What Exactly Is a Bushel? The Question Turns People Into Basket Cases

Here’s a great article from the Wall Street Journal about the complexities of measuring and trading in bushels. We all use the term frequently when describing grain bin capacities, but when using the term to trade large quantities or set commodity prices, the actual calculations become quite involved and the quantity traded can become pretty ‘abstract’ as described in the article below.

The Winchester bushel, named for a British town, dates back centuries.

Picture of a bushel of soybeans

Prices of agricultural commodities are quoted that way, even though many have never actually come across the baskets; ‘kind of an abstract amount’

Soybean prices have long been quoted in bushels at the Chicago Board of Trade.

Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

Lucy Craymer

Trade tensions between the U.S. and China this year have caused gyrations in soybean prices, which recently climbed above $9 a bushel. They also have people buried in soybean math.

Prices of agricultural commodities have for decades been quoted in bushels at the Chicago Board of Trade, yet many traders and farmers have never actually come across soybeans in the quaint wooden basket that has existed for centuries.

“Most people haven’t seen a bushel basket—I never have,” said Anthony Stinton, a soybean meal trader in Greeley, Colo. Scrawled on a yellow sticky-note on his computer is a formula he punches into a calculator multiple times a day to convert metric tons of soybeans grown in Brazil into their American bushel equivalent. “It’s kind of an abstract amount,” Mr. Stinton said.

A bushel of soybeans is roughly enough dry beans to fill eight gallons or 2,150.42 cubic inches of space, the capacity of a traditional bushel basket. That is the equivalent of 60 pounds of soybeans. In the Bible, bushels were used as containers for grains, seeds and flour. At farm stands and markets, bushels can be found filled with apples, crabs and raw vegetables. The phrase “a bushel and a peck” is fairly well known thanks to a popular “Guys and Dolls” song. (A peck is a quarter of a bushel, or eight quarts.)

commodity trader keeps the conversion rates for soybeans and corn stuck to his computer.

commodity conversion rate formulas

Trader Anthony Stinton keeps the conversion rates for soybeans and corn stuck to his computer. Photo: Anthony Stinton

In the commodities world, they are a mathematical headache. Ariel Haendler, global head of soybean trading at Chinese state-owned trading giant Cofco International, said he always carries a calculator when he attends strategy discussions with colleagues and uses it to convert metric weights into bushels. (1 metric ton of soybeans = 36.74 bushels.)

During those meetings, there is “always a 10-second break when we make these big calculations on these calculators going back and forth like we’re in the fourth grade,” said the Swiss-based American trader. Even though Mr. Haendler has the formula memorized, getting the numbers wrong could be potentially costly, he added.

To help market participants with their math, CME Group Inc., which operates the Chicago Board of Trade, has a 44-page pocket guide that includes scores of weight-conversion tables for a range of commodities.

For example, it recommends that to convert 11,000 metric tons of soybeans to bushels, users can simply add the conversions for 10,000 metric tons (367,437 bushels) and 1,000 metric tons (36,744 bushels) to get the total of 404,181 bushels of soybeans. Each soybean futures contract is made up of 5,000 bushels.

On the Scott family farm in Delphi, Ind., there isn’t a bushel to be found. “It’s just an idea in our head,” says Brian Scott, who grows soybeans with his father and grandfather along with corn and wheat. “We think in bushels but they don’t really measure in bushels,” he said.

Soybean farmer in Indiana.
Brian Scott grows soybeans on the family farm in Indiana. Photo: Brian Scott

Instead, trucks are filled to the brim with commodities and sent to a depot to be weighed before the produce is sold to trading firms. ”When you deliver, they measure in pounds,” Mr. Scott said, noting they give a receipt with a bushel measurement too. One truckload of beans weighs roughly 1,000 bushels, he says.

America remains an outlier holding on to the old imperial, or U.S. customary system, of pounds and acres when the rest of the world has largely shifted to the metric system of kilograms and hectares. Other countries that use the imperial system include Liberia and Myanmar. In addition to bushels, the U.S. also uses pecks and lugs, which are wooden boxes of no standard size.

Traders say the challenge with bushels is that they are a measurement of volume, so the weight of whatever is in it varies depending on the commodity. While soybeans and wheat weigh roughly the same, corn is slightly lighter.

“If I take the price of Chicago wheat and I want to know what it means for the rest of the world, I multiply it by 36.7437,” said Chris Bird, a senior global wheat trader at Engelhart Commodities Trading Partners, without missing a beat. As he has to do the conversion 20 or 30 times a day, “I have it set up on my screen to do it but honestly I could almost do it in my head,” he added.

He wasn’t so quick with commodities he doesn’t trade. “Corn is 39 something-something-something…” Mr. Bird said. “It’s very random.”

