The first questions to ask is “Why commodity feeding?” The usual answers are expected reduction in feeding costs, being able to customize the ration, making ‘opportunity’ purchases, and greater influence on the quality of the ration. While some or all of these may or can be true, commodity feeding also has a dark side. There is going to be a cost of commodity feeding. There is the cost of maintaining an inventory of ingredients, particularly if you buy large qualities of a feed that you feed out in very small amounts. There is the cost of labor to mix the feed and cost of management to make sure feed is on-hand when needed. Commodity feeding can be a money saving or money losing game, and each farm needs to look at their numbers and make that decision for their operation.
One of the largest costs of commodity feeding, and really feeding in general, that is often overlooked is dry matter loss or shrink. Simply put, shrink is the difference between the feed that is delivered to the storage, and the amount the cows get to use. With commodities, loss can range from 1 percent to 10 percent for dry ingredients or as high as 20 percent to 25 percent for wet ingredients.
Common causes we blame for dry matter loss or shrink are birds and rodents, loss to the environment due to rain and snow getting on the feed or wind blowing it away, spoilage losses or moisture loss during storage. However, there are two big ones that the farm management has control over. Spillage during feeding and overfeeding are result of operator error and mismanagement. Spillage is what I call the trail of feed left behind between the feed storage and the mixer. Things like how far you travel between the two, how full is the bucket of the loader, and what type of terrain you travel over can make a big difference in this number. Overfeeding is the difference between what the paper ration calls for and what really goes in the mixer.
Take a 500-cow herd for example that makes four mixes a day, with each mix having 1,000 pounds of protein in it at $500/ton. If each batch is overfed by 20 pounds, that’s a 2 percent loss due just to overfeeding! Or think if it as $20 per day or $7,300 per year for that farm. Now the real cost of that protein source becomes $510/ton rather than $500/ton. The ‘Real Price of Feed with Shrink’ is shown in the table below. Shrink is MONEY!!
Table 1. Real Price of Feed with Shrink.
|Price per Ton||Shrink|