Felix D. Soriano, MS, PAS, is owner/consultant with APN Consulting. Even as feed prices decline, there’s money to be saved by managing on-farm inventories and limiting shrink losses.
Many dairy farmers try to cut feed costs without realizing how much money is wasted once the feed, protein mix or commodity shows up at the farm. Furthermore, lack of focus on proper silage management affects feed losses and adds even more to ration costs.
For example, current feed costs can run $7-$8 or more per cow per day. For a 1,000-cow herd, this represents about $210,000/month for the lactating cows alone. Poor storage facilities and feeding management, and lack of feeding consistency, can create a 10%-15% feed shrink loss, representing more than $31,000/month, or over $380,000/year.
Determining the true cost of a feeding program starts with tracking feed inventories. If you’re unable to measure losses, you can’t identify areas where the feeding program can be improved.
Although eliminating feed losses completely is not possible, both the farmer and feeder must focus on controlling and minimizing those losses. A well-planned feeding management system must be in place, and well-trained feeders must execute those plans.
Key control points
There are three main areas where the farmer, feeder and nutritionist should focus on to better manage feed inventories and minimize feed losses. They include:
- Feed handling and storage
- Mixing and feeding process
- Feed bunk management
Reducing feed losses by improving management practices during handling and storage can have a substantial economic impact.
Proper handling begins by having a consistent routine when receiving forages and feed ingredients arrive at the dairy. I often see feed trucks making deliveries without anyone from the farm on site. Receiving includes not only overseeing feed placement and checking the invoice, but also verifying weights, and inspecting and sampling the feed. This will ensure both feed quality and safety, and give more accurate information on inventory control.
Collect samples of every load of feed or ingredient received, storing them for a reasonable period of time, depending on the ingredient and when it is used.
A scale to weigh all feed ingredients can be a valuable long-term investment, allowing you to verify receiving weights and address load discrepancies. It will also give you more accurate information to adjust inventory records and control shrink losses.