What’s the Difference Between Grain Bins and Silos?

Grain Silos on Farm by Barn

We are thrilled that your farm is thriving and you’re looking for more storage. Did you know that proper storage will grow your bottom line?

Grain Bins and Silos

But do you know what you need?

Grain bins and silos are not synonymous, though few people make a distinction.

When you are looking to buy more storage for your farm, it’s crucial to understand the difference and purchase the right structure for your needs. Grain bins can’t do the work of silos, and silos can’t do the work of grain bins.

The Difference Starts with What They Store

Grain bins and silos do not store the same products.

Grain bins store dry grain that will be used for animal feed, human consumption, or fuel. This includes, but is not limited to: shelled corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, barley, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds.

Silos store silage–typically something like green grass or chopped corn–which is fairly moist and is fed to livestock. The grasses or corn are more or less “pickled” so that they can keep for a long time and feed the livestock during dry seasons or other times when they have no other food to eat.

Function Determines the Look

Farm structures are part of the look and feel of every rural area in the world. If you haven’t worked on a farm, you’ve still driven by many and have seen the fields, the farmhouses, the big equipment, and yes, the silos and grain bins.

Grain bins come in varying heights and diameters. Grain bins are metal cylinders with peaked metal roofs. They typically have staircases or ladders on the outside.

Some farmers set up long rows of multiple grain bins which are attached to a series of catwalks that lead from one bin to the next from an elevator.

Their goal is to keep the grain at a specific temperature, but more on that later.

Silos, are also cylindrical but can be made of concrete, concrete blocks, bricks, metal, and sometimes even wood. Their tops are usually dome-shaped and they tend to be narrower and taller than grain bins.

As with the grain bins, sometimes farmers have many of them side by side–though typically silos are all one height in this configuration, and grain bins can be in various shapes and sizes.

Function Also Determines Design

The goal of a grain bin is to keep the grain dry and undamaged–that is, at the right moisture and temperature for the amount of time you mean to keep the product in storage.

The product in the grain bins needs to be aerated properly, kept free of pests, and must be constantly monitored for signs that temperature or humidity is going to an extreme.

A proper grain bin is designed to allow for maximum storage under ideal conditions. For instance, the structure must allow appropriate air flow to prevent spoilage.


Each grain has its own ideal storage temperature and moisture level. While a grain bin can store every type of product, equipment must be adjusted according to the specifications of what you’re storing.

Silos, on the other hand, aim to alter the products they store through fermentation.

When the silage is improperly packed, improperly aerated, or improperly fermented, it will go bad. A properly designed silo that is correctly monitored, will yield good feed for livestock.

Which Structure Do You Need?

By now you know which structure you need. If you need grain bins, we can help.

We offer more than one kind of grain bin. For farms, our grain bins’ capacity is between 18,000 and 62,000 bushels. For commercial properties, our grain bins’ capacity can reach nearly two million bushels.

So, in order to determine which of our grain bins suits your purposes, you must have a sense of what your yield will be.

Hopper Bottom Bins

Hopper bottom bins offer easy unloading and effective add-on aeration kits.

Ours accommodate up to 8,000 bushels for farms and 100,000 bushels for commercial use. Their design is one of the strongest in the industry because of the wide corrugations and the legs are formed in an extra-long stiffener profile.

Also, the hopper is connected directly to the sidewall, so no ledges or lips will trap the grain. Another benefit is the rack and pinion roller slide gate that makes for easy opening and closing.

Smooth-Wall Hoppers

Smooth-wall hoppers eliminate cross-contamination, and are mostly available up to a 6000-bushel capacity.

The main benefit of a smooth-wall hopper is that, as with our hopper bottom bins, no product is trapped on bolts or ribs, lips or ledges.

Because no grain is left behind, when it’s time to reload with another crop, you don’t risk cross-contamination. 


If you want to see a big payoff, you must play your cards right with your storage system.

It just makes sense: the less product you lose through spoilage due to improper storage, the more you can sell at market.

Take soybeans, for example, which tend to act as tiny sponges. With an efficient, easy-to-operate grain dryer you can actually control the weight of the soybeans, which translates to the total number of bushels in storage.

Soybeans only need 1 point of moisture to expand by 1.35 bushels. However, if not controlled with great accuracy, the extra moisture that creates the expansion can actually burst the seams of your grain bin, causing new and unexpected expenses.

What’s Next?

The basic idea behind grain bins and silos hasn’t changed for hundreds of years: keep your grains and your silage in optimal condition for humans and livestock.

But what has changed–and for the better–is how we keep products in the condition we desire. Like with just about everything else we deal with, getting behind on current technological advances ultimately means losing money.

Find the right storage structure for your needs today.