2 June 1995

PRECISION IN FARMING NEEDS MARKET NOUS

PRECISION farming isnt much use unless it is accompanied by precision marketing. And to achieve that growers need to check grain quality and match it to market demand when selling.

That is the policy at fast-expanding Bedfordia Grain Services, based at Milton Ernest, near Bedford. Much of its new business comes from growers using the companys sophisticated processing facility to enhance their samples.

"But to make the most of your grain and process it effectively youve got to know what you have at the start, so you can segregate it in store," explains manager Amanda Dunn.

Different demands

"Then, before you judge how to improve it, you need to know what the market needs. Different years bring different demands. You need to know the premiums before you decide what to do and that means talking to merchants to get a current view."

There are plenty of options for improving the quality of grain, says Mrs Dunn. They include on-farm blending, which could help where high and low protein wheat has been kept separate. Alternatively, an independent processor could do the job for £3.25/t, with negligible weight loss.

Grain damping in a dry harvest can also be worthwhile, provided grain is drier than 13% moisture. "But I wouldnt recommend growers do this themselves, and hauling to a professional plant is not likely to be cost effective. But if the grain is there anyway, damping could cost £1/t and bring a £3/t benefit."

Screenings and admix can also be removed. "There is some speculation that we could have a low bushel weight harvest. If it is and screenings need removing an independent operator could help."

Well worthwhile

Bedfordia figures suggest it would cost £6/t to drop a sample to 4% screenings, plus £3/t for a 0.5% physical weight loss and lost premium on the tailings and £3.50/t for local haulage. Set against a potential premium of £35/t that is well worthwhile, she comments.

In a wet season, or where ergot is a problem, gravity separating can lift milling wheat quality. Cost would be £8/t, plus £3.50/t for haulage, £1.80/t for 1.5% weight loss and £1.20/t for the lost premium on 6% tailings. Assuming a potential premium of £20/t that leaves a £5.50/t margin.

To help farmers handle grain quality better this summer, Bedfordia will be offering pre-paid sample bags at Cereals 95. "All the grower has to do is sample carefully, put the grain in the bag and pop it in the post. Its a lot easier than hunting for a padded envelope at harvest."