SOUTH HUTCHINSON – The mountains of grain continuing to grow on the Kansas horizon are creating a huge problem that a South Hutchinson business is stepping up to help solve.

Farmers, grain elevator operators and others are trying to figure out how to handle the massive harvest after several years of drought and limited yields idled what equipment they did have.

“Now they are calling us, telling us they need more equipment,” said Andy Klamm, Shield Agricultural Equipment’s regional sales manager.

Work has augmented at the company as employees put together more grain-handling conveyors to help move this year’s bumper harvest. While commodities are selling at lows not seen in years, elevators still have to find a place to put this year’s grain.

“It’s not just statewide. This big crop is all over,” he said, adding that with grain elevators full, “people are buying conveyors and equipment to make these piles.”

At present, Shield Ag employees are putting together more than a dozen orders for systems that will go from Texas to the Dakotas, said Klamm of the product’s territory.

Shield Ag has offered a variety of conveyors for two decades, but about 10 years ago it developed an American-made drive-over belt conveyor using suggestions from clients, said Klamm. The company partnered with an Iowa manufacturer to offer a grain-handling system designed for the challenges faced by producers and elevators.

Unlike some systems developed for moving rocks and coal, Shield Ag’s conveyor is made to handle grain, with a capacity to unload 6,000 to 8,000 bushels an hour. The conveyor also has enhanced safety features, including a set of safety stairs over the conveyor. Also, unlike some conveyors on the market, the Shield conveyor is portable and can throw the grain farther, helping make a better pile.

“We worked with engineers to develop a whole grain-handling system that has the capacity to meet the grain handlers’ needs,” said Shield Ag President Mike Bergmeier.

Shield Ag has long sold high-quality fertilizer knives and shanks, along with no-till and minimum-till planting and drilling equipment and tools, through its Acra Plant division. The company also manufactures the ABM Flexo Guard, an accessory for combine headers to help maximize milo harvest.

“It’s a unique market for us,” said Bergmeier of the drive-over belt conveyors.

In fact, he said, the Shield conveyor will unload a grain trailer in under six minutes and shoot it 100 feet out onto a pile.

Customers were searching for a product to handle grain other than an auger, Bergmeier said. Augers, while great pieces of equipment, can chew up soybeans and are hard on corn.

“You can get millions of bushels of capacity with grain conveyors,” Bergmeier said.

Moreover, elevators across the Midwest are grappling with how to handle the big crop. With fall harvest looming, some Kansas grain elevators have purchased parking lots near their bins to make piles. Hence the need for a grain-handling system.

That includes Oakley-based Frontier Ag, which has purchased land for piles and is searching for more. Jim Foltz, the central operations manager for the cooperative, said they have about 15 Shield conveyors and ordered three more to help with the magnitude of this year’s harvest.

Already with multiple wheat piles, Foltz said the company is preparing for a bumper fall harvest, which could be 30 percent more than the company’s usual average.

Unlike some years, said Foltz, the big harvest isn’t unique to one area or season.

“The elevators are all full,” he said, noting he saw piles from Colby to Denver recently. Now, with the good rains this past spring and summer, farmers are preparing for another bin-buster with corn and milo.

“Right now today, I would say 80 percent of the (fall) crop will go on the ground,” said Foltz.