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

 

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PRESS RELEASE:  JULY 10, 2012

Barn World adds PolyDome products to line of livestock supplies

Tuesday, 10 July 2012 12:01
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BarnWorld.com, the online mega-store for livestock supplies like cattle guards and hay feeders, has expanded their already extensive selection to include a line of polyethylene plastic products.

The new large selection expands the wide range of farm and ranch supplies including bulk grain bins, lick feeders, mineral feeders, calf nurseries,and feeders.

The calf nursery line is designed with superior ventilation to separate calves, promote healthy lung growth, prevent disease and allow the calf to develop to its fullest potential.

“BarnWorld.com is always looking for better, animal friendly products and suppliers to increase the selection available to customers,” said Rob Moore, owner of Barn World. “Environmentally friendly, polyethylene products are the future of livestock supplies.”

“Greater selection helps customers get exactly what they need at a fair price. We are always available by phone to help customers choose the right size bulk grain bins, hay feeders, mineral feeders and cattle guards for the type of livestock they are working with.”

Polyethylene plastic is a great choice for livestock items. The material is impact resistant and can withstand both temperature extremes and corrosive chemicals.Polyethylene has an easy-to-clean, slippery surface and can be recycled. Products are mostly one piece with no sharp edges or seams to injure livestock. Polyethylene is also lightweight, making products easier to move and less expensive to ship.

The polyurethane bulk grain bins particularly well-suited to high moisture materials like corn and soybeans. end_mark

Barn World, your online livestock supply and cattle guard headquarters.  Call (720) 238-2190 or visit www.barnworld.com today!

Grain Bins: Barn World now offers plastic grain bins

Barn World Logo

Grain Bins from Barn World

Barn World now carries a large selection of Poly Grain Bins.

Poly Grain Bins are a fantastic feed bin design and are perfect for handling highmoisture soybeans, corn and granular materials. These feed bins are a polyethylene grain bin constructed with a high-density polyethylene they won’t corrode or rust. and will always be attractive and clean. 

The interior surface is a very smooth two-piece construction that reduces bridging.  There are no rivets and grain-clogging seams to contend with. The translucent polyethylene allows you to visually check material line from the outside.

All of our plastic grain bins have a 22″ top opening with a hinged, vented filler cap and a pull rope that allows ground control for filling.

There are 3 different transition collars available for the slide valves– 90°, 45°, and 30° angles. (See Accessories on page 18.) The new style collar allows easier attachment to the bottom cone with little or no cutting necessary. Our slides feature a galvanized plate and guide system. Our auger boots will attach to any of our slide valves and handle 4″ or 6″ augers. The auger boots have a clean out access cover.

The poly grain bins have a 16″ hole in the bottom cone and come in a variety of sizes:

  • The .8 ton bin has 38″ of ground clearance to the slide valve.
  • The 1.5, 2.5, and 3.5 ton bins have 15″ ground clearance under the slide valves.
  • The 4.5, 6.5, and 8.5 ton bins have 14″ ground clearance under the 90° slide valve; and 11″ ground clearance under the 30° slide.

Theses bulk feed bins feature heavy-duty support frames with extra large secure plates for more holding power. They have flat strap cross bracing for increased stability. The .5 – 3.5 ton units come standard with 4 legs; the 4.5 thru 8.5 ton units have 6 legs. The legs have large support tabs which can be bolted to concrete for added stability especially on the larger units.

 

grain bin picture

Polyethylene Grain Bins

All of the plastic grain bins at Barn World have a sturdy ladder with slip guard. It is braced securely to the top of the tank near the filler cap.

All hardware is supplied. Erection time is one-third of steel bins.

Frames have a baked-on polyester powder coat finish which resists corrosion.

It is recommended that you use a concrete pad at least 5 1/2″ thick for our 4.5 ton thru 8.5 ton units.

Please visit BarnWorld today and change out not only the bins, but the wide variety of farm supplies, ranch supplies, and equestrian supplies made by American manufacturers. Our best selling items are hay feeders, cattle guards, feed bins, saddle pads, mineral feeders, livestock scales and many livestock supplies.  (720) 238-2190

Mini feed bins have a variety of uses and hold more than just grain

Feed bins from Barn World and www.BarnWorld.com

These feed bins are ideal for use as feed bins, storing corn for burning stoves, various grain pellets, bulk seed or anything you need saved and easily dispensed.  They come with a hopper collar and slide valve for easy dispensing.

