Grain storage structures

What’s the difference between a “silo” and a “grain elevator”?

Around here (MI) a silo is generally used to refer to the smaller structure that an individual farmer uses to store grain. A grain elevator is usually run by a cooperative or company to store until transport or sale vast quantities of grain from multiple farmers. They may refer to the individual elevators as “silos”, I don’t know, but, boy, those muthas are big!!

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Bunny got it down perfect.
SILO is a storage building for making ensalage from fodder.HUH? you dump your fodder(animal feed , not just grain ) in there for storage and it actually undergoes some fermentation (ever tapped a silo?) Usually they are round towers so just about any round structure is called a silo (missle silo even though it’s a hole in the ground missle WELL).
ELEVATOR is the big complex of silos. Called that from the elevator that carries the grain up to the top ( screw lift )where it pours in. From there it is delivered out the bottom to trucks or gondola cars.
YEH,Bunny some of those things are huge. And they can blow up real good from ignition of all the dust in a confined place.I am from the Tex panhandle so I have seen enough of them to share with those of you who never saw one. Kinda strange to see a little town of 200 or so with 4 or 5 20 story buildings. Always thought they should paint windows on um and look metropolitan.Which leads to an apochrophal story. bunch a tourists are driving across the plains. Finally the ask a goodolboy “What are all those tall buildings without windows?” Variuos answers," State run high rise living for the blind." “secret govt. project” my favorite " That’s where we store well holes before we push um into the ground."

Signitorily yours, Mr John
" Pardon me while I have a strange interlude."-Marx
ARROW? Officer, I didn’t even see any Indians

Thanks for the info, Bunny! (I bet you’re pretty.) :slight_smile: If you, or anyone else, should want to get my profile, you mail e-mail me (I’d rather not post my profile on the Message Board) at
I heard once that flour mills are built with roofs that can blow off easily, in case of a dust explosion.
I can tell you, though, that I was born in Indiana and have lived in Southern California for 47 years; almost always in urban/suburban vicinities.

Lots of silos out here in farm country but not many elevators, this is more a dairy area. I think the fermentation angle is a pretty good definition but you also alluded to another when you talked about the way they are loaded. Do all the elevators have screw or paddle type loading mechanisms? I ask because all the silos I’ve ever seen are filled by blowers.

Mr John

Actually, the missile silo, being a pit in the ground, comes closer to the physical description of the original.

Originally, a silo was a pit into which fodder was stored away from contaminating air (which is why silage tends to ferment). It comes from Spanish, then Latin, and finally back to Greek (seiros?). In the U.S., at the end of the last century we began to build them on top of the ground. Whether or not this had to do with the development of concrete blocks that would be more impervious to air, I’m not sure. Grain elevators actually preceeded silos by a bit. The word silo refers to the function(storing green fodder) not the size.

I have a faint memory that the biblical Pools of Siloam (fed by wells) came from a cognate to the Greek word, but I am too tired to look that connection up (if there is one) tonight.


Funee, i am a city boy myself. I grew up in Amarillo about a mile from the city limits and an elaevator there were some huge complexes a few miles farther.I think the thing that distinguishes an elevator from Other grain storage buildings is the height. Some of those things are 16, 20 stories high.I don’t think air could lift the grain. Most of the SILOS up on the southern plains are squat galvanized metal cylendars with squat conical metal roofs.Is the fermentation part of ,that is, required for turning the vegetation into ensilage?
tomndeb, Well,well,well, even a knowitall like me can learn something new.
Let’s us all go out in the country and tap a silo.

Signitorily yours, Mr John
" Pardon me while I have a strange interlude."-Marx
ARROW? Officer, I didn’t even see any Indians