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Watch what’s in your grain bin

Now that you've got your crop in the bin, lower your risks by keeping an eye on it

The mood at the Agri Trade show in Red Deer in early November ranged from relief that harvest was done, to disappointment that harvest wasn’t finished, or was a poor-quality crop. Meeting with colleagues, neighbours and friends at Agri Trade is a good way for many to discuss and work through harvest stress, blow off some steam and re-energize for the winter and spring ahead.

The hardest part of harvest is over, but the stress of marketing poor-quality grain and not knowing if the year will end up at a profit or loss is also difficult.

It’s best to deal with it pragmatically, without mixing emotion or additional stress into the situation. Know the quality you have so you know what you’re dealing with. How long will it keep in the bin? Can you do anything to improve the value of your grain? Would improving the value help you net out better?

Who are the buyers you need to talk to? What are they paying?

Know the details, gather the facts and make your decision based on what will give you the best net return. This is the best way to get the job done, minimize your stress and allow you to move on to other business.

Grain spoilage

Many conversations that I had or heard during my two days at Agri Trade were about crop quality, storing grain and concerns about spoilage.

No doubt the exhibitor booths that attracted the most interest were the ones selling storage and handling systems, aeration systems, grain dryers and bin sensor and monitoring systems. There were several of each.

One discussion I had with a couple of producers was about where they spend their money for the best return to manage harvest in years like 2016 and 2018? Do you invest in another combine or do you set up a grain dryer? The immediate response I get is to set up a dryer system first, so you can control and manage your grain harvest better.

But I believe there is another first step to consider before you make the decision about buying a grain dryer. That is to put a grain monitoring system into all of your grain bins so you know what is happening in your bins and can react accordingly if something changes with your grain condition. The biggest controllable loss every year on grain farms is grain spoilage in the bin. It is preventable.

A bin monitoring system is the first step in setting up a grain quality management system on your farm. The second step may be setting up aeration bins and eventually integrating a grain dryer into the system.

Grain monitors will always be useful, as will aeration bins. As you continue to evolve your handling system, each of these components will help you to better manage your grain quality.

Grain monitoring technology has moved by leaps and bounds over the past five years and is going to continue to evolve rapidly. Research this carefully to see what each system offers and what you need from a monitoring system.

Like most things, options range from a basic, entry-level cable monitoring system to the top of the line, full bin spectral imaging systems from GrainViz that automatically turn on aeration fans if a temperature change is detected. You can control the entire GrainViz system from your cell phone from virtually anywhere. But the price is not cheap. Determine what type of a system will give you the best return on investment and peace of mind.

Setting up a high efficiency drier and handling system is the dream of many a grain producer but maybe a high-efficient monitoring and aeration system is all you need, based on your farm’s harvest history.

Either way, starting with a bin monitoring system on your farm is a good step toward better quality management and better net returns. Know your risks, then monitor and manage them.

About the author

Columnist

Brian Wittal has 30 years of grain industry experience and currently offers market planning and marketing advice to farmers through his company Pro Com Marketing Ltd.

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