There’s also confusion between Canadian and U.S. bushels, which have different capacities. The latter is also known as the Winchester bushel—named after a British town—first mentioned in a law in the 17th century and was defined as a barrel that is 18-1/2 inches wide and 8 inches deep. The measurement was abolished by the English in 1835, a year before the U.S. Department of Treasury adopted it as a unit of measure.

The Winchester bushel, named for a British town, dates back centuries.

picture of a bushel

The Winchester bushel, named for a British town, dates back centuries. Photo: SSPL/Getty Images

FarmLead, a Canadian-based online marketplace for soybeans, wheat and other commodities trades, has a calculator on its website for customers to convert pounds, tons or other measures to American bushels. The soybeans currently for sale on its site are stored in a flat bottom bin.

Before deals are done, people often need to “scribble out their math” or “double check the conversion” to make sure buyers and sellers are talking about the same amounts, said Alain Goubau, the company’s chief operating and financial officer. At the end of the day, traders have little choice but to hew to the American system, he said, adding: “It comes down to—do you want to be right or do you want to do business?”

Brian Rohrig’s hog farm outside Des Moines, Iowa, sometimes uses physical bushels made of aluminum to measure soybean meal before it is mixed into feed for the pigs.

The bushel baskets are a decent volume gauge, said Mr. Rohrig, but there’s one downside: they are much heavier than a five-gallon pail. The machine his farm uses to mix animal feed now has its own weighing scale, so there is less need for the bushels, he added.

loading soybeans into a truck

loading soybeans into a truck

Soybeans unloaded onto a truck in Illinois. Photo: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News

Lucy Craymer at Lucy.Craymer@wsj.com

 

Barn World Livestock Supplies

Livestock Product Videos

Facebooktwitteryoutube

How to Choose A Cattle Guard

Benefits of Cattle Guards

The benefits of having cattle guards on your property drastically outweighed the one-time burden of installation. How do you choose what design would be best for your operation? It commonly boils down to choosing between the style of the top pipe:  round or flat and the type of traffic that will be using it.


cattle guard on concrete foundations  cattle guard being removed from steel box

Round pipe cattle guards

Physical Barrier Characteristics:

The most aggressive of the steel cattle guards are made with round top pipe and provide a substantial physical livestock barrier. Its curved surface provides the least stable footing possible so your cattle can’t find a balanced or sturdy place to put their weight. The hoof will rock forward or backward and give the most uncomfortable footing possible that’s almost impossible to balance on.

Even if one of your animals does attempt to try a step on a top rail, the experience of the unsettling instability will make them turn the other way and they won’t bother to test it again. The inability to find stable footing on a round-pipe is the most effective physical deterrent besides a gate.

Visual deterrent:

Both round and flat pipe cattle guards provide a visual deterrent in addition to their physical barrier. They are traditionally mounted on concrete footings like a bridge which creates an open vaulted area underneath.  The drop under the top rails provides a visual cue of depth that in itself, can prevent cattle from attempting to cross.

There have been studies done with visual illusions painted on flat asphalt that resulted in cattle turning away even though the surface was perfectly flat. Researchers painted the illusion of pipes and a corresponding shadow to create the illusion of depth. When the cattle were exposed to the artwork, they assumed it was an unstable and elevated and did not attempt to cross.

This optical trick worked for a limited amount of time but eventually did break down after a few days as one of the cattle (the bravest apparently) did place a hoof on it and eventually crossed. The others soon followed and the illusion barrier on it’s own, was defeated.

Boxes for cattle guards:

Barn World offers round pipe cattle guards that have the option of being permanently boxed, an option for laying directly on the ground, or with a removable box for cleaning underneath.

Permanent box 

A steel skirt welded is all the way around the exterior, it may be placed directly on the ground. The permanent box keeps dirt from creeping when used without a foundations. It does not bear any weight and is only there to prevent dirt from creeping underneath. The design is simply laid on the ground with a dirt ramp up on either side for vehicle crossings. It’s very popular for low traffic areas and for use in construction sites as wash-outs and rumble strips. It can be used to clean construction equipment before going out on a public roadway.

Removable box

The standalone box stays in the ground so you can lift the guard and clean underneath.  The design keeps the surrounding area from being disturbed! It’s a nice feature that allows for a complete cleaning if you have the equipment to lift the guard.

The round pipe design is available in an economical private-use or in a highway rating. The HS20, public highway rating is 16 tons per axle and require for use in public roadway projects.

Flat Pipe Cattle Guards

The flat pipe provides the benefit of allowing high-speed traffic to cross more smoothly than a round pipe design. The pipe is flat on top with a large space between each rail. This design is still very effective against hoofs but provides high speed vehicles a smoother ride.

flat pipe cattle guard with concrete foundations

flat pipe cattle guard with concrete foundations

These cattle grids are also available to ship with precast concrete cattle guard foundations that can be lowered directly into the ground without the need for pouring concrete on site. The foundations come with anchor bolts already poured in them. The grid may bolted down to the concrete in the field. The precast foundations are useful in remote areas where concrete is not available.

