Small scale grain production equipment questions

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Tycer's picture
Tycer
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Joined: Apr 26 2009
Posts: 602
Small scale grain production equipment questions

I'm building the infrastructure to produce a bit of grain. My budget requires that I buy old and the small plot sizes where it will be grown requires small equipment. I have never farmed on any scale larger than our gardens.

What do I need?

I have an AC All-Crop 66 coming, I'm looking at Kasco seeders as a possibility. 

The All-Crop has a seed cleaner, but I need to also get the equipment to clean the grain for use as flour. I have little idea of what equipment I need to get it ready for the mill.

Can you help?

Who do you know that can help?

Feel free to PM me also.

Thanks in advance.

Bluenoser's picture
Bluenoser
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Joined: Jun 11 2010
Posts: 28
Small Plots

Depends on what you mean by "small" plots.  There is a Transition Town about an hour north of where I live that's been experimenting with small scale grain growing; they've hosted a workshop and have had success with test plots in the range of 6' by 20'.   The English home page can be found at http://cocagnetransition.com/ and there is a piece on Island Grains in the newsletter as well as information on the grain growing workshops.   The page is in English, but a lot of the links off of it are in French, as Cocagne is in the French Acadian area of southeast New Brunswick (I'm still working up my gumption to take one of the fruit tree grafting classes in French; I speak bureaucratese in both official languages, but this would be a whole different vocabulary).

I grew small grain plots last year with some success.  I planted in red fife wheat, oats and barley in 8' by 10' plots.  I just used broadcast seeding, and harvested with a sickle, but I suspect that's much smaller scale than you are looking for.  Our red fife wheat produced beautiful, red gold sheafs and germinated this year without a hitch, but I wasn't looking to actually mill flour (I just wanted to see if I could grow a heritage strain of wheat, save the seeds, and replant).  Harvested sheafs of grain make lovely autumn decorations.

If you're looking for a slightly larger grain crop without major equipment inputs, you might consider using a scythe.  Check out Scythe Supply at   

http://scythesupply.com/index.htm

Good luck,

Bluenoser

 

nigel's picture
nigel
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Joined: Apr 15 2009
Posts: 138
Step 1. Prepare the soil. I

Step 1. Prepare the soil. I assume you have a small tractor, so a set of discs and or a rotary hoe that attaches the the three point linkage on the back of the tractor. It all depends on your soil as to what you do, my neighbour discs once and then puts the rotary hoe over it (corn). My ex just ran the discs over the ground, but she did two runs (Millet).

Step 2. Sow the seeds. I use a broadcast seeder or a seed spreader on the back of the tractor. Usually mixed with fertilizer on account of my poor soil. You need to sow when the moisture content of the soil is good. It's hard to time it right but you will want to look at long range weather forcasts.

Step 3. Harrow the ground. Pull the drag harrows over the ground to smooth the ground and cover the seeds with a fine layer of dirt.

Step 4. Get a bit of grass in the mouth and sit on the porch with a gun to shoot the birds and watch it grow.

Step 5. Harvest. It all depends on your crop as to how you do it. You will probably windrow it and then collect it in a harvester, or your harvester might cut it directly. You need to have the right head on the harvester for what crop you have put in.

Step 6. Mill it. A small electric mill is fine, a hand powered mill can be purchased at leahmans. Grains keep longer if not milled. 20 years compared to 2 years. Store it.

I wouldn't really bother with a tractor for anything under an acre. You could get a small rotary hoe from ebay for smaller plots.

The language is australian so it might take some translation.

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 25 2009
Posts: 1148
please,please...

please, read Gene Logsdon. He has a book exactly for you,you may have it. "Smal-scale Grain Raising", an organic guide to growing,processing and using nutritious whole grains for home gardeners and small farmers.

I type reluctantly, however would talk on the phone about such subjects for hours.

The "hunters" who lease the hunting rights,on some of our land, own a Kasco Eco drill its 6' wide very slow,seems durable with an opener system that employs only one disc this keeps it in a bind(the physicist in me thinks about resultant vectors and moments of inertia etc) i plant the hunters game patches with it as they've no tractor and our 10" "GreatPlains" drill is to big.

Robie 

Locavorous's picture
Locavorous
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Joined: Sep 30 2010
Posts: 26
Ever tried to cut an acre with a scythe? I love gasoline...

I've been meaning to post about my experiences in scaling up my gardens to a small farm. This post is a good place to mention my experience with small grains.

Last year we grew an acre of 'hull less oats' and an acre of cereal rye. We also grew 10'x100' plots of 2 row barley, spring planted wheat and lots of various legumes for dry harvest and storage.

My partner built a 'Rodale thresher' to separate the, ahem, wheat from the chaff, and that was the extent of our mechanization during harvest.

The grains/legumes were either seeded using a pull behind drill, a push seeder (Earthway) or a broadcast seeder (Ace grass seeder).

All germination went very well, and we had no lodging or disease issues. BUT, the birds beat us to most of the ripe grain heads before harvest, so much of the small plots of wheat and barley were lost. Unless we covered with netting: add $ and time to those columns...

The legumes need a long drying period, and if you get heavy dews/cold days or late summer rains, you may get a moldy crop of beans. You'll defintiely have to harvest these and hang in your eaves to finish drying before threshing. Your growing season length is important. for these crops, HOW your season ends is important to: cold and wet? grains not a good idea...

