Dikes cut input costs

Bryan Kirkpatrick understands two key points. First, if you’re going to store large quantities of liquid fertilizer on the farm, you need dikes. Second, it’s how you buy and sell that determines if you net a payback.

“We knew that if we were going to store more fertilizer here, we needed dikes,” says Kirkpatrick, Greentown. “There’s just too much liability should you have a spill. I felt it was the right thing to do.”

Kirkpatrick did his homework before expanding a large barn and installing a dike system. After visiting other farms where tanks and dikes were installed recently, he opted for fiberglass tanks. His installation will soon consist of 13 tanks, each holding 14,000 gallons.

“In the long run it’s a good investment,” he says. “They cost more now, but should last longer.”

As it turns out, a few farms in Indiana have stored fertilizer in fiberglass tanks for some time. However, momentum is now building for more fiberglass tanks.

A local contractor, Andrew King, oversaw concrete work for the dikes. The way the building is designed, Kirkpatrick is confident it should handle any emergency by containing liquids on the site. He consulted with the Office of Indiana State Chemist to make sure he adhered to state guidelines.

Key Points

• Investing in diked storage eases liability concerns.

• On-farm fertilizer storage expands the buying window.

• Working with an independent trucker offers pluses.

Dikes add flexibility

With diked storage and several very large fiberglass tanks on the farm, Kirkpatrick feels he’s more in control of buying decisions. He can fill tanks whenever he’s getting a price that will help him hold the line on input costs.

His strategy is already working. Bill Mauer, an independent trucker, unloaded a semiload of 28% nitrogen into Kirkpatrick’s facility in early December. Just three weeks later the price had gone up $24 per ton. “It looks like we got a decent price by being able to buy and store it,” Kirkpatrick says.

At $24 more per ton, 28% nitrogen is about 4 cents higher per pound of actual N. Suppose you’re applying 180 pounds of actual N per acre and could save 4 cents per pound. That’s $7.20 per acre. On 1,000 acres of corn, it’s $7,200. If you planted 2,500 acres of corn, you would save $18,000 toward payment on the facility.

Hauling arrangement

Mauer operates his own trucking farm based in Kettlersville, in west-central Ohio. His business, Breeze Hill Unlimited, primarily hauls ag products. He makes many trips into Indiana, hauling for farmers.

“We have our own trailer, but having him haul is working well,” Kirkpatrick says. “He’s in the business, and he knows how to get the job done.

“It certainly was a big help last fall. We were still in the field when it made sense to buy and haul in fertilizer. Our arrangement with Bill made that possible.”

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HAUL AND STORE: Bill Mauer (left) prepares to unload a tanker of 28% N for Bryan Kirkpatrick. It was one of the first loads stored in his new, diked fertilizer storage system.

This article published in the February, 2010 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.