September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Good feeders, feeding practices save money

By Jim Linn- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Milk price has been a lot better the last few months compared to most of 2009. However, we may have already peaked for a few months according to some futures reports. Feed prices are better than they were a year ago, but still high when compared to milk price and what is needed for profitability on farms. If profitability is going to return in 2010, we cannot neglect feed costs. There is going to be volatility in corn, soybean and most byproduct feeds as we move ahead into 2010 and you will want to watch feed prices and look at reformulating rations to take advantage of substituting lower cost feed ingredients into the ration when possible. These steps can save a few cents per cow per day and make sense to do. However, bigger savings can be realized if feed waste is minimized and the correct ration is mixed and fed on the farm. This is where a good feeder makes a big difference in saving more than pennies per cow per day in feed costs.

Feeders do many jobs on farms from feeding cows and observing cow behavior to maintaining equipment to name just a few. These jobs are important, but the most important job of a feeder is to deliver the right total amount and proportions of feedstuffs to the cows every day.

Why is the right total amount important? The average feed cost is about $5.00 per lactating cow per day. Assuming the average cow consumes 100 lb./day at $0.05/lb, feeding five pounds more than she eats increases feed cost delivered to the cow $0.25/day. Feeding the weighback to heifers or other animals doesn't waste it, but a less expensive ration than a high cost milk cow ration can be fed. A critical part of the feeder's job is to read mangers or bunks every day and know how to adjust feed amounts accordingly. The target for bunk clean outs is less than two percent of the total feed delivered to the bunk. To do this, a strict schedule of same time everyday feeding needs to be followed along with good communication between feeders and managers on cow numbers in pens.

Feeding the right proportion or amount of individual feedstuffs included in the daily ration is important whether you feed a TMR or not. First, the nutrient content of the ration is based on having the correct proportions of all feedstuffs in the ration. Adding or shorting the targeted amount of a feed ingredient into the TMR changes the nutrient balance of the ration and potentially can affect milk production and health of the animals if continued long enough. Secondly, there is cost control. Feeding an extra 0.5 lb/cow of a mix priced at $0.20/lb just increased the feed cost $0.10/cow/day. On a group of 60 cows, this is $6/day or almost $2,200 per year if done every day. Computerized feed management programs for TMRs are a great tool to help feeders accurately feed and monitor feedstuff usage. These programs can usually pay for themselves within a couple of years through feed cost savings and more accurate ration formulation based on accurate feed intakes. Inventory control is a way purchased feed amounts can be monitored. You know how much you bought, how much is supposed to be fed every day and therefore, how long the feed amount will last. If the feed is used up faster or lasts longer than the projected time period, incorrect amounts are being fed somewhere and this may be costing you in extra feed being fed or possibly lost milk production.

A good feeder is an invaluable person on the farm. They should have specific job responsibilities and protocols to follow every day. As a minimum, my suggestions for job responsibilities are:

• Determine dry matter on all ensiled or wet forages every day.

• Clean out mangers before feeding, noting amount of weighback remaining.

• Adjust the total amount of ration to feed up or down based on weighback amounts.

• Accurately weigh all feedstuffs going into the TMR. On non-TMR farms, scoops or shovels should be "calibrated" to amounts and the correct number of scoops fed per cow per day.

• Feed cows on schedule.[[In-content Ad]]


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