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Grain sheds versus grain silos: What's the difference?

The difference between grain sheds and grain silos

It’s an age-old question and something that we get asked time and time again – what’s the difference between a grain shed and a grain silo? Could one be more beneficial than the other? While they both store large amounts of grain, a grain shed functions quite differently from a grain silo so it’s important to understand the differences and benefits, of each storage solution.

When it comes to storing your grain harvest, you also want to be sure that you have the perfect storage solution that will ensure your grain is kept in optimum condition. Grain is an expensive commodity and when stored in optimum conditions, it has the potential to provide big returns on investment, if and when you go to sell. It’s important to research which grain storage option will work best for you and your needs so that you have a functional storage space that is not only practical but won’t cost you money down the track.

Here we dive into the difference between grain sheds and grain silos. We will cover everything from advantages and disadvantages to price differences, and storage capacities. We will also cover external factors that may influence your storage decision like lead times and your budget.

Grain silos: Advantages and disadvantages

Advantages and disadvantages of grain silos

A grain silo is a large steel structure that is used to store bulk materials like grain or fermented feed – more commonly referred to as silage. Silos are often used by farmers to store their yearly harvest and may be located in a separate location to the farm. More often than not farmers will make use of multiple silos to store grain so that they can maximise their return on investment and ensure that none of their harvest is left to spoil.

Advantages of grain silos

Fumigation: Silos can be easily fumigated. This is very beneficial in combating grain storage insects that may make their way into your harvest. Fumigating a grain silo will get rid of any insects while ensuring that your grain is not spoiled.

Long-term storage option: Silos are a great solution if you have large amounts of grain that you need to store for long periods. They come in particularly handy for a bumper harvest season where you will have an abundance of grain to store, and it may not be used until the next year.

Disadvantages of grain silos

Slow load times: A grain silo is a very large structure and not easily accessible so load and unload times are slow. An auger must be used to load or unload grain from a silo – essentially a long narrow pipe; it can take some time for the grain to move through the auger to its destination. If you have a full grain silo you can imagine that the process will take quite some time!

Single-purpose only: Unlike a multi-purpose farm shed or grain shed, a silo will only have one purpose – to store grain. If you regularly harvest grain this won’t be a problem, however, if you complete other activities on the farm you may find that a multi-purpose storage shed could be a more suitable solution.

Safety: Grain silos hold large volumes of grain high above ground in cylindrical containers. While this isn’t a problem for much of their lifespan they have the potential to cause incidents, as outlined by SafeWork SA. This includes grain silos collapsing, engulfment within the silos and falls from silo structures; sadly there are several examples of such accidents across Australia.

Grain silo capacity and the average cost

The storage capacity that grain silos provide has the potential to be huge! Several silos are often used at once for maximum storage capacity so it’s not uncommon to find multiple silos in one location.

For example, if you were to have 8 silos at a 300-ton capacity each, you would have a total grain storage capacity of 2,400 tons. Grain silos come at a high price point though which needs to be factored in. One single 300-ton silo will cost roughly $100,000. So eight silos would then cost approximately $800,000.* That’s $333 per ton.

Grain sheds: Advantages and disadvantages

Advantages and disadvantages of grain sheds

Like a silo, a grain shed is also used to store grain. A grain shed will feature a concrete pad and is often fully enclosed to protect your harvest from the elements. A grain shed is often custom-designed to meet different requirements and to serve multiple purposes.

Advantages of grain sheds

Fast load times: With grain sheds, you can simply drive on in and unload or load your grain which makes for exceptionally quick load times. Grain sheds are commonly built with an 8-metre clearance which also allows enough room for a semi-tipper which will make the job even easier!

Concrete bunkers: Most grain sheds will be reinforced with concrete bunkers which work well for the efficient use of a front end loader. Concrete bunkers will also ensure that grain is securely stored amongst sturdy walls that will not deteriorate. Concrete bunkers also help to ensure the quality of the grain.

Quick transport: If you have had a bumper harvest season and you have a lot of grain to store, then you’ll want to ensure that you can get to your grain storage facility quickly. Grain sheds can be easily erected on-site and as they are big open spaces, you’ll waste no time transporting your grain from harvest to storage.

Multi-purpose: If you weren’t already aware, a grain shed can be a great multi-purpose storage space for all things farm-related during off-seasons. When you don’t have a harvest to store, a grain shed can be used for fertiliser, machinery or hay storage.

Disadvantages of grain sheds

Fumigation: The one disadvantage of a grain shed is that it cannot be fumigated as a means of getting rid of insects.

Grain shed capacity and the average cost

A grain shed will be custom built to the size that meets your specific requirements so providing an exact cost can be difficult. However, if we’re comparing apples with apples and the storage capacity of 8 silos which is 2,400 tons with a 42 by 18 by 8-metre grain shed which can hold 2,500 tons of grain, then this makes it a bit easier!

We would estimate that one 2,500 ton capacity grain shed would cost $520,000.* That’s $208 per ton.

What to consider before you choose a grain silo or grain shed

As you can see there are many differences between grain silos and grain sheds and each storage solution has its advantages. A grain shed or silo is a big investment for any grain harvester or farmer so it’s important that you do your research to ensure that you end up with a solution that’s right for your needs. There are a few important factors that should be taken into consideration when choosing your grain storage solution.

Your budget

Your budget may very well determine whether you go with a silo or a grain shed. If purchased individually, silos will be cheaper however the costs can quickly add up as it’s likely that you will need several, to have enough storage. One grain shed will be cheaper than several silos.

It's also important to note that additional costs involved with transporting grain harvest to silos can be big. Silos are often off-site, away from the farm so transport costs are inevitable. Some farmers can spend up to $50,000 a year just to get their harvest to their silos.

When it comes to your budget external factors like global supply and demand shortages are also driving grain prices up. For this reason you may want to hold on to your grain for longer so investing in a larger grain storage solution could be beneficial. 

Lead times

There is currently a big wait for silos which is resulting in massive lead times – some as long as 18 months! A grain shed can be manufactured and erected quicker. As long as you lock your order in, you shouldn't have to wait more than 6 to 8 months.^

How long you will store your grain

One last thing to consider is how long your grain will need to be stored. If you need to store it for a long time then a silo will offer more protection from the elements and has the added benefit that it can be fumigated, should insects get into the grain. Whereas a grain shed is only recommended for shorter amounts of time, or in conjunction with a silo.

Some farmers will store their harvest in a grain shed initially and will then transport the harvest to a silo at their leisure. This reduces unnecessary time pressure and will cut down on transport costs.

So, grain silo or grain shed?

When it comes to deciding between a silo and a shed for your grain, the choice is yours! We hope that this article has given you some guidance around what is most suitable for your needs.

If you are interested in discussing your grain shed options and how an ABC Sheds grain shed could meet your needs, then we encourage you to reach out to us today. For more information on the grain sheds we manufacture, you can head to the product page below.

Learn more about our Grain Sheds


*All prices included in this article are estimates and should only be used as a guide. For an accurate shed quote, please request one here.
^This is an indication only. Lead times may fluctuate due to demand.