Because the markets for small grains require that farmers produce good yields, and also good grain quality, storage is particularly important. Fortunately, most farmers who raise corn and soybeans usually have the equipment and facilities on their farm to keep small grains in good condition after harvest. In this episode of Rotationally Raised, members of Practical Farmers of Iowa share some of their experiences with small grains handling, cleaning and storage.
Small grains storage tips
One thing that makes oats different from other crops is the “sweat” stage post-harvest. “Oats will naturally go through what’s called a ‘sweat.’ That is, they get hot, after the crop is harvested,” says Ron Rosmann, who farms at Harlan, in western Iowa. Ensuring that the oats can somehow breathe during that time period helps ensure that they don’t spoil. One way this was accomplished historically was by storing oats in wooden bins. Today, if they are being stored in metal bins, proper aeration is critical.
“I will absolutely put air on them every time,” says Wade Dooley, farming at Albion, in central Iowa. “That’s because I don’t want to have hot spots. I don’t want to have any mistakes. I’m raising oats not just as an undifferentiated commodity like corn; I’m raising oats for my own usage as seed. So I have to keep the germination up. I don’t want to lose germination on a good crop and then make it into a lousy crop just because I didn’t store it right.”
Separating chaff from grain
For selling small grains as a commodity – to a wheat market in Kansas City or organic oats to Grain Millers in St. Ansgar for example—the grain likely doesn’t need any more cleaning than what’s done with a combine. But Darren Fehr, farming near Mallard in northwest Iowa, says you might be able to pick up a little test weight by handling and cleaning.
“By the time we finish auguring, and running our oats through grain driers or just handling the oats in general, we’ll pick up a few more pounds of test weight,” he says. “It’s just separation of chaff from the good grain.” Fehr sells oats to Grain Millers.
He says using air during the handling process also helps clean the grain, whether it’s running the fan on the bin when you put the oats in, or using air systems to move the grain.
Some markets require cleaning
But some markets—such as oats for cover crop seed or specialty feed or food grade markets—may require some additional cleaning.
Earl Hafner and his son Jeff run Early Morning Harvest, a farm business that mills various grains into flour near Panora. Getting a spotless grain to start the milling process is important for high quality flour. Hafner recently upgraded from a smaller two-screen cleaner to a larger, 298D Clipper cleaner. (You can find more information about this model at Commodity Traders International.)
The machine is certainly not new—Hafner bought it used and fixed it up a bit. “If you get it set right, it does an excellent job,” he says. He also runs the cleaner on grains that he’ll use for cover crop seed.
Thus, Fehr sells oats to Grain Millers, Dooley uses his small grains for cover crop seed, and the Hafners mill flour, but how else can you economically use a crop of small grains? On next week’s episode or Rotationally Raised (Episode 9), we’ll talk about small grains markets. For more information on small grains, check out practicalfarmers.org/small-grains.
Editor’s Note: Ohde is the research and media coordinator for Practical Farmers of Iowa.