Prep Week: Keeping track of what's where

Yesterday we talked about keeping a written/physical record of your fields. Capturing what is in your head into a cohesive record allows everyone in the operation to easily access the size, shape and location of your fields. However, it doesn’t stop there. Another key component of planning is what to plant on each field.


The first round of planning 2019 crop rotations happened months ago. This round of planning involves making adjustments based on:

  1. Marketing predictions

  2. Winter weather to date (considering things like moisture levels, snow cover and conditions for fall-seeded crops)

  3. Availability of seed (based on changes from suppliers or changes in your requirements due to #1 and 2)

Crop Rotation Worksheet.PNG

"Rotation Planning is fluid right up until the seed is in the ground.

Our crop rotation plan is fluid and flexible right up until the seed is in the ground, and even then sometimes we are forced to re-seed a field. In this case we may choose to re-seed with the same crop or an entirely different crop, based on the timing, weather forecast and seed availability. Our planning tool is just a guide to help us communicate. February is a great time to revisit it and update it with any changes that you might already have in mind.

We keep a multi-year planning record as well as a quick “cheat sheet” with just this year’s planned rotation. Let us know if you have any planning tools that you use to record and communicate your cropping plans. Drop us a comment or message us directly! Think spring! #Plant19 is just a few months away.

Grain Bin Monitoring - Another Green Book Find


There are a LOT of options for monitoring your grain once it is in the bin.  Rather than re-write the book, today we are sharing some links to give you an overview of the options available to you.  In reality, it is highly likely that there may be a combination of monitoring options that are right for your operation, depending on factors like if you use bins or bags and if you rent or own.

Check out these articles, which summarize some bin sensor technologies:
Top Crop Manager:

Western Producer:

Also, Green Book 2018 pg 232 and 249 show two examples of bin monitoring options.

As always - leave us a comment if you have had an experience, positive or negative, with bin sensor technology.  Or email us at or

Bin Innovation - Another Green Book Find

Grain storage is top of mind as we plan our storage strategies.  For some farms, this fall has felt more like winter, with early snow making harvest difficult.  For other farms, harvest seems to have been finished long ago and now bin site management is top of mind as they monitor the conditions and locations of their stored grain.  Either way, on farm storage plays a key role in the workload throughout the fall and winter months. Here are two grain bin gadgets to check out:

  • LevALERT (pg 226)  This visual indicator allows you to monitor the amount of material in your bin without worrying about dust build up on a viewing window or having to climb a ladder.  It operates mechanically and can be used to indicate both when bins are getting full or empty. Strategically placed indicators can allow the lead time necessary to plan your next storage-related actions.  Check out for details.

  • After market bin lids (pg 224)  Adjusting bin lids without climbing ladders saves time and improves safety.  After market options can transform your flat bottom bins and allow you to stay on the ground as you close, fully open or partially open your bin lids.

Every farmer wants to get their grain (or other materials) into the bin.  While it can be a huge relief to get crops out of the field and into a safe home, this isn’t the end of the story.  Having the right tools to help with storage can save time and money and keep you safe.

Let us know if you have used the LevALERT system or have a favorite after market bin lid… drop us a comment or email or

Stay tuned for a look at bin sensor technologies tomorrow.

The Grain Train

On May 22, Bill C-49, the Transportation Modernization Act, was passed.  This past week the air passenger rights public consultation took place in Winnipeg, and was full of people telling stories and making requests for the development of rules and regulations around the rights of air travellers.  While Karen could comment extensively on this aspect of the  bill, farmers are directly impacted by the portions of the bill focusing on rail transportation, or the current lack-thereof.


This week we are scheduled to load a semi of canola.  This is a normal farm activity and generally, not noteworthy enough to write about.  Except for the fact that this canola was supposed to be long-gone by now.  We had a contract for delivery in April/May for three loads of canola, but here we are, still storing those three loads of canola as we flip the calendar to July.

This happens because rail transportation is responsible for moving the bulk of Canadian crops from local elevators to ports and global markets.  Local elevators can only take grain from farmers until they are at capacity, and then they wait for a train to come.  If the trains do not come as anticipated, then the local elevator cannot take any more product, regardless of the date on the contract with the farmer.

Why does this matter?

·         Storage – Grain that is in a farmer’s bins, and not at the elevator, becomes a problem when it is time to harvest a new crop but last year’s crop is still taking up bin space. 

·         Work flow – Farmers give consideration to overall work flow when contracting grain.  The goal is to schedule deliveries so that they are distributed as part of an overall work plan.

·         Cash flow – Farm income depends on moving grain out of storage and to the elevator so that farmers can get paid.

Farmers recognize that they are one part of a huge transportation network and complex supply chain.  News stories about rail car shortages often do not translate these complexities down to the impacts on the individual farmer.  For farmers, transportation shortfalls affect storage, work flow and cash flow.  These unexpected challenges represent added stress for farmers as they get swallowed up as part of this huge system.  As #harvest18 approaches, farmers will be watching for rail companies to publish action plans and contingency plans as required by C-49.

Marketing in March?

March is the month to move grain.  Spring seeding is just around the corner and once the seeder is going, no one wants to take time to haul last fall’s grain to the elevator.  March is also the month where the ground is (maybe) still frozen enough to haul before road restrictions are in place.  So, that begs the question, is March the best month to sell grain.  The answer is, well maybe… But selling and hauling don’t have to happen at the same time.


Grain marketing is a mix of art and science.  There is no one perfect time to sell grain – there are certainly times when prices peak, but that isn’t the only factor.  When selling (pricing) grain, farmers consider:

·         Delivery period – Farmers consider when they will be allowed to haul their contracted grain to the elevator?  This is important because of bin space and cash flow.

·         Price trends – Farmers consider when, typically, the price for any given crop peaks.  There are general cycles based on factors such as other worldwide top volume producing locations.

·         Risk tolerance – Farmers consider their willingness to enter into contracts for crops that are not harvested (or sometimes even planted) yet.  Some farmers are comfortable forward pricing while other farmers only sell crops that are harvested and in the bin.

·         Contract variety – Farmers consider a variety of marketing tools at their disposal; various types of contracts are designed to minimize downside risk or capture upside potential.  Growers must decide how much time they wish to invest in learning about various types of contracts.

Farmers must weigh a variety of factors when making their grain marketing decisions.  So, back to marketing in March; strategic grain marketing (selling/pricing) and moving grain are not the same thing.  Check back tomorrow to see some of the marketing sources we use at Vallotton Farms.