Keeping storage standards
up to scratch
Upgrading the farm grain
store so it meets the
standards of grain assurance
schemes is the main
concern for most farmers.
Here John Allan
accompanies a specialist on
a farm visit to find out
what is required
MANAGEMENT time, physical effort and an upgraded records system, rather than extra expense, seem to be the key demands for farmS seeking assurance.
That was the picture to emerge when Bill Cooper and his son, Tony, had assurance specialists the Acheta Partnership visit their farm near Leicester.
"Achieving quality assured grain storage at least cost and getting farmers to recognise that stored grain is part of the food chain are my main objectives," says the companys Mike Kelly.
The Leicester western bypass slices its way alongside the Coopers farm buildings at Wanlip, so storage space is at a premium.
Rough areas surrounding a grain store harbour rats and mice, especially if there is spilt grain or cleanings. "The clear open area in front of the grain store helps keep rats down. But along the side of the building a strip of grass and weed, with an old roofing sheet, is certain to encourage them," comments Mr Kelly.
Fortunately, early spring drilling this year will leave time during March to clear weeds and sheeting away, comments Tony. "Ideally a strip should be dug out and filled with coarse hard-core, which rats dont like," adds Mr Kelly.
However, there is little evidence of recent rat activity around the store. That is attributed to regular baiting there and at a nearby straw stack as it is built.
"For all round safety, bait must be placed in proprietary bait boxes secured in position or in a tile drain that is narrow enough to prevent children and non-target animals such as pheasants, cats or dogs getting at the bait," stresses Mr Kelly.
"If you can find the rat holes it is even better to place the bait well inside, using a dedicated long-handled spoon. Rats will always eat food that is close at hand."
Bait points and dates of baiting need noting on a map as part of quality assurance, he adds. Doors on stores also need to be sound to ground level. One wooden door was metal clad at the bottom, but others needed similar treatment to help keep unbaited rats out.
Since this is a mixed farm a dedicated, uncontaminated bucket is kept for handling grain.
A pre-cleaner, continuous drier and grain reception pit are housed at the side of the grain stores, together with an area for tipping a days harvest under cover.
When harvest is over grain is cleared from the numerous nooks and crannies. "Unfortunately that clashes with autumn drilling, but it is swept down as soon as possible with a brush and the sweepings fed to our ducks," says Bill Cooper.
"An investment of £600 or so in an industrial cleaner will make for a faster and much better job, especially in awkward places like the deep elevator pit," points out Mr Kelly.
The tipping and drying area is lit by 1000W halogen floodlights, one of which had a broken protective glass. "If there is one thing a miller dreads it is broken glass. It cannot be separated by dressing. So protective covers will have to be fitted to avoid any future risk," says Mr Kelly.
Inside the stores redundant incandescent bulbs should be removed immediately to avoid any risk of glass contamination and the whole installation removed later. Newer mercury vapour lights need plastic protective shields fitting so glass is retained if a bulb shatters, comments Mr Kelly.
In one store most of the gap between wall cladding and the top of the concrete block wall was sealed against birds with metal sheeting. But one section had straw bales left after potato storage. "Straw or hay bales should never be used to retain grain. They are an ideal home for grain pests," comments Mr Kelly.
Some holed cladding sheets, an unmeshed high level exhaust fan and broken weather sheets over the door runners have also left several points where birds can get in. "Collared doves seem to come over from the livestock area," comments Mr Cooper. Once the gaps are mended the skylight roofing panels should be blacked out to further discourage birds, advises Mr Kelly.
Over the years Wanlip Farm has avoided pest problems by drying grain to 15% before storage. Grain is then blown using every third lateral duct to lower the temperature. "But we have recently had a rejection caused by an alleged foreign grain beetle infestation on a farm we manage," says Mr Cooper.
"The pests name is unfortunate because it is fungus eating and only enters stores if moulds develop," says Mr Kelly. "It is best controlled by keeping grain moisture below 15%. In contrast, grain damaging beetle and weevil infestations start within the store if it is not cleaned and chemically treated after the previous harvest, or by importation of pests on grain or animal feed lorries. But they can be controlled by keeping grain temperature below 12C," he advises.
Lateral ventilation outlets and shutters are difficult to clean with a brush, so often cause pest carry-over. "This is where a vacuum cleaner makes for an easier and better job. By using a high lift cage you can clean right up into the roof," says Mr Kelly.
Once the building and ducts are clear of loose grain and dust, Wanlip Farm uses both spray and smoke before harvest. The spray is applied by their NPTC certified operator using a hand lance fed from an ATV-mounted sprayer driven by a colleague. "A knapsack sprayer does not have enough pressure or reach," says Mr Cooper. Insect bait bags should then be put down to check that no pests have escaped the treatment.
The store also showed evidence of mouse activity in grain left near the lateral outlets as the store is emptied. "Regular baiting and trapping is the only way to control mice since they can get through a quarter inch gap. But hoovering the floor and ducts as the grain is removed will reduce the risk and clear mice after the final delivery," says Mr Kelly.
This is easy in the Wanlip Farm stores, because rough areas where the wall panels join the floor have been smoothed over with a silage clamp coating to give an easily cleaned surface.
Silage wall sealant brushed on at the junction of the retaining wall and floor gives an easily cleaned surface.
Once the store has been swept, vacuumed and chemically treated, bait bags, left down for a week before shaking over a white card, will indicate whether any pests remain.
Following a barn fire machinery storage space is at a premium and, having removed a grain-retaining barrier, the wheat is put at risk from diesel oil and soil contamination, points out Mike Kelly.
Redundant incandescent light bulbs should be removed immediately and fittings as soon as possible, advises Mike Kelly. This move will also get rid of a cobweb and dust trap.
A discarded veterinary glove is used to conceal rat bait which is hidden under the roof sheeting. The preferred and safer option is a long,. glazed tile pipe with the bait placed at the centre where it is out of the reach of non-target animals.
Acheta Partnership is running two-day workshops in Thirsk, Marlborough and Newmarket during April on pest control in grain storage. They will include risk assessment, best practice and a grain store visit. Contact: 01509-233219.
• Effective vermin control.
• Remove rat cover.
• Avoid risk of glass contamination.
• Keep machinery from grain.
• Keep straw bales from grain.
• Ensure all pests c leared before grain comes in.
lCondition grain speedily to under 15%mc and 12C.
• Use traps in grain to monitor for pests.
Sealing grain wall to RSJgaps with sacks can give a home for pests although spiders were the only evidence of wildlife.
Mike Kelly discussing the temporary fertiliser storage in the harvest tipping area, and pointing out that pressure washing will be needed before the grain comes in. The loading bucket is kept away from livestock, muck and slurry and is used solely for grain.
Keep those rats out…broken wood at the bottom of a door can be shrouded with tin sheet to control access.
This high-level exhaust fan needs a mesh cage on the outside to prevent birds getting in when the fan is switched off.
Broken weather sheets over the door runners give perfect access for birds, especially if roof skylight sheets have not been blacked out.