Another warm spell has some producers who face the unenviable task of spring combining calling to ask what they’ll be able to do with the grain they harvest in the spring. Farmers are wondering where they can sell it and what it will be worth. Some are wondering if they should even bother trying to combine it, or just turn it under or burn it off.
These are some very good questions. I really didn’t have any good answers, other than “it depends on the quality of the grain once it is harvested, and the amount of similar quality grain in the market.”
Since 2016 was likely the worst Prairie harvest year I’ve seen in my 35 years working in the ag industry, I figured I should make some calls to end users and get the information right from the buyers and find out:
- Are they going to buy spring-threshed grains (STG) or not?
- What grading parameters will they use if they are buying STG?
- What are their main concerns with STG?
The wheat, barley and oats that are left out are going to be, at best, feed grain. At worst, they’ll be unsalable, depending on quality or contamination issues.
Representatives from various feed mill companies with facilities across the Prairies tell me they will not be buying any STG this spring or any time later in the year.
- Read more: How good or bad is that unharvested crop?
There are plenty of good-quality feed grains available across the Prairies. STG pose too much of a risk when it comes to meeting quality specifications for feed blends.
Their biggest concerns are with contamination, be it excreta, mould, or dirt and rocks in the grain. Secondarily they are concerned about the inconsistent quality of the grain as far as weight and protein levels, which causes a real problem when they are trying to meet minimum standards in customer blends.
Current Canadian Food Inspection Agency regulations include very specific guidelines and standards that feed mills must meet when preparing feed for animal consumption in regards to product consistency and limits or restrictions on foreign materials and potentially harmful substances including ergot, excreta, and mould.
For feed mills, buying STG is not work the risk. One representative said, “Even if we got it for free it is not worth the risk or hassle to try to blend and use that grain because we just can’t guarantee the quality of the end product to our customers and we could lose our license.”
Grain brokers and larger feedlots are, for the most part, not interested in buying STG either, because of the extra risk and hassles of blending the grain out slowly to ensure they don’t use too much of it at one time and make some animals sick or dead.
However, they did say if the STG is light weight with no contaminates and has a decent protein and moisture levels, they would buy STG, but they would need to see good representative samples before they would commit to taking anything. As for the price, they say it will depend on the market at the time and the amount of grain of similar quality available.
Brokers and ethanol
Brokers who specialize in low-quality or damaged grains tell me that there is a small market for low-quality feed grain. It may take a couple of years to move all of the STG taken off this spring. They have clients who are smaller feeders that can handle poorer quality grains but don’t need big volumes, so it will take a long time for them to slowly blend out STG. They advise making sure the grain is as close to dry as possible it could end up sitting in a bin for a year or two or three.
They will also take grain that has some excreta or dirt and run it through a cleaner to improve the quality, but that will add costs. As they said, “You either have something you can’t sell, or you clean it and you have something you can sell for a dollar or two a bushel.”
I also called a couple of facilities that use grain to produce ethanol. They said they would need to see grain samples to see if there is enough value left in the grain that they can extract anything. Again, they have plenty of good feed grain stocks available so they really don’t need to buy lower-quality grain.
In the next article, I will relay what I found out about potential markets for spring-threshed canola.