Mini Feed Bins from Barn World offer hobby farmers a great feed bin storage option

  • With the increasing popularity of corn-burning stoves, the mini bin offers a solution for storing the corn needed to burn those stoves
  • Ideal as a feed bin for small hobby farms
  • Works well for range cubes – approx. 3/4″ round and 2″ long
  • Feed bin has a 40 bushel or 2,240 lbs capacity
  • Protects feed from moisture and bugs
  • Feed bin is constructed of galvanized steel
  • Load feed through the lid on top of bin
  • This mini feed bin weighs 211 Lbs.
  • 5′ diameter, 8′ tall
  • Visit Barn World today and see our selection of full-size grain binsmini feed binsgrain bins and all of our livestock supplies.

    Grain Bins for all your feed bins needs from Barn World

    Visit BarnWorld.com to view our large selection of Grain Bins

    Visit Barn World today to see our great selection of grain bin sizes and mini feed bins as well.

    Our bulk grain bins offer safe, dry feed storage and are available in 6′, 7′ and 9′ diameter sizes.  All grain bins have 4″ wide corrugation reduces the resistance to downward flow of feed, feed hang-up and bridging.  Industry test have proven that wide corrugation gives 25% more vertical strength than narrow corrugation, and almost twice the strength of bins with no corrugation.  Wider corrugation results in wider bin sheets, thereby increasing capacity.   The same width corrugated bin holds more bushels than a narrow corrugated bin.

    We also have a grain bin erection manual online for the grain bins so you can see how easy it is to assemble.

    The mini feed bins are great for:

  • Storage for:   Feed, corn burning stoves, various grain pellets, bulk seed or anything you need
  • With the increasing popularity of corn-burning stoves, the mini bin offers a solution for storing the corn needed to burn those stoves
  • Ideal as a feed bin for small hobby farms
  • Works well for range cubes – approx. 3/4″ round and 2″ long
  • Feed bin has a 40 bushel or 2,240 lbs capacity
  • Protects feed from moisture and bugs
  • Feed bin is constructed of galvanized steel
  • Load feed through the lid on top of bin
  • This mini feed bin weighs 211 Lbs.
  • 5′ diameter, 8′ tall
  • The mini feed bins are made from rust-proof plastic and with a metal collar and may be seen at BarnWorld.com.

    Visit BarnWorld.com today for all of your  livestock equipment needs or call (720) 238-2190.

    Grain Bins from Barn World – for all your bulk feed bin needs

    Visit BarnWorld.com to view our large selection of Grain Bins

    Visit Barn World today to see our great selection of grain bin sizes and mini feed bins as well.

    Our bulk grain bins offer safe, dry feed storage and are available in 6′, 7′ and 9′ diameter sizes.  All grain bins have 4″ wide corrugation reduces the resistance to downward flow of feed, feed hang-up and bridging.  Industry test have proven that wide corrugation gives 25%more vertical strength than narrow corrugation, and almost twice the strength of bins with no corrugation.  Wider corrugation results in wider bin sheets, thereby increasing capacity.   The same width corrugated bin holds more bushels than a narrow corrugated bin.

    We also have a grain bin erection manual online for the grain bins so you can see how easy it is to assemble.

    The mini feed bins are great for:

    • Storage for:   Feed, corn burning stoves, various grain pellets, bulk seed or anything you need
    • With the increasing popularity of corn-burning stoves, the mini bin offers a solution for storing the corn needed to burn those stoves
    • Ideal as a feed bin for small hobby farms
    • Works well for range cubes – approx. 3/4″ round and 2″ long
    • Feed bin has a 40 bushel or 2,240 lbs capacity
    • Protects feed from moisture and bugs
    • Feed bin is constructed of galvanized steel
    • Load feed through the lid on top of bin
    • This mini feed bin weighs 211 Lbs.
    • 5′ diameter, 8′ tall

    The mini feed bins are made from rust-proof plastic and with a metal collar and may be seen at BarnWorld.com.

    Visit BarnWorld.com today for all of your  livestock equipment needs or call (720) 238-2190.

    Grain Bins, Feed Bins and Mini Feed Bins – they’re all at Barn World!

    Visit BarnWorld.com to view our large selection of Grain Bins

    Visit Barn World today to see our great selection of grain bin sizes and mini feed bins as well.

