The amount of grain being stored in bags has increased greatly in recent years. This winter, producers are faced with the task of preventing damage to the 2014 crop still stored in bags. Many producers are asking what the most effective, simplest and economical means of reducing damage are because, as one farmer said, “It’s not just the upfront cost of spoiled and downgraded grain; there are a lot of hidden costs in moving grain from the field, repairing bags, fencing and so on.” While each farm faces unique challenges, some methods do seem especially effective. The key, some say, is to start early and train the wildlife through consistent maintenance and monitoring.
One Peace Country farmer said his management practices were copied from a fellow producer who has a great deal of experience raising wild game such as bison, elk and deer. He said his method is to, “Put up fences immediately after each bag is full to provide the best training before the cold and snow reduces the effectiveness of electric fencers.”
Wildlife are much more easily trained to avoid fences when alternative feed sources are readily available during the time between the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. Keeping any holes patched and spills cleaned up also helps to avoid attracting animals to bags. The fences he uses consist of a single fence with three strands of electric wire (powered by a high-voltage, solar fencer) placed about a foot away from the bag. These temporary fences are fast and easy to build and successfully train deer and bears to avoid fences when they try to reach through. Deer will not jump these relatively short fences (approximately four to five feet), as they would land on the bag.
Other crop-saving suggestions
Electric fences work well for deer and bears, but farmers say these measures are less effective for elk and obviously don’t work at all for ravens. Bird-scare cannons seem to be an effective means to deter herds of elk, but ravens require a different approach. Rumour has it that a practical alternative to reduce raven damage is to hang a dead one from the surrounding fence or cover the tops of bags with net wrap.
For those who need to store grain for longer periods of time, an effective and largely maintenance-free option is using bale fences to surround areas. Bale fences have the added advantage of deterring ravens, possibly because they cannot view approaching predators, but it is still advisable to check these fences periodically as deer seem to be especially notorious for squeezing through tight spaces to access feed as winter drags on. One drawback to this method is the mice that bales attract, especially if bags are left in the field until spring, the damage may be difficult to detect.
One final note that a Peace Country producer shared is that, “Bags are most likely to be damaged at the ends, so contrary to the bagger manufacturer’s directions, placing the middle of the bag at the crown of a hill reduces the risk of water running in and along the entire bag.” Grain bags are a great way to store grain without needing to build costly bins, but just like bin storage, bags do present some unique challenges. If you have to store grain in bags, start training early to keep wildlife out before their regular feed sources become scarce.
Stephanie Grace is a writer and student from B.C.’s Peace River country. For more from Stephanie or to contact her, please visit her website at stephaniegrace.org.