Consider on-farm storage this year
Barton County Extension Agent
Once again it’s deja vu all over again! I was going through the archives of columns I wrote in yesteryear when I stumbled upon this one. It is almost a mirror image of this year, as was one I did a few weeks and a few years back – back to 1997 to be exact.
The following is what I wrote back then, but everything still applies for 2009. There is no doubt that we live in unusual times as far as grain production goes. In our area, we have been blessed with back to back record fall harvests for soybeans and feed grains and this past summer we had a record wheat harvest. Unfortunately, it has caused a headache for grain elevators and farmers – there’s no place to put all this grain.
Grain storage problems were serious this year during wheat harvest and now during the row crop harvest, local elevators are filling up early in the harvest season and can’t move the grain to terminal markets or farmers find their own on-farm bins don’t have enough capacity for a larger than normal harvest.
About all the terminal elevators were full of wheat because many farmers had not sold their wheat and because of less than “hoped for” export demand. This had put local elevators in a real bind because they haven’t been able to truck grain out like they want. For farmers it has actually shut down harvest in some cases because there was no place to haul grain to.
One thing that makes it worse here as opposed to the Corn Belt is that most farmers here have very little on-farm storage bins. In the Corn Belt regions, even in northeast Kansas where I used to work, a majority of producers have their own storage complete with a grain dryer if needed.
If you’ve run into milo or corn storage bottlenecks, don’t panic. Many buildings found on farms can be used as temporary storage. Temporary means less than 90 days. The grain stored under those conditions should not exceed 14 percent moisture.
Storing wet grain is an open invitation to heating and spoilage problems in make-shift storage facilities. Check your grain regularly, especially the first two weeks, and be prepared to move it at the first sign of heating or the development of odors.
Buildings that serve as temporary storage until late winter or early spring are vacated poultry houses, utility and machine sheds, old barns, wooden granaries, and empty bunker or upright silos over which plastic covers can be placed. Avoid piling too much grain against the sidewalls of buildings. Many farm structures aren’t designed to carry grain loads.
Even outside piles are fairly satisfactory when placed on properly prepared drain sites. It’s nice to have a concrete floor but plastic sheeting can be used under the wheat in the absence of a surfaced floor. If you have to use a dirt floor, it is best to use a tractor and blade to scrape away any loose dirt so that you can get down to a hard surface where less grain will be mixed with dirt.
If you do pile grain outside, form it into peaks so that no pockets form that will catch water. Still, it’s best to use tarps if possible.
I would like to see more grain producers think through an emergency storage plan long before each harvest. This is the way I would approach it. First, decide where and how the grain will be stored. Next, acquire equipment for handling the grain and have it ready at harvest. Select a building or facility that will provide reasonable protection from weather and pest damage and grain contamination. Last, but not least, clean the facility so it will be ready on a moment’s notice.
If you do store grain on the farm, realize you can’t just put it there and forget about it. Outside storage or make shift storage should be for 90 days or less and then moved out as soon as permanent storage is available.
This winter, you may want to consider putting up some permanent grain bins, especially if you handle both wheat and one of the fall grains.
Now back to 2009. One thing different about this year is that harvest has been frustrating. Even though we have good yields, we can’t get the crops out of the field. We have had so much cloudy, wet weather that we have only had a few good harvest days. When we have had good days, when the fields were dry enough and the stalks dry enough, the moisture content of the grin has stayed high and the discounts for wet grain can be hefty.
We didn’t have a lot of heat this summer and I believe that didn’t allow some of the plants to fully mature by the time it froze.
This fall has caused me to reminisce back to 1991 when we had the late October snow storm that basically cancelled Halloween. Biggest snow I can recall, that early in the season.
Then we also had one year or maybe a couple of years 1992 or 1993 when we were still harvesting crops after the first of the year. It started out where you cold only cut a few hours in the afternoon when the grain was dry enough. Later the weather got bad and it was too wet to hold the combines until the ground froze. You could go out and cut late at night or early in the morning till things started to thaw.
There are local elevators planning to pile milo on the ground this year who have never done it before. So far, they haven’t had to.