that often little attention is given to their maintenance.

Year after year, they are filled with wet acidic feed. Often times, they stand with a foot of manure around their base. They stand up to wind, rain, snow and sleet. Many years they are never emptied.

The silo unloader that empties them delivers hundreds of tons of feed per year. This is done at a very low energy cost and without a lot of maintenance. It, too, is in a moisture- filled, acidic atmosphere. Often the only time it is serviced is when it is not working.

Today, some of these old silos are beginning to fail. When this happens, it is not only unexpected, but also a real hardship on the user.

Over the coming months, timely tips on silo inspection and maintenance will appear in a column entitled “Silo Sense”. Topics will include silo footings, concrete deterioration, silo doors, silo ladders and cages, filling equipment, distribution of feed, silo chutes, unloader suspensions and cables, silo roofs, silo hoops and concrete reinforcing, silo insurance, and hydric lifting.

These articles will be fun to read and informative. Stay tuned.

Disclaimer These articles are contributed by Bruce Johnson of Wisconsin Silos. They are meant to be informative and fun to read. They are not all inclusive. Your best source of information is the International Silo Association Operator’s manual or call ISA at 920–655-3301.

-1- Unloader Suspensions and Cables The call came this morning; “We were raising our unloader, it’s halfway up the silo. It started to pull hard so we stopped. On the outside pulley, we got a bird’s nest of cable.

We can’t let it down. We can’t pull it up. What do we do?” The call came last week; “We’ve got a three-cable suspended unloader. When we were raising it, one of the cables broke. The silo is empty. What do we do?” Many times the call comes; “We were pulling the unloader up and the cable broke. What do we do?” All these situations were taken care of, but at the expense to the farmer and with loss of time during harvest. How are they preventable?

A silo unloader cable needs to be replaced when the small strands in it begin to break. If you feel or see broken strands, it is dangerous. Most often, a cable wears first about 10’ above the unloader where the cable sits on the outside suspension pulley during filling.

Also, a cable wears at the point of attachment to the unloader. Cables need inspection every year and replacement every 8 to 10 years. Cable costs run anywhere from $100.00 to $350.00. Replacement labor is extra. Replacement can be easily done when the silo is full. If it is not full, better call a professional; he will know how to handle it.

Upon inspection, many times you will find that the suspension pulleys are not turning.

Over the years, the cable running across them has cut a groove in the pulley, further damaging the cable. These pulleys will also need replacement.

The answer is to inspect your cable every time the unloader is raised. But remember, a lot of cable never gets on the hoist, so you don’t see it. Inspect and lubricate pulleys every time the silo is full. If they are not turning, replace them. Your best resource is your unloader dealership. If they can’t handle your situation, they will know of someone who can.

And remember, never, never, never put yourself under a suspended unloader.

–  –  –

These articles are contributed by Bruce Johnson of Wisconsin Silos. They are meant to be informative and fun to read. They are not all inclusive. Your best source of information is the International Silo Association Operator’s manual or call ISA at 920–655-3301.

–  –  –

Like most mornings, the farmer’s son headed out of the house first for morning milking.

As he walked to the barn, he counted two silos (last night there were three silos standing behind the barn). He turned around, went to the house and told his dad that one of the silos was gone. His dad questioned the number of beers he had the night before. But on their next trip out, they both realized one of the silos was gone. It fell away from the barn, thankfully, and laid on the ground like a big sausage. The silo had been filled recently. It was an old silo and recommended maintenance had not been done.

The first call went to the silo service man in the area. The second went to the silo company. Within a few hours, a plan and date for clean up were set. On that day, the 16’x70’ silo was cleaned up with the help of neighbors, the silo company and a backhoe by 1:00. The debris was separated and disposed of and the feed was piled and covered.





The next year, a new silo stood in its place.

In some cases, a silo fails in a matter of minutes. Other times it moves slowly and may stabilize. In all cases, it’s time for a professional. Sometimes, it’s better to let the silo fall and clean it up. If buildings are in it’s path, it’s better to stabilize it.

What do you do? First, call a professional. Some smaller silos have been stabilized with poles propped against them. Sometimes cabling the silo stops it. Other times, it takes cables and a concrete sheave to stabilize them. Depending on how much the silo leans, modifications will be needed on the unloading equipment. Above all, extreme caution needs to be used. Your best resource is a professional.

Before feed removal begins on a leaning silo, a plan for getting the structure down needs to be developed. Sometimes it can come down with a silo scaffold. Other times, it takes a crane and manbasket. Always, Always, Always, safety is the major consideration.

So, what’s the answer? Have your silo inspected and do the recommended maintenance.

–  –  –

These articles are contributed by Bruce Johnson of Wisconsin Silos. They are meant to be informative and fun to read. They are not all inclusive. Your best source of information is the International Silo Association Operator’s manual or call ISA at 920–655-3301.

–  –  –

First, shake the power cord to get the loose feed down, then hope there’s not an updraft.

Climb over the conveyor and under the canvas. Make sure your hooded sweatshirt is tied tight and head up the dirty chute. About halfway up, open your eyes and lean back to rest. Oops, can’t see, head back down for a flashlight.

Or, climb the ladder next to the silo chute, put your hat on, step through the chute door and close the door to stop the updraft. This chute has windows and a poly chute dormer for light. These doorsteps are out farther so feed doesn’t build up so easily on them.

These doors are locked shut. Where’s the power cord? This silo has got cord looping.

There’s a clean chute system or it is poly lined, poured concrete or made of staves.

