Unlike wine or cheese — grain and feed quality does not improve with age!
This month we take a detailed look at the basics of managing grain and feed quality in grain elevators and feed mills.
[Note: While feed products may present fewer challenges than stored grain because feed products tend to be utilized more quickly, feed manufacturers will do well to heed these comments as they are also applicable to completed feed products.]
Grain quality management
According to Drs. David Jones and David Shelton, both extension agricultural engineers from the University of Nebraska: “Grain quality will not improve during storage. At best, initial quality can only be maintained.” Perhaps few innovations have been uncovered in the last 20 to 30 years of managing for grain quality, but sometimes it behooves us to look at the basics and make sure that we are doing all of the right things. Additionally, even if you as manager or owner know all of the “right” things to do — do all of your employees — particularly the new ones? It may be worth reviewing procedures and educating workers as it helps to drive home the importance of cleanliness and quality.
“It is amazing how many people in the industry do not know some of the basics about grain handling and storage,” says Dr. Kenneth Hellevang, an extension agricultural engineer from North Dakota State University with expertise in grain handling and storage. “Any chance we get to educate folks — it will pay dividends.”
In this article, we discuss a number of management factors which affect grain storability (derived in part from the University of Nebraska Extension Publication — Management to Maintain Stored Grain Quality). Many of these steps and procedures should be done before your new crop is harvested by your customers and delivered to you.
It is also important to note that a number of the management strategies outlined here involve keeping storage areas clean. The feed and grain business is inherently dusty and dirty, but utilizing dust control systems, carefully sweeping and vacuuming storage bins, pits, legs and augers — as well as attention to other housekeeping duties — will pay off in increased quality and reduced chance of fire or explosion.
Handling and storage equipment
Performing maintenance on your grain bins and handling equipment is the first step to ensure that quality grain goes into storage, and that quality will be preserved.
All traces of old grain should be removed from grain carts, augers, legs and any other equipment that transports or handles grain. It is important to note that even small amounts of insect-infected or moldy grain that is not cleaned out can contaminate a bin of new grain.
Augers and legs should be operated at full capacity to reduce both wear and grain breakage. If you have variable incoming flow rates, reducing your auger speed can keep the auger operating at full capacity. Have your employees check your bins, and remove any spilled grain and mow around your bins and elevator to reduce the likelihood of insect or rodent infestations. You should also check your site to make sure that water drains away from your bin foundations; regrade if necessary.
You should inspect your bins annually for potential structural problems. If a foundation settles unevenly, gaps can appear at the bottom edge of the bin. If this happens, water, insects or rodents can enter the bin or grain can spill. Small gaps can be caulked. Bigger problems may need more extensive sealing. Anchor bolts should be checked for tightness and/or damage. The roofs and sides of bins and silos should be inspected inside and out for leaks, cracks, and rust or other corrosion. Cracks or leaks should be caulked, and deteriorated parts should be repaired or replaced.