Grain shrink during the handling and storage process is often referred to as “the invisible thief.” Tri-States Grain Conditioning General Manager, Dan Winkowitsch, explains why grain shrink is a manageable problem.
Usually, when we think about monitoring the temperature of your stored grain, it has to do with grain health. Like humans, grain is a living organism, which if it has a temperature tells you it’s sick. But it’s not just grain quality that affects your pocketbook at sale. Grain shrink is another problem that can rob you of your profits.
Fortunately, we can use the same natural method to minimize grain shrink that we use to determine grain health – temperature monitoring.
Avoid Grain Shrink Completely
If only it were possible to completely avoid grain shrink (deep sigh). But, it’s not. You know and accept that grain shrink is part of the field agriculture business. You can’t wait until your grain has dried in the field to the sellable 15% moisture content. The risk is too great that you’ll lose grain mass before you ever get it out of the field. So, you try to harvest between 17% and 22% and dry the corn down to 15% for sale or storage.
There are different approaches to mitigating grain shrink when you’re planning to sell your grain during harvest time. You can sell it wet and just take the moisture content profit loss on the chin. You can have the elevator dry the corn to 15% and subtract the drying fee from the sale price. Or you can dry the grain on-farm and take it to market at full price. Of course, you still have to figure your fuel and electricity costs for drying and deduct them from your profits.
No matter which way you go, there’s an inevitable profit loss to grain shrink. What we’re talking about here though is what to do if you’re planning to store your grain rather than sell. Like the elevator that won’t accept your grain above 15% moisture content for proper storage, you need that number too. You’ll need to dry your corn to 15% for safe on-farm storage. And you’ll need optimum storage conditions to keep it there, so you get full price when you’re ready to sell.
A 50,000 Bushel Example
We’ll set the stage for our example with a 48-foot diameter, ten-ring steel grain bin. Rounding our numbers, that means we’re talking about 50,000 bushels of corn.
Grain, as you know, is sold by weight. The industry standard for a bushel of shelled corn is that it weighs 56 pounds. It’s also referred to as test weight. It’s made up of two things, dry matter and water.
Dry matter, in a sense, is what it is when you harvest your crop from the field. But, the water content is that percentage figure that’s referenced when talking about grain moisture content. So when you go to the elevator, they’re going to give you a bid on your grain. For corn, 15% moisture content is the norm, and for soybeans it’s 13%. The elevator will pay for the grain mass, but they don’t want to pay for the extra moisture.
So 50,000 bushels of corn at 15% when you store it in your bin should stay at 50,000 bushels. But let’s say you need to cool that grain down – which you will. So, you’re going to run your fans. The question then becomes, how long will you run your fans?
Dollars and Sense
If you run your fans too long, then grain shrink steals from you. That 15% moisture content your corn had when you put it in the bin can drop to as low as 13%. Of course, there’s also the added cost in fuel and electricity for running your fans longer.
When you take your corn to the elevator to sell, if it’s below 15% moisture content they’ll tell you it is too dry. And they’ll dock your price.
In our scenario, instead of having 50,000 bushels of corn, you’ve lost 574 bushels to shrink. At a price of $3.80 per bushel, that’s a $2,183 loss.
If you don’t want to suffer the loss of shrink – and who does – how can you avoid it?
The Only Way to Manage Stored Grain Shrink
The only way you can avoid losing money to grain shrink is to know when you’ve cooled your grain down. And the only one way to know if your grain is cool enough, is with temperature monitoring cables in the bin. Temperature monitoring cables take the temperature of the grain mass, so you know when you can turn those fans off.
You’ve done everything right. You harvested your corn at the right time, dried it to 15% for on farm storage, and stored it in a clean, well-prepared bin. Now, you want to keep it in prime condition for later sale. Simply monitor the grain mass temperature, so you don’t over-cool it, strip out moisture, and lower your test rate.
Make sure you aren’t losing money to grain shrink. Ask one of our grain temperature monitoring solution specialists for a free quote. They’re ready to help you get started with the best grain temperature monitoring device for you, and provide you the tech support you need after sale.
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