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How I Added Moisture To Grain – for Nov. 9, 2009

Risks To Consider, And Other Tips

Editor Jay Whetter raised the topic of adding water to grain in his blog entry for October 14. See his blog at www.grainews.ca.Many readers responded with some very good tips. Here is a sample.

YOU DON’T WANT A SOUPY MESS

Mark Astner of Ferintosh, Alta., writes: “I guess one thing that has to be thought about when doing something like this is the chance of disaster. Canola is an oilseed and oil and water do not mix. Once the seed has dried down, it is very unlikely that you can get water to go back into the seed very easily.

“I’ve never had the gall to try this myself but have heard of a few instances in central Alberta where guys have done this (added canola and water to a truck and let sit over night before delivery.) They got to the elevator with a soupy mess in the bottom of their trailer only to be sent home with the gunk.”

WILL YOUR TRUCKER TAKE IT?

Murray Puffalt of Kipling, Sask., says some truckers are terrified of adding water because of the possibility the product may stick to the inside of the trailer. “I would probably hesitate to do it with canola. Cereals and pulses soak up water quickly enough that it really isn’t very wet when it drops from the auger,” he writes. “It might be asking for trouble to attempt to reach an exact moisture content. Most farmers would probably be satisfied with 1.0 per cent under maximum allowed.”

LOST MONEY ON LOWER PROTEIN

Sure, he got more bushels, but when Victor Lee of Hawarden, Sask., added water to dry wheat in 2003, he actually lost money because his protein percentage dropped. Victor writes: “We tried adding water to 1,200 bushels of wheat. We set the auger at about 30 bushels per minute and added 3.5 gallons per minute to wheat using a garden hose connected to a water hydrant. We went from 11.6 per cent moisture up to 13.8 per cent moisture, gaining 23 bushels through moisture increase. But the protein went from 14.4 per cent down to 13.7 per cent.”

Victor figures he lost 23 cents a bushel because of the drop in protein, or $276 on the original 1,200 bushels. Initial payment for the extra 23 bushels was only $56. Even if interim and final payments helped bridge the gap, the immediate loss of cash was not enough to make him try it again.

MAKE SURE YOUR TESTER IS ACCURATE

Greg Cochran of Saskatchewan says to know how your moisture tester compares to your elevator’s tester. “It is pretty hard to argue with the value of selling water. But it is also pretty important to have a good accurate grain tester and know how it compares to your local elevator’s,” Greg writes. “Our local terminals pretty consistently test the exact same sample 0.5 to 1.0 per cent tougher than we get on our bi-annually calibrated tester.

“I think that some guys might be a little scared of adding water, or feel like it is dishonest, but I say until the elevators start adding premiums for over dry grain or correcting to a dry weight as they do when it’s tough, it’s fair game.”

SHOULD BE A BONUS FOR EXTRA DRY GRAIN

Stewart Collin from Foremost, Alta., makes a similar comment to Greg Cochran’s last point. He believes farmers should get an appropriate “bonus” for dry grain deliveries and a corresponding penalty for too wet (like the drying charges currently in place.) Delivering dryer grain would be a help to grain companies because “when cleaned at the coast and then loaded, it gains quite a bit of moisture from handling in the higher humidity conditions there.”

Our part of the Prairies had super dry harvest conditions this year, with a lot of grain coming off well under the “dry” point. This grain will store safely for a very long time, but when it comes to farmer returns, anything below the graded dry point means you have fewer tonnes of grain to sell.

Using canola as a reference, a 3,600-bushel bin will lose about $1,071 in value (based on a $7 per bushel price) if sold at six per cent moisture versus the maximum allowable 10 per cent. I first discovered the significance of these differences a few years ago when filling a

grain trailer with canola to honour a contract at the local grain

terminals. I noticed the first load weighed

lighter than usual, even

though

I filled it up

to the normal levels on the truck. Water is heavier than oil, so low-moisture canola will weigh less for the same volume as higher-moisture canola.

So I thought I’d try something new. After some calculations using a 20-litre pail and standing in the trailer under the auger spout — which was the hard part — I figured out how many bushels per minute were coming out of my seven-inch auger running at half throttle. You could do the test with a weigh wagon, if you have one. I used bushels as a measurement because tonnes were too large of a volume to measure easily. Then I figured out how many gallons of water per minute came out of my 300-foot garden hose.

To add one percentage point of moisture to 500 bushels of canola, takes five bushels of water — or around 40 gallons. Then you have to figure out how many percentage points of moisture you want to add, and trickle that water on evenly as you fill the truck.

Attaching the hose to the auger was quite simple using good old duct tape. Make sure the outlet points toward the flighting and make sure the auger is pulling grain before you turn the water on so all the water gets sucked in.

The easiest way to regulate the whole process is to simply rev up the auger and increase the grain flow, leaving the water to free flow

out of the open end. A word of caution: If you’re taking grain out of a flat bottom, you want to either

empty the bin completely or make sure you don’t

leave a wet spot of grain by the door to

spoil. Doing this out of a hopper

bin is a cinch. To test my rough calculations, the first time I did this I stopped when the truck was about half full. I let it sit for about the time it would have taken me to get to the terminal, then I probed a sample and tested it. At home, I managed to get the moisture of the canola to read about 10.9 per cent. The terminal sample dropped further to 10 per cent for that load. It was working, so I kept going.

Some loads were more than 10 per cent, some were less, but the ones that were 11 per cent were fine with the grain buyers because what they were seeing all fall was about five to seven per cent canola. Bottom line is I made about $1,000 more per 3,600-bushel bin — which is a common bin size across the Prairies.

The elevator guy asked me if it was last year’s stuff because it was dustless and moister. One other benefit was that the dockage was less because some seeds plumped up and weren’t going through the fine testing screens. I estimated I got about three per cent less dockage as a result.

Adding moisture to the wheat increases the colour and the vitreousness to the point where I actually gained a grade over my super-dry wrinkled looking stuff. It looks really wet going into the truck but after a half hour ride to the terminal, it was dry looking.

After the first load to the elevator your confidence will rise and the extra money you made will be worth the effort of pushing a couple augers around to test this out for yourself. If you are the cautious kind of person, just add a small amount of water the first time.

We have done this on our farm on two separate dry spells over the years. The last time involved about 60,000 bushels of canola and hard red spring wheat. All of the wheat went in producer cars. You want to have your technique refined before loading into producer cars. In the event the moisture is a bit over the safe limit and the grain car sits for a long period the chances of spoilage are increased.

To help you out the Canadian Grain Commission has a handy moisture loss to weight conversion chart under “grain drying” on its website at www.grainscanada.gc.ca.

Mark Horvath is from Guy, Alta.

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