Floodwaters have soaked many grain bins on farms and at commercial elevators. With only a few exceptions, flood-soaked grain is not useable for feed or food, says Charles Hurburgh, an Iowa State University grain quality expert and director of the Iowa Grain Quality Initiative at ISU. Flooding affects both the stored grain and the storage structures.
"Flood damaged grain is adulterated grain because of the potential for many contaminants to enter through the water," he explains. "This grain should be destroyed, never blended. Contact local public health and sanitation officials for the best disposal process in your area."
Water coming up from tiles and pits is just as suspect because storm and sanitary sewers are usually compromised in floods. Even field tile water may contain animal waste products, high chemical levels and other contaminants.
Guidelines for handling damaged grain
Hurburgh, along with ISU animal science professor Dan Loy, offer the following guidelines and recommendations for handling and using flood-damaged grain. Loy has research and Extension responsibilities in livestock nutrition.
* Corn will stay at 30% moisture after the water drains off; soybeans about 25% moisture. The moisture won't travel more than a few inches above the floodline.
* Good grain on top of flooded grain must be removed from the top or side, not down through the damaged grain. Remove all the good grain possible before doing anything with the bad portion.
* Toxins are likely in rewetted grain. Warm wet conditions are ideal for mold growth. Soaked grain will spoil within a day or two at high moisture and summer temperatures.
* Rain damaged grain (ie: where the roof was taken off) can be saved by drying and cleaning. This grain should be tested for mycotoxins before use. Use reconditioned grain immediately.
* Take care not to track or mix mud or gravel from flooded grounds into good grain during salvage operations. These materials are potentially toxic for the same reasons as the floodwaters.
* FDA allows for reconditioning (washing and drying at high temperatures) in cases where the flood water did not remain long and it is known that the water did not contain contaminants. This situation would be very rare, to know that floodwater was clean.
Tips for dealing with grain structures
* Grains swell when wet so bin damage is likely; more so with soybeans than corn. Bolts can shear or holes elongate. Look for signs such as stretched caulking seals, doors misaligned or similar structural problems.
* Check bins with stirring devices carefully. The bin must be perfectly round for them to work correctly. Also, remember that bin foundations can shift, float or deteriorate from flooding. Inspect structures and foundations carefully, and have an engineering evaluation for larger bins.
* Expect electric wiring, controls and fans to be ruined. Do not energize wet components. Be sure the power is off before touching any electrical components of flooded systems. Keep in mind that wood structures will be hard hit and may retain mold and contaminants.
* Clean the facilities and ground around the bins completely. Then do a careful food safety inspection before returning facilities to operation. Maintain a record of your cleaning operations.
Can you salvage any of the grain?
In the rare situations where the water was not contaminated, the grain may be reconditioned. If the grain is to be sold, reconditioning has to be done with the written consent of FDA. For feed on site, farmers have three alternatives:
- Dry the grain
- Feed it immediately to their livestock
- Ensile the grain for livestock feed
Decisions need to be made quickly. The good grain should be removed immediately, again not down through the soaked grain. No flooded grain can be sold to the market without approval of FDA, to document its reconditioning and intended use.
There is no problem, other than spoilage within a day or two, with using uncontaminated soaked corn as a livestock feed. Just replace the corn in the animals' current diet with the wet corn. Remember to adjust amounts fed for moisture.
Wet, whole soybeans can be fed to cattle if the soybeans are limited to 10% to 12% of the ration's dry matter. Soybeans substitute well for the protein in soybean meal, but they need to be fed with a vitamin-mineral-additive premix if substituted for a complete protein supplement.
It is not necessary to heat-treat the soybeans for cattle. Also, if adding whole soybeans to diets high in distillers grains, watch the total ration fat content. For hogs, raw soybeans can only be fed to mature sows. The soybeans need to be heat treated if fed to younger pigs.