Harvest is the stage of the farming calendar that poses the most risk for arable businesses. From keeping everyone safe on a busy farm to getting your crops into the store in the right condition; attention to detail is key.
There's no doubt that the ease in which a grain sampler can turn up on farm during harvest, take a sample from your heap using a spear and send it back to the lab for testing is a quick way to obtain the specification of the grain. It's simple, stress-free and convenient at a time of the year when any offer to take the pressure off is gratefully received. But is it really the best way to ensure a representative sample of your grain?
Self sampling on the farm
For those who don't already do it, I would like to propose the idea of self-sampling as you harvest. Now I know this sounds like I'm asking you to do more work when you simply don't have the time, but really the whole process will likely tie in well with what you're already doing on farm and there are benefits – so hear me out.
The biggest challenge when it comes to grain sampling is obtaining an as representative sample as possible, without putting the whole shed in a sample bag. The grain spears used by a sampler are much better than scooping a sample off the top of a heap, but if you were very unlucky the spear could find the only wet columns in the shed, and you might then run the whole lot through the grain drier. Let's be honest, a more representative sample could be taken, providing more accurate results.
The best opportunity to obtain this representative sample of the whole store is to take incremental samples as you fill your grain store. For us on the farm at home this is simple – a scoop from every telehandler bucket which is taken and tipped into an old ice-cream container (ever-resourceful), and after a number of buckets have been moved we mix the tub up and pour it into a sample bag. It takes a matter of seconds to take the scoop from each bucket load we move, and not much longer to fill up the sample bags every now and again.
Best practice advice for crops destined for the food chain is to take one aggregate sample every 50 tonnes. In other words, in a 1,000 tonne store at least 20 samples should be taken.For non-food it is one sample every 100 tonnes.
Better sampling; better marketing
This isn't just about the satisfaction of knowing your sample results are more accurate. It enables you to market your grain better once it is in the store. The more you know about the grain in your shed, the better approach you can have to finding the right home and maximising the value of the crop you have spent a whole year producing.
Unless you sample every grain that goes in the store, you can never be 100% sure what is in there. But the more representative sample you take, the more likely you are for your sample results to be an accurate representation of your grain store.
I mentioned before that keeping everyone safe on the farm must receive attention to detail. Recent HSE figures tragically showed that 39 people, including two children, were killed outright or fatally injured while working on British farms last year. Whoever is sampling on your farm this harvest, keeping them safe must be the first priority. At Frontier, we ask everyone working in areas with moving machinery to wear a hi-vis vest to make sure they can be seen easily. Many farmers already adopt this practice and it's one simple, low cost way we can all help manage risk on farm. I'd urge those that don't to consider it.
So this harvest grab a hi vis vest, dig out an ice cream tub and get sampling! It's all about risk management.
Alternatively get in touch with us to contact your local Frontier farm trader.