Feed inventory planning and management, more critical now than ever

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In “Management of feed inventory critical”, we talked about how current high commodity cost, price volatility, and long term planning are all important reasons to consider tighter management of the feed inventory on a farm.

In this article, we want to expand on what feed inventory planning and management are, and how we can use currently available, valuable tools to make the process easier and therefore more likely to be accomplished.

The first step in feed inventory planning and management is to know how to do a feed inventory. A feed inventory is simply establishing the current inventory of feed on your farm. It involves determining the volume of each feed that you have stored and then multiplying each amount by the density of that stored feed, yielding the weight of each feed stored.

There are some great resources to help producers in this effort. For hand calculated systems, and for input values in some spreadsheets, one very useful resource is the Mid-West Plan Service “Dairy Freestall Housing and Equipment Handbook (MWPS). In this handbook, producers can find tables that will help them determine quantities of feed based on volume measurements made on the farm.

For those with some computer savvy, but without automated feed management software, there are some spreadsheets available from the University of Wisconsin Extension website and there is also a nice feed inventory spreadsheet available through our fellow MSU Extension educator Craig Thomas. These programs perform a lot of the mundane calculations for you, but you will still have to conduct regular measurements, and input the data manually.

On the high tech end, there are several feeding management software programs that also keep track of feed inventory. Feed inventory is reduced automatically based on amounts feed and recorded by the program. Examples include programs like Feed Watch by Dairy One, TMR Tracker by Digi-Star, and Feed Supervisor by K S Dairy Consulting, Inc. Measurements and adjustments will still be necessary to adjust for in-storage and feed mixing feed losses, but these programs take much of the manual data entry out of the equation and allow the producer to focus their time and efforts on inventory management.

Feed inventory planning and management takes this feed inventory information that we have determined and uses the information to plan how long feed inventories will last, given current rations and allows the producer to do some “what if” planning scenarios. Current ration values consumed reduce feed inventory each day, while projected ration changes can model how much of each ingredient would be consumed if the changes are made. The ability to forecast feed inventory needs/changes using what if scenarios is critical in today’s high cost/high price volatility environment. Consider contacting your farms nutritionist who can be a great resource in development of projected feed needs.

Spending some of your valuable management time on Feed inventory planning will allow you to answer important questions like:

  • Am I going to need to purchase feed this year, how much, when, and at what cost?
  • What if change the ration to use a cheaper feed? What will that do to inventories?
  • What adjustments should I make to planted acres based on long term feeding decisions?

Being able to answer these types of feed inventory planning and management questions may just be the difference between your farms ability to be profitable in these high cost/high price volatility times we are currently experiencing. As the value of the feeds and forages have risen to new high levels a farm that controls their inventory also controls the cost that is invested in the crop inventory. Another management challenge for all livestock farms is to identify those feed & forage commodities that can be purchased at favorable prices to help lower the farms feed costs.

This year’s growing season has provided a unique opportunity for livestock farms to purchase some fields of late planted corn as silage as some farms work to salvage some value of this crop. In this case fields that may not otherwise produce a mature harvestable corn crop can be harvested creating a win/win for both the seller and buyer of this late planted corn.

Risk management in today’s environment requires a full-scale assault on managing costs in a holistic and integrated approach. 

A podcast version of this article is also available through Dairy Moosings.


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