On-farm storage gives graingrowers control
With the construction and commissioning of an extra 4000 tonnes of on-farm grain storage, Wimmera graingrower Justin Ruwoldt is "taking control of our own destiny".
The Ruwoldt family enterprise grows wheat, barley, canola, chickpeas, faba beans, lentils and peas at Kewell, 40 kilometres north of Horsham. Four 1000 tonne Superior Commercial Bin storages are being completed by AgHub Industries in time to receive the first of the Ruwoldts' 2014-15 harvest.
While existing grain sheds and silos provide the family with on-farm grain storage, the effects on regional receival capacity of GrainCorp's 'Project Regeneration', seasonal surges in yield and the increasing capacity of modern harvesting equipment have also increased risks around harvest time.
"The new silos add to our existing storage capacity and will give us more flexibility," Justin explained. "The whole reason you do this is for control in the market place and control of your own destiny."
"For instance, it can come back to the operational hours of the grain receival network, or the speed of the grain receival network – something like that could let you down through the season. In our case we'd like to harvest whenever we need to harvest – whenever the conditions are right – and not be reliant on a third party to receive our grain so we're 100% self sufficient," he added.
The Ruwoldts decided to increase on-farm storage capacity in May this year. All storages they considered complied well, Justin recalled.
"There's a heap of choice on the market – but the Superior bins fit the bill for us," he said.
"They're a steel unit – good quality. They're American made; we know a few people overseas who have them and speak very highly of them so we thought we'd give them a go."
It took about a week per silo to construct, plus concrete pours and curing and earthworks.
"The quotations are basically dollars per tonne for the storage. We dealt mostly with the man in Ballarat and it's been brilliant – signed the deal on-farm, correspondence was good – very accessible – it's been good."
The Ruwoldts traditionally use tractors and chaser bins, and trucks, to deliver to three main sites in the area – Glencore Grain at Dooen, AWB (GrainFlow) or Cargill at Dimboola, and Graincorp at Murtoa. Dimboola, for example, is about 40 kilometres away.
"It all adds up," Justin explained, "especially when you're trying to keep a machine going in the field. If you've got a combine cracking along there in a good day's harvesting conditions, and you're travelling 40km one way to deliver grain, that's fairly inefficient. And if you're objective is to keep the harvester going with no hold-ups – that's what's paying the bills – to get the crop off as fast as you can, put it in the bin and deal with it later."
The farm's two John Deere combine harvesters can each take in 30-50 tonnes/hour in the right circumstances – when the crop is there.
This season the need was not immediately pressing, Justin explained, we had existing storage. But in a more normal season, when crop yields would be a lot higher, if we had a hold-up or, hypothetically, in the early days of harvest a grain receival point might be open from 8.30 a.m. to 4 p.m. but our combines are still going at 4 p.m. and don't knock off until 10 p.m. – where do you put the grain that you've harvested from 4 to 10 p.m? he said.
"The whole reason you put the things up there is to be in control of your own destiny and not reliant on a third party when it matters."
"Taking control of our own destiny – that's the long and the short of what we're doing – to achieve the result that you need to, you put the crop in the bin and give yourself maximum marketing flexibility."
"You understand the product or produce you've got, you understand the quality, and you can target the specific destination or market that best fits that quality and gives you the best return."
"They now run a live bid sheet, so the prices are updated every hour. By storing on-farm we can negotiate our price and deliver our grain to the end destination, whether that be Melbourne, Geelong, Portland, to optimise our gross return."
"Farming is a series of opportunities and you've got to make the most of every single one of 'em," Justin commented.
"It's been on the cards for some time but 'Rome wasn't built in a day' and the time was right."
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