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Get that grain off the ground

CRAIK, Sask. – Grain piles on the ground have been a common sight in recent years. While it’s nice to have those pyramids looming on the horizon, gathering that grain can be a chore.

Rick Wildfong uses three different units to pick up piled grain on his farm near Craik. The first is a 13 inch auger with a rear mounted cross auger apron.

“It was manufactured in the 1970s by Poarch Brothers in Hereford, Texas. It was originally mounted on a 1959 400 International and was used for backing into a pile of fertilizer, wheat or corn and loading trucks,” Wildfong said.

His father had bought it in 1972 at a John Deere dealership in Kansas for $1,500.

The rear mounted auger attaches to the tractor with a three-point hitch. The p.t.o. shaft runs a drive shaft that goes to a right angle gearbox.

“Between that gearbox and the steady bearing is a 27 tooth, 80 chain sprocket that runs a chain to the top drive shaft on the top of the 13 inch grey auger. The p.t.o. shaft going into the right angle gearbox, that box sends a shaft out to the left side of the auger and it runs the apron auger,” said Wildfong.

“It’s a 12 foot wide apron, using a 13 inch tube with a 12 inch screw in it, and the apron has a 10 inch screw that feeds to the middle, where the 12 inch screw takes it up. It runs pretty easy. I don’t think it takes more than 40 to 50 horsepower to run it.”

The old 400 International stayed on the unit until the fall of 2007, when Wildfong replaced it with a 2290 Case.

“That International was always short on hydraulic power. The Case has lots of hydraulics. It also has more power and stability. It’s heavier and backs into the pile better.

“With a cab, you can talk to the trucker without getting dusty. When you’re working in the Behlen (Quonset), the diesel fumes and dust get pretty wild.”

At the output end of the main 13 inch auger, Wildfong added an eight foot long discharge auger made from an old 10 inch Bergen auger with a 9.5 inch flighting.

“It takes it away from the main discharge of the 12 inch auger and it can do that because it’s spinning about 300 r.p.m. It’s really flying. We run the other one at about 125 r.p.m.”

Wildfong likes extra clearance between the auger and the tube, especially if picking up off the ground.

“If your augers have too tight a clearance, a stone will jam or that Regina gumbo will give you troubles.”

The unit requires three hydraulics. One is for the swivel, another is for up and down and the third drives the 10 inch discharge auger. He uses a modified truck hoist, mounted on the front of the tractor, to lift and lower the output end of the auger.

“The end has to go up and down to allow it to get under the 13 foot doors on the grain Quonset. When it’s in the up position it’s about 16 feet, so it will load a 14½ foot high semi.”

Wildfong set up a two-way valve on one hydraulic circuit. The same hydraulic system that runs the orbital motor up top also lifts and lowers the unit.

The third hydraulic circuit is used to swivel the unit, much like a turret auger on a Massey combine, except it’s mounted upside down.

There are two guide rings bolted together and another one on the neck of the bottom auger so the neck is sandwiched between the one solid ring. There is also a ring that bolts up from the bottom.

“It’s like an Oreo cookie. The white filling is the lip on the neck of the bottom auger. The bottom piece of the Oreo cookie has holes drilled through it and the bolt goes through that to the top ring that’s welded in place off the main discharge spout.”

Wildfong needs good hydraulics to swivel and to run the motor because there’s a 10 inch auger on the eight foot spout. He said the orbital motor on the auger is 12 hp, while the orbital motor on the swivel is about nine hp, like on a combine pickup.

From the rear apron auger, the 13 inch discharge tube runs up between the tractor cab and the right side wheel.

“It was hard to find a tractor to put under that. We had to find one with long axles. With this one, the inner dual is let out and there’s only about two inches of axle left to spare. We took the outside dual off. The inside dual is on a big wedge, so we just slipped it out to the end.”

When cleaning out his Quonset, Wildfong said the rear apron is wide enough that the tractor wheels are always sitting on clean cement.

“To work a pile, you back up far enough to get one load of grain, then you move over 12 feet. The next truck comes in and he backs up so he’s in your mirror. That auger swivels so we can load the front compartments in either direction.

“He stays in the truck, I stay in the tractor and we talk to each other. I’ll tell him to move the truck back or ahead, but the tractor has to move a little as the pile disappears. To load a 1,200 bushel semi, that tractor will have to back into a pile about four or five feet. When that’s done, he’s ready to go and you’re ready to move over.”

The unit tends to dig some dirt when picking up a pile in the field.

“We have to remodify the bottom feed plate. As it goes up higher to get into these semis, the angle is wrong and it starts to dig in. It’s like a combine header when you put big tires on the front, then your header has to go down farther and your guards aren’t parallel to the ground. They’re starting to dig in.”

Wildfong plans to use a 12 foot Degelman dozer blade wear edge to help it ride over the ground better. But in good wheat, it will move 150 to 175 bu. a minute. A tandem takes about four minutes to fill.

The second unit Wildfong uses to clean up piles is a p.t.o auger mounted on an old John Deere 4020 tractor, with a small payloader feeding the auger inlet.

“It’s a 10 inch, drop joint, Bergen auger built in 1984. The secret to making that work is that mid-mount p.t.o. on the 4020. There’s a gearbox that comes out of the front p.t.o. It’s at 90 degrees over to the drive shaft, which drives the bottom shaft on the Bergen.

“We kept all the ratios one to one. The bottom leg and top auger drive the same speed, but that’s a very tight fitting screw and what I should do is drop one tooth and slow the bottom feed auger down maybe five percent. In certain conditions it will plug and to get it going, we have to undo the chain that drives the bottom auger, let the bottom one clean itself out, then put the chain on again to start it. I think that will stop if we slow that bottom auger down one tooth.

“We’ve been using it to clean up piles and as long as you’ve got a good pusher tractor like that little Volvo, it’s perfect.”

He uses a Volvo BM skidder with a yard and a half bucket. Wildfong said the pins are worn just enough that he can lay it on the ground flat and it doesn’t dig dirt.

“But if you dig any dirt and dump it in the Bergen, in about two minutes you’re done. The clearances are too tight. But in clean wheat, at 1,500

r.p.m, it’ll auger about 115 to 120 bu. a minute. It only takes 10 minutes to fill a 1,200 bu. semi.”

With a 20,000 bu. pile, the tractor auger will have to move three times. It also has a hydraulic spout on the end, so it will shoot out about six feet in case a semi pulls up a bit crooked.

While the two auger systems have worked well for years, last fall Wildfong found a third option for grain pickup.

“We discovered the nicest way to load grain out of a pile is a Brandt conveyor. It works good for oats and barley. I don’t know how it’ll work for something heavier like durum or spring wheat, but for oats and barley, you can’t plug it.

“You just shove it and go away. You don’t have to worry about the auger running empty because it’s built to run empty. We feed it with the Volvo and boy does it work slick.”

The Brandt unit has a 13 inch conveyor tube and is 45 feet long. He puts it at the tip of the pile, starts the engine and begins feeding it.

“It’s more than 100 bu. a minute. It’s as fast as that Bergen 10 inch. It’s got a 30 hp engine and its own mover. You could sit on it and drive it home if you want. I think it’s the best piece of equipment we’ve got.”

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