Located in Sanborn, Minnesota, Graff Feedlots is a livestock farm with cattle and hogs, and operates two separate feedlots a mile apart. The feed is stored at the home farm and trucked to the other feedlot. Graff Feedlots also grows 1,200 acres of corn for feeding cattle, and 200 acres of soybeans grown as a cash crop. Before his first Hanson bunker silo was installed 18 years ago, owner Glen Graff stored silage in piles on the ground. He would push up the piles using a loader and pack it down, then later he’d poke it with a loader to get it to fall.
“The old style piles were piled on dirt, and in the spring the dirt turned to mud. We tried long, narrow piles with steep sides, but they could be dangerous, especially near the edges without something to hold them. Safety was an issue when rolling over the old piles,” says Graff. “The edges wouldn’t pack as tight on the old piles, so we experienced more spoilage on the edges.” Graff wanted to get his feed piles onto a concrete floor and pile it fairly deep, so when he heard about the Hanson bunker silo, he was interested in installing one.
“My dad built a Hanson Silo in 1950, so I knew they were around. I’m also active in the Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, so I’d see their products at different events,” says Graff. “We have four Hanson precast concrete bunker silos – one 80′ x 160′, one 30′ x 96′, and two 45′ x 105′ bunkers – and they all have 12-foot high walls. Having bunker walls makes it much safer to pack forage versus roll over piles, and we’ve had reduced spoilage.”
Overall, Graff has been very satisfied with his Hanson bunker silos. “The quantity of feed we can store in a small area is really key. In an area 200′ x 240′ we store thousands of tons of feed, enough to feed all our cattle for a full year,” adds Graff. “Our Hanson bunker silos have enabled us to keep the feed close to the commodity shed – within 200 feet – and this saves time everyday.” Using Hanson bunker silos has resulted in better feed quality because the walls enable Graff to pack silage more uniformly with less spoilage. “Before we started using Hanson bunker silos, the amount of spoilage was more than I liked, but the reduced spoilage was the biggest surprise. Better packing and virtually no spoilage along the walls have improved the overall quality of all the feed,” says Graff. “The percentage of damaged feed is reduced and that makes the whole mix that much better.”
“As we make piles higher, using the Easy Rake is much safer than trying to make it fall the old way,” says Graff. “The Easy Rake keeps a straight face on the edge. It stays packed behind face and we’re not fracturing it to knock it down.”
Graff Feedlots was the first feedlot to use Hanson’s 20′ straight-back feed bunks. They’ve worked really well for Graff and have resulted in less feed waste. He believes it’s also easier to drive cattle alongside the back of the straight-back bunks, and cattle are less likely to jump into the bunk, making it safer for cattle walking past them.
Graff believes the biggest advantages Easy Rake provides are increased safety and reduced spoilage. He feels safer knowing he can drive along the side of the packed silage with the straight edge and doesn’t need to worry about an avalanche occurring, which can happen if you’re poking it with a loader. With Easy Rake, silage stays packed until you rake it down.
Graff also appreciates how well the Big Foot silage packer works. “The first year, we filled the bunker to the same size and height as before and after a year feeding the same number of cattle, 10 percent to 15 percent of the bunker silage remained. With the Big Foot silage packer we packed 10 percent to 15 percent more silage into the same area,” adds Graff. “It also packs solid faster, with fewer trips across to pack it before the next load goes in.”
According to Graff, while it’s difficult to precisely quantify the effects his Hanson bunker silos, Easy Rake and the Big Foot silage packer have on his bottom line, he recognizes that creating better quality feed results in a better quality animal – and a better price. Hanson Silo crews installed the first three bays for Graff, but due to time constraints Graff and his employees installed the last one themselves. “We had watched them set the walls and knew how the job needed to be done. We were satisfied with how we did it,” says Graff. “Later a Hanson Silo employee stopped to check on it and he was so impressed, he said we could install bunker silos for them if we needed the extra work.”
As two Minnesota companies with deep roots in their communities, Graff Feedlots and Hanson Silo are a good match. Graff knew Hanson Silo could handle the feedstuffs he used and would be around for a long time. And while Hanson Silo was founded more than 100 years ago and continues to provide innovative, high quality products, Graff proudly notes that his family has been farming even longer.