I know there are fancy machines (combines) out there that will cut/thresh/clean your harvest, but there are none in my area. We cut everything by hand, and after about 1/4 acre of the rye, we said "F THAT!" and let the cows in. I've never appreciated gasoline more than during those hot, sticky, itchy days of handharvesting 6' tall rye. We used sickles, scythes, lopper shears, electric hedge trimmers, gurkha knives and uprooting. All those methods were very labor intensive, and if you're not young and used to the work, it'll wear you out fast!

If you decide to use a scythe, you'll need a cradle. this is ancient technology and rare in the states. its also not a one sized fits all tech. get educated on how to choose, fit and sharpen a scythe properly, or you'll waste MUCH energy.

Once we had a tub, tarp or trailer filled with seed heads and stalks, we ran it through the Rodale thresher (110v motor). This works pretty well, though is dangerous as hell. for a 1-2 man operation on a very tight budget, this worked. But, it IS work.

Often if doesnt make sense to grow small grains, as we conceive of them. Why do you want wheat? Would corn, barley, rye, lentils, garbanzos, or other dried beans be a better choice for your or your livestock's diet? do you know what protein content your grains will contain based on soil analysis? this is important, and can help you decide on a better suited crop for your area.

small grains are a staple of our diet, but without specialized equipment, growing on any kind of scale needs a LOT of labor. For now, this is not cost effective.

having said that though, and if you have money to buy a small combine, there are non-US companies who are building custom binder/reapers and threshers as walk-behind models, that are great for small )<5 acres) plots. But, for now thery're around $15-20K. 

Finally, research who your County Extension agent is. You usually can find them through that Google search, or contact your state land-grant college (whoever is the 'ag school' in your state). In my neck of the woods, extension agents are great resources for knowledge, equipment, networking, varieties of seed, etc.

good topic, and I'm out of time. Happy Harvest!

Ready's picture
Ready
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 30 2008
Posts: 917
Locavorous wrote: I know
Locavorous wrote:

I know there are fancy machines (combines) out there that will cut/thresh/clean your harvest, but there are none in my area. We cut everything by hand, and after about 1/4 acre of the rye, we said "F THAT!" and let the cows in. I've never appreciated gasoline more than during those hot, sticky, itchy days of handharvesting 6' tall rye.

LOL, funniest thing I read all day!

Tycer, I have to admit I've been spying on you. I saw another guy named Tycer on once of the AC boards who recently bought an AC66, and I was hoping it was you. I've got one (Big Bin model) and it is an amazing mechanical symphony for converting diesel into food.

As far as the unit goes, the pics I saw of yours were in pretty good shape, and it had been shedded IIRC. There are a lot of things to look at once you get it, but once tuned in, and if you use the right scour kleen screen for the grain you are harvesting, it does a good enough job to put that resulting seed right back into the planter for next year. You will be pleased.

I'm sure you've seen this:

http://www.allcropharvester.com/

and this

 What are you pulling it with? What do you plan to plant? Do you have any specific questions?

We are in the process of tearing ours down for a complete rebuild this winter. Going down to the frame, and everything is getting cleaned, straigthend, replaced, adjusted, painted, etc. I guess that's what winters are for. We can talk offline and share pics of the process if you are interested. All in all, however, you have made a very wise investment in your future productive capacity.

Locavorous's picture
Locavorous
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Joined: Sep 30 2010
Posts: 26
Beautiful!

Thank you, Ready!

I'll be looking for one of those now.

Please don't take the conversation private if you don't mind, I have a lot to learn from you two.

Warm regards from western washington.

Ready's picture
Ready
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Joined: Dec 30 2008
Posts: 917
Locavorous wrote: I'll be
Locavorous wrote:

I'll be looking for one of those now.

There's a 60 in Oregon, not sure how far away that is from you

http://www.allcropharvester.com/harvestersforsale.aspx

I paid $500 for my 66  and then $170 to have it delivered to my farm, about 3 hours from where I bought it. This was a few years ago, but I think prices are still about the same.

If you already have a tractor, these are pretty easy to justify.

Locavorous's picture
Locavorous
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Joined: Sep 30 2010
Posts: 26
Parts availability?

Thanks Ready.

The two farms I work at could both use these. We have an old Cub at one, with occasional access to a 30HP Deere we use for mowing and the occasional tilling, but it overheats fairly fast.

The other place has a 4x4 35HP New Holland. We use it for mowing and discing. We'd love to have seeders and a harvester too. folks in our valley don't seem to have a line on harvesters. Not sure why.

Are parts/manuals simple to come by for the AC's?

Ready's picture
Ready
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 30 2008
Posts: 917
Locavorous wrote: Are
Locavorous wrote:

Are parts/manuals simple to come by for the AC's?

http://www.allcropharvester.com/catalogtop.aspx

In pricing out my rebuild, it looks like it will take about $6000 to replace every part on the machine. I don't expect to spend that much.

I don't think 30HP would be a problem, but I don't see myself ever trying it with my 22HP Kioti. I use a 65HP with this.

Overheating is generally a simple fix. Are you mechanical?

If you started to bog down, you would just have to change ground speed. You really need the RPMs set and left alone, since that is going to dictate PTO speeds, and the timing of the machine is all set from that. So, on thick crops (or ones that have fallen over and are all twisted up) or going uphill, you might need to downshift into a lower gear. No biggie, it still beats doing it by hand (or letting the cows have it)

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2009
Posts: 1982
hand sickle

Interesting topic. I bought oats as a green overwinter manure and your posts convinced me to buy a hand sickle. Part of our whole learning curve: understanding the difference between a sickle and a scythe.

Now we are deciding where to plant the oats, and when.

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