    Our bulk grain bins offer safe, dry feed storage and are available in 6′, 7′ and 9′ diameter sizes.  All grain bins have 4″ wide corrugation reduces the resistance to downward flow of feed, feed hang-up and bridging.  Industry test have proven that wide corrugation gives 25%more vertical strength than narrow corrugation, and almost twice the strength of bins with no corrugation.  Wider corrugation results in wider bin sheets, thereby increasing capacity.   The same width corrugated bin holds more bushels than a narrow corrugated bin.

    We also have a grain bin erection manual online for the grain bins so you can see how easy it is to assemble.

    The mini feed bins are great for:

  • Storage for:   Feed, corn burning stoves, various grain pellets, bulk seed or anything you need
  • With the increasing popularity of corn-burning stoves, the mini bin offers a solution for storing the corn needed to burn those stoves
  • Ideal as a feed bin for small hobby farms
  • Works well for range cubes – approx. 3/4″ round and 2″ long
  • Feed bin has a 40 bushel or 2,240 lbs capacity
  • Protects feed from moisture and bugs
  • Feed bin is constructed of galvanized steel
  • Load feed through the lid on top of bin
  • This mini feed bin weighs 211 Lbs.
  • 5′ diameter, 8′ tall
  • The mini feed bins are made from rust-proof plastic and with a metal collar and may be seen at BarnWorld.com.

    Visit BarnWorld.com today for all of your  livestock equipment needs or call (720) 238-2190.

    Mini Feed Bins from Barn World – a great smaller feed bin solution

    Barn World offers mini feed bins that are small in size but large in grain bin features.

    These feed bins are ideal for use as feed bins, storing corn for burning stoves, various grain pellets, bulk seed or anything you need saved and easily dispensed.  They come with a hopper collar and slide valve for easy dispensing.

    • With the increasing popularity of corn-burning stoves, the mini bin offers a solution for storing the corn needed to burn those stoves
    • Ideal as a feed bin for small hobby farms
    • Works well for range cubes – approx. 3/4″ round and 2″ long
    • Feed bin has a 40 bushel or 2,240 lbs capacity
    • Protects feed from moisture and bugs
    • Feed bin is constructed of galvanized steel
    • Load feed through the lid on top of bin
    • This mini feed bin weighs 211 Lbs.
    • 5′ diameter, 8′ tall

    Visit Barn World today and see our selection of full-size grain bins, mini feed bins, grain bins and all of our livestock supplies.

    Grain Bin: Barn World carries grain bins, feed bins and mini feed bins

    Visit BarnWorld.com to view our large selection of Grain Bins

    Visit Barn World today to see our great selection of grain bin sizes and mini feed bins as well.

    Our bulk grain bins offer safe, dry feed storage and are available in 6′, 7′ and 9′ diameter sizes.  All grain bins have 4″ wide corrugation reduces the resistance to downward flow of feed, feed hang-up and bridging.  Industry test have proven that wide corrugation gives 25%more vertical strength than narrow corrugation, and almost twice the strength of bins with no corrugation.  Wider corrugation results in wider bin sheets, thereby increasing capacity.   The same width corrugated bin holds more bushels than a narrow corrugated bin.

    We also have a grain bin erection manual online for the grain bins so you can see how easy it is to assemble.

    The mini feed bins are made from rust-proof plastic and with a metal collar and may be seen at BarnWorld.com.

    Visit BarnWorld.com today for all of your  livestock equipment needs or call (720) 238-2190.

    Barn World has a large selection of grain bins for all your grain bin needs

    Visit BarnWorld.com to view our large selection of Grain Bins

    Visit Barn World today to see our great selection of grain bin sizes and mini feed bins as well.

    Our bulk grain bins offer safe, dry feed storage and are available in 6′, 7′ and 9′ diameter sizes.  All grain bins have 4″ wide corrugation reduces the resistance to downward flow of feed, feed hang-up and bridging.  Industry test have proven that wide corrugation gives 25%more vertical strength than narrow corrugation, and almost twice the strength of bins with no corrugation.  Wider corrugation results in wider bin sheets, thereby increasing capacity.   The same width corrugated bin holds more bushels than a narrow corrugated bin.

    We also have a grain bin erection manual online for the grain bins so you can see how easy it is to assemble.

    The mini feed bins are made from rust-proof plastic and with a metal collar and may be seen at BarnWorld.com.

    Visit BarnWorld.com today for all of your  livestock equipment needs or call (720) 238-2190.