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Man vs. silo

Fri, Apr 5th, 2013
Posted in Preston Agriculture

Ristau Farm Services and Scheevel and Sons worked together to take the silo down. Photo by Jason Sethre

By Jason Sethre

On the morning of Monday, April 1, 2013, a group of farmers and heavy equipment operators from the area assembled to take down a 600,000 pound silo full of silage and standing over 70 feet tall.

Like the days of Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramids, these men gathered to use leverage, gravity and momentum to take down a silo that could fall in any direction.

There was a reason they had to take this silo down. As one person said, “It looks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.” At Steve Mandelko’s farm, just south of Preston, he had every reason to be concerned. If he tried to empty the silo, it could collapse and literally create a life or death situation. And, if he left it full without pulling it down, it could fall at any time. Essentially, this silo had to go. And, it would be better to try to guide the silo to the ground, instead of rolling the dice and waiting for fate to take hold.

With a crowd of more than 50 farmers gathering to watch the descent of a 25-year-old cement silo filled to the brim, Steve Mandelko could have sold hot dogs and hot chocolate to this crowd. It was cold and the wind was whipping, biting into any visible skin. The collapse was initially anticipated to take place around 9:45 a.m., but there were a few unexpected challenges.

As Ristau Farm Services, from Lanesboro, took their crane with two men in a bucket up to the top of the silo, they wrapped a 5/8 inch cable around the top of the silo. In the distance out in the field, a dozer was waiting to pull the silo to the ground.

A tense yet excited crowd awaited the fall of a 600,000 pounds silo. At the first attempt, the dozer moved forward in the field and within about a minute the cable snapped. Fortunately, while there was recoil from the cable flying in the direction of the dozer, nobody was harmed. Interestingly, a number of onlookers pointed to an area at the top of the silo that started to buckle.

“Looks like we need to go to plan B,” said Steve Mandelko.

At this point, the farmers and neighboring onlookers had waited this long, so they weren’t going anywhere. They wanted to see this silo come crashing down.

For plan B, Scheevel and Sons, and Ristau Farm Services worked together to see what they could do to weaken the foundation of the silo. They removed supporting cables tied to staves on the backside of the silo nearly ten staves high from the ground up.

Ron and Aaron of Scheevel and Sons, brought their big bulldozer out on to the field, tied up the cable, and began to pull.

As the crowd had hoped, the silo began to fall. And, when it fell, there were gasps and a bit of hollering from onlookers. There were even cars and trucks parked alongside the road leading up to the farm. Everyone wanted to see this “Man vs. Silo” event.

Fortunately, nobody was injured. Everything went smooth. The silo fell perfectly toward the manure pit.

As Ron Scheevel, owner of Scheevel and Sons, said, “I’ve helped take down probably 50 silos in my lifetime, but never have I helped take down a full one like this.” Well, Ristau Farm Services, Scheevel and Sons, Steve Mandelko, and an entire supporting cast can say they’ve taken on a 600,000 pound full silo and won.

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