As grain bins for on-farm storage popped up like crops during spring in recent years, they brought improved marketing options and reduced commercial storage costs. They also shifted more grain quality responsibility to the producer.
The on-farm storage trend means more grain handling, which increases opportunities for damage and loss. It also requires proper drying and monitoring to prevent spoilage and dockage. Then at delivery time, it takes a little planning to help ensure a smooth process and the best product possible.
Storage. The fields are harvested. The bins are buttoned up. Time to relax, right? Just like weather conditions change, conditions can fluctuate inside the grain bin, too. Even with ambient temperatures well below freezing, hot spots can develop in stored grain that isn’t properly dried, cleaned or cooled. Once spoilage begins, it can spread rapidly. Be sure to monitor bins regularly and immediately address any concerns. Spoiled grain is costly — not only at the delivery point but also, left unchecked, by damaging expensive bins and equipment.
Handling. From the combine to the end user, every time grain moves, it is damaged. On-farm storage adds at least one step, maybe more, depending on your setup. Although markets tolerate some damage, too much can lead to dockage. Whether prices are high or low, that’s not good for your bottom line.
When it comes time to deliver your stored grain, take care of it. Make sure your equipment is ready. Are augers in good repair? Are flightings excessively worn? Make sure to operate augers and handling equipment at the proper speed to reduce cracking or other damage.
Shipping. One of the driving forces behind the rapid rise of on-farm grain storage is the marketing flexibility it gives producers. Regardless of when grain is sold, it must be delivered — on or before a specific date. Plan ahead. Make sure trucks and equipment are ready. If you schedule late winter or early spring deliveries, keep in mind that the thaw often brings load limits to farm-to-market roads. Watch the weather and anticipate the season — no one wants to deal with a mountain of grain awaiting delivery when the planting season arrives a month early.
If you’re new to on-farm grain handling and storage or if you need a refresher, your land-grant university’s agricultural engineering department is a great place to start. Here are some tips from Purdue University.