There’s no place for the feed to catch on the back. If there is a center drop unloader, check it out at deer hunting and see you next Spring. (Not recommended but normally is the case.) Who wants to climb a dirty chute? You don’t have to.

Obviously, silo chutes do wear out. There are three concerns; feed is being wasted, a roof that is adjacent to the silo gets covered with feed and wears out quickly, and it’s not safe to lean back on a chute that is junk.

What’s the fix? If it’s structurally sound, a liner can be installed. Also, a clean chute system will keep the feed confined. If it’s not safe, it has to come off and be replaced by a new bolt-on chute.

And remember, during filling season, always, always, always ventilate the silo and chute before entering. Silo gasses produced can be lethal.

–  –  –

These articles are contributed by Bruce Johnson of Wisconsin Silos. They are meant to be informative and fun to read. They are not all inclusive. Your best source of information is the International Silo Association Operator’s manual or call ISA at 920–655-3301.

–  –  –

The call came just before filling time in the Spring; “I think the cover on top of my silo chute is loose. Can you come check it out?” It was a 70’ silo with self-storing doors. All the doors were swung open and the chute needed to be climbed to check the cover. After closing all the doors to climb to the top, it was discovered that the cover was in good shape.

Next year the call came again, just before filling; “I think the cover on my chute is loose.

Can you check it out?” This time, the farmer was told it would be checked out when the silo was full. Just like farmers, silo guys are pretty smart. After that, the farmer closed his doors as he emptied the silo.

Whether plywood, fir, cedar, fiberglass, plastic, or steel, silo doors serve two purposes:

first, they keep the door opening tight to prevent spoilage, and second, they provide a ladder to climb to the feed level. Both functions are important.

If doors and door jams are not tight, they provide a source of oxygen. With this source of oxygen, the feed around them will spoil. In some cases of dry feed, poorly fitting doors have caused silo fires. Most wood doors are double lapped. When individual boards start to fall out, it is time for replacement. Also, doors should be checked for deterioration. When this happens, a step bolt can be pulled right through it.

New standards for doorsteps are: 16” wide, 15” apart, and 7” toe space. A good deal, easy to climb, and feed that would before build up behind the step can now fall through (most of the time). Door latches are now designed to not open unless they are released.

This is especially important if you need to climb the door system when the silo is empty.

Upgrading silo doors is good sense. Doors are still made for all types of silos. There are door systems available for the old concrete silos with the open door column.

And remember, always, always, always inspect your doors every time you climb your silo. If there is doubt, replace them.

–  –  –

These articles are contributed by Bruce Johnson of Wisconsin Silos. They are meant to be informative and fun to read. They are not all inclusive. Your best source of information is the International Silo Association Operator’s manual or call ISA at 920–655-3301.

–  –  –

A call came during filling; “I touched the blower and got a jolt that set me on my fanny”.

(Not his exact words). “What’s going on?” Another call came; “I just blew my PVC pipe apart. What happened?” As a youngster, during winter, did you ever take a balloon and rub it on the carpet?

Magic! You could get it to stick on the wall. Well, not really magic, it’s static electricity. Because PVC pipe doesn’t conduct electricity, when enough static charge is generated, you can get a good shock off of it or it can blow apart. That’s why PVC pipe carries a warning sign not to use with feeds below 45% moisture. Steel pipes must be used with these feeds.

Isn’t duct tape great! Sometimes you can find a silo pipe with duct tape in more than five places. It’s great for a quick fix, but remember, the hole didn’t go away. Eventually, you’ll run out of tape and that pipe that was smooth on the inside is now rough and it won’t blow properly.

The flange on steel pipe is just spot-welded. Warnings on steel pipe read, “Blower pipe flanges are for alignment purposes only. Spreaders, goosenecks and silage guides must be firmly secured to the silo, as well as, bolted to the blower pipe”. Pipe clamps are recommended every 12-1/2’ for PVC pipe and every 15’ for metal pipe.

Pulling pipes up every year is not recommended because both the gooseneck and pipe need to be attached to the silo properly. There are a lot of stories told about pulling pipes up to fill a silo and most of them aren’t good. It is a matter of safety.

And remember, never, never, never use PVC pipe to fill your barn with straw or dry hay.

–  –  –

These articles are contributed by Bruce Johnson of Wisconsin Silos. They are meant to be informative and fun to read. They are not all inclusive. Your best source of information is the International Silo Association Operator’s manual or call ISA at 920–655-3301.

–  –  –

It’s a 24’x80’ Stave Silo. It had 65’ of haylage in it after filling which settled to 57’ and was capped. It was uncovered and refilled with early corn silage. It took 65 loads to fill.

When it settled, there was still room for a dozen loads of late haylage. The farmer wondered if his silo had a basement.

In early spring, the corn silage was gone and the farmer started feeding haylage at about 40’. The only way to get the unloader to start in the morning was to raise it 15 turns on the hoist.

As the haylage was emptied, he noticed the staves were lifting up; in some places as much as ½” at the horizontal joints. Some staves cracked where the silo lifted. After he fed past that point, the staves came down tight again. The call came that spring; “What’s going on? Is this a silo or a yo-yo, the way it’s going up and down?” The term we use is hydric lifting. Like a sponge, the feed in the bottom of the silo was compacted to its absolute maximum density. During the winter, it froze and was static.

When spring came, the weight of the feed above it was gone. The compacted haylage rebounded or expanded, just like a sponge does. The adhesion of the feed to the silo wall and the tremendous rebounding pressure of the compacted feed pulled the silo apart. As soon as the feed was removed, the weight of the silo brought it back tight again.



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