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Grain pits proving popular on Central Tablelands

With farmers gearing up for a big summer crop harvest on the Central Tablelands, there has been a spike in inquiries from farmers about the use of underground storage pits for feed grain, reports Brett Littler from Central Tablelands Local Land Services.

“The full extent of weather and frost damage in this season’s crops will soon become apparent when harvest gets underway. Prices aren’t particularly attractive for downgraded grain, even if the feed value is still good,” said Brett.

“Storing downgraded grain and using it to finish high value stock can be a cost effective way to value add a product that wouldn’t otherwise bring in a great return.”

“Storing grain in underground pits can provide good, cheap storage, suitable for all grain types.  However it’s critical to select the right site and to ensure the grain is properly sealed inside 200 micron plastic sheets.”

Hill sites are preferable for storage pits, although flat areas can be used in clay soils with careful attention to ensure plastic sheets at the bottom of the pit seals out water. Stony areas should be avoided as stones can puncture the plastic.

Pits shouldn’t be more than three metres wide at the top. This allows soil covering and removal with a front end loader without driving on the grain. Grain also stays cooler, which aids in safe storage.

The total size of the pits should ideally match silo capacity. When the pit is opened, grain can then be immediately transferred to the silos, reducing the risk of weather damage.

Cereal grain should contain less than 12 percent moisture before it’s loaded into the pit, and the sides of pit need to be lined with plastic just ahead of the grain as the filling occurs.

Farmers are warned to take particular care with safety when loading grain into the pit. If the pit walls collapse, serious accidents and injuries can result.

If using old grain pits insecticides should be used to ‘clean’ the pit to prevent damage by weevils. In a freshly dug pit, insecticide is not necessary if the grain is uncontaminated.

According to Brett Littler, once you have the grain in the pit, one of the best tips for successful storage is to add a layer of plastic over the grain, and then add hay over the top of the plastic, before covering with dirt.

“The hay will help to stop dirt from getting into the grain when the grain is eventually removed from the pit, reducing potential contamination,” said Brett.

Brett Littler also advises getting the grain quality tested before you start loading it into the pit.

“It makes sense to determine the true feed value of the grain before you put time and effort into storage,” concluded Brett.

For more information on how to get the best from your livestock on crops or grain feeding, call Brett Littler at Local Land Services’ Mudgee office on 02 6378 1700.

Media enquiries: Kylie Krause | 0439608370