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Published August 25, 2014, 09:59 AM

Offutt grain venture uses bag storage

Randy Fleishauer is the farm manager of Gunsmoke Farms, in its second year of production west of Fort Pierre, S.D. The 31,000-acre farm is owned by R.D. Offutt Co. of Fargo, N.D.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

FORT PIERRE, S.D. — Randy Fleishauer is the farm manager of Gunsmoke Farms, in its second year of production west of Fort Pierre, S.D. The 31,000-acre farm is owned by R.D. Offutt Co. of Fargo, N.D.

The farm name was established because part of the ranch once was owned by James Arness, the Matt Dillon character in the TV show.

Gunsmoke Farms raises winter wheat, spring wheat, milo and field peas. RDO is most widely known for its irrigated potatoes and rotation crops, so this is a different enterprise for the company. Fleishauer, a native of Wisconsin, formerly managed potato farms for 20 years for the company both in Wisconsin and in Minnesota.

This year, he’s putting much of the crop into bags because of marketing and logistics issues.

“We usually go to elevators in Pierre and Fort Pierre, and some other surrounding areas,” Fleishauer says.

This year, the rail wasn’t coming through in a timely fashion, so the farm bought a couple of baggers.

Two bagging sites

The company has Loftness baggers in two sites. Each bag holds about 13,000 bushels. Each bag is 300 feet long and 10 feet in diameter. The bagger pushes the grain in and the air out. One location has 42 bags, the other has about 30 bags.

Winter wheat harvest was finished on Aug. 11, and the spring wheat was done on Aug. 14, dispatched by 26 combines at a time, run by Olsen Custom Farms of Hendricks, Minn. None of the wheat went into the bags that had more than14 percent moisture.

Fleishauer says it’s unclear how long the wheat, peas and milo will be kept in the bag.

“It kind of depends on the market, and when we can start moving things. The writing was on the wall with the rail. The elevators were full before we started. It was one of those deals where we didn’t have a lot of choice. You don’t have time to build bins, and you don’t maybe make an investment for a problem that may be a year or two.”

Fleishauer attributes rail problems to competition for rail resources because of oil and coal, as well as a transition from the Canadian Pacific Railway the Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railway.

Accelerated market

Jerry Sechler is vice president of Loftness Specialized Equipment in Hector, Minn. The company started making the baggers and unloaders in 2008 and operates in a core market from the Dakotas to Texas.

“We’re seeing an expansion currently this year in other regions because of the price of the commodities for grain, and on top of that, a lot of crop was carried over from last year because the railroads didn’t get a chance to move it to market.”

Sechler describes 2014 as an accelerated year for sales, but declines to put any numbers on it. He says the cost per bushel of storage is 7 cents, but that depends on where the customer buys bags.

“Plastics prices fluctuate. It’s a petroleum-based product, so it goes up and down,” he says.

A 10-foot diameter bagger lists for about $28,500, and has a listed capacity of about 30,000 bushels an hour.

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