Storage adds muscle to harvest performance

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A man standing among storage silos

Jason Orchin is happy with his investment in an advanced grain-storage facility.

PHOTO: Clarisa Collis

Northern NSW growers Jason and Lisa Orchin reflect the increasing sophistication of grain growing with their $4 million investment in infrastructure that has increased harvest efficiency and given them more control over marketing. Such is the couple’s confidence in their on-farm grain receival depot – comprising new silos and a weighbridge – that they expect to recoup their investment in the next five years. In lifting the performance and profitability of their 12,958-hectare grains operation at Weemelah, 92 kilometres north-west of Moree, they estimate the new system has provided a 17 per cent return on their investment since its completion in 2011. 

The cost-benefits stemming from the silo and weighbridge complex on their property are split between two areas of the farm business – production and marketing – which Jason and Lisa manage respectively. Jason’s focus is the cropping program and machinery operations, and he has seen profit gains from better harvesting efficiency. For Lisa, the cost-benefits of the new system, which includes eight 1500-tonne silos, two 2000t silos, an elevated 340t silo, plus a weighbridge, centre on the grain-marketing side of the business, which she oversees. Jason says automated aeration in two 1500t silos has enabled them to harvest grain at higher moisture levels, avoiding price penalties resulting from downgraded grain quality in wet conditions. The 16,340t storage facility, matched to the Orchins’ annual production capacity, has also improved operational efficiency because they no longer need to cart grain beyond the farm gate during harvest. 

Sidestepping this requirement means Jason can concentrate on using the couple’s five B-single trucks to transfer grain into storage, instead of using road transport contractors to haul grain away as it is harvested. The option of delaying grain transport has further reduced expenditure on carting to the local receival depot, which is about $12/t in the peak harvest period and $6/t in the off-season. Apart from assisting the Orchins to pursue better commodity prices because they now have the flexibility to sell grain throughout the year, Lisa says the increased storage capacity has also resulted in better market access. 

“The ability to segregate grain between six silos means we can blend, targeting specific protein and moisture levels,” Lisa says. 

The weighbridge, registered for on-farm trade, has further facilitated grain trading direct from the farm for an ex-farm price that eliminates transport costs and the $20/t cost of ‘in and out fees’ at the local grains receival depot. 

“The weighbridge also brings marketing opportunities to our property because many buyers prefer to pick up grain on-farm rather than from grain receival depots,” she says.

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Infrastructure investment sharpens business acumen

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GRDC commits to future of mixed-farming RD&E

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