Flat top pipe guards are available in a wide variety of load ratings for all types of different projects:

Flat Top Pipe Load Rating Availability

H-15 (12 tons per axle)
H-20 (16 tons per axle)
U-54 (25 tons per axle)
U-80 (30 tons per axle)

Secure your livestock and provide easy access to pastures with the right cattle guards for your property. You don’t always need to open a close a gate to keep your animals secure!

For more information or for help with planning, please let us know and we’ll be happy to help. Sales@BarnWorld.com or (720) 238-2190. Check out our Livestock Youtube Channel!

Facebooktwitteryoutube

Collapsing hay feeders – a unique design from Tarter

Flexible Round Bale Feeder for Cattle

Feeding with a traditional livestock bale feeder doesn’t present much of a challenge out in the middle of your pasture. You’ll typically take the tractor, drop the hay inside and call it an afternoon, after all this is how it has been done for years. Like all livestock equipment suppliers, we carry a large inventory of the traditional hay feeders, but we came across this new design from Tarter and think it’s worth a look!

Trouble with Traditional Hay Feeders

The problem with a large fixed ring hay feeder is that once your livestock eat the outer layers of the bale, the bale shrinks in size to the point where they can’t reach it anymore. The hay is just out of reach and all it does is entice them to lean against the feeder. This of course leads to metal bending and even cattle climbing inside the feeder to finish off the bale in the center. This can lead to injury and the exciting struggle of trying to help them out!

The ‘Flex Feeders’ are uniquely designed to shrink in size as the bale get smaller and allow your animals to eat the bale entirely. Each of the panels of these feeder are hinged like a door so that when leaned upon, instead of bending, they will actually slide inward around the remaining bale to provide consistent access until it is gone.

Cattle and Horse Hay Feeder Designs

The cattle feeder is made with a top bar all the way around the vertical bars while the horse design is open at the top. See the pictures and videos below for each style and consider this feeder the next time you’re looking for a new bale feeder. This unique design is worth exploring!

As always, if we can help with anything at all, call us at (720) 238-2190, email Sales@BarnWorld.com or visit our website at BarnWorld.com today!

Collapsible Cattle Feeder


Flexible Round Bale Feeder for Cattle

 

collapsible hay feeder

Flexible Cattle Hay Feeder Video

Cattle Hay Feeder Review

Most of the traditional hay feeders out on the market are just a solid, metal round ring. This closed top flex feeder for cattle has a closed ring around the top for extra strength and is built in multiple, flexible sections. At each section, it’s hinged together almost like a door so as cows consume the hay bale, the flex feeder actually closes around the size of hay that remains inside the feeder as it shrinks.

This feeder makes sure all the hay is accessible

What this allows you to do, no matter the size of the remaining bale or the herd size you have, is give you animals access to your hay not matter the remaining size.  The pressure that your animals put on the panels causes the feeder to shrink to the size of the bale. This is nice because as opposed to your traditional, fixed, round bale feeders, the flexible panels won’t get crushed and bent as your animals try to get to the last bit a hay remaining in the center of the feeder. Some traditional feeders can get absolutely destroyed in a matter of hours by larger livestock leaning against the fixed feeder walls.

Hinges are the key!

With the closed top flex feeder, when pressure is applied to the panels, the hinges allow it to slide inward and closer to the hay bale so your livestock have access and eat until the bale is completely gone. The hinged sections are designed with safety in mind and are perfectly safe for all of your farm and ranch animals.

The flexible panel feeder will make you happy as well because your cattle going to make cleanup of that remaining hay effortless and minimize any waste, saving you hay.

The benefit of the flex feeder is that it allows the cattle to get to that last bite of hay. Nothing is inaccessible and wasted and the feeder will serve 8-10 head of cattle.

 

The Flexible Horse Hay Feeder

Collapsing Horse Hay Feeder

Flexible horse hay feeder collapses around large hay bales.

Flexible Horse Hay Feeder Video

Hay Feeder Review

This adjustable feeder is built for both livestock and horses to have easy access to large bales from when the bale starts out large and uneaten, all the way down to the smaller size when consumed. The pin and loop connections are safe for horses and make it easy to set up. The panels move easily when the bale gets smaller. This provides access as it’s consumed. The sides are moved inward by your animals under normal feeding pressures. The strong frame is made with steel, 1-3/4″ steel tubing and the hay-saving steel skirt keeps loose hay from being trampled. Keep your large bales accessible not matter the changing size with this unique design from Tarter.

If you have any questions on the feeder or if you’d like a quote with shipping to your address, please let us know and we’ll be happy to forward one for your review.

Barn World | Sales@BarnWorld.com | 720.238.2190

 

 

Facebooktwitteryoutube