Having a weigh scale adds options
Grain producers across the country have more buyers vying for their product than ever before. As well, a wider range of crops are being produced. In this environment, an on-farm scale is increasingly valuable.
“Having your own scale gives you 100% control of your inventory,” says Christos Lygouriatis, marketing and human resource manager with XPT Grain in Regina, Sask. “You very accurately know what your inventory looks like at any given time, which opens up new opportunities to market your product to local companies or around the world.”
Prairie farmers still haul most of their small grains and oilseeds to the high-throughput elevators of major grain companies. It’s not strictly necessary to weigh each truck before it leaves the farm to know how much product was shipped. However, not knowing precisely how much a loaded truck weighs puts you at risk of incurring heavy fines if it’s accidentally overloaded.
“Having your own scale is essential, though, if you want to market grain using containers or producer cars,” says Joe Wecker, a grain and specialty crop producer from Sedley, Sask. “I think it would be almost impossible to do it without one. If you overload, a ship won’t accept them but if they are under-loaded the end buyer is going to have to pay more freight per tonne.”
Shipping companies require precise weights on grain receipts, the scale decant, the container number and the VGM (verified gross mass), Lygouriatis says. While it's possible to have this done by a third-party tracking company, the additional scaling fees increase your shipping costs.
“Having a scale very close to your yard, maybe in collaboration with other growers, is very beneficial,” Lygouriatis says. “It allows you to own that process and provides you with a lot of flexibility and options to attract international brokers, buyers, processors, food companies and land companies to your door.”
On-farm scales really come in handy when you are accepting seed and fertilizer deliveries too, Wecker says. It lets you double-check each shipment’s weight. Things can – and do – go wrong with shipments, and having your own scale helps minimize surprises.
Scales are a critical investment for large farms with diverse crop rotations, Lygouriatis says. They act as a central shipping hub and let you verify weights on incoming inputs and outgoing weights. The more specialty commodities you grow, the more you need the accuracy a scale provides.
How much does a scale cost?
A barebones, 10'x80' legal-for-trade scale with a concrete deck starts at $39,000, says Garry Burke with Strathroy Scale in Strathroy, Ont. Installation is extra. How much a construction company will charge for the pilings it sits on, and the approaches at either end, varies widely. In southwest Ontario, it would set you back roughly $16,000.
If you want a scale with the electronic bells and whistles that make using it more convenient, the cost is higher. Also, you'll need to invest another few hundred dollars every two years to get it re-certified.
If you don’t need a scale legal for trade, there are less expensive options, Burke says. Wheel-weighers go for about $3,000 per pad and are accurate within 500 kilograms. Renting a set of scales might be an option if you only need them occasionally.