Tighten up bunk management

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Editor’s note: The following case was handled by Chad Mullins, dairy nutritionist based in Maryville, Mo. 

A dairy farm in Kansas saw the need to have an outside consultant come in and meet with the feeding crew.

Among other things, the rate of feed refusals was quite variable from day to day ― anywhere from 0 to 18 percent.

“It looked like the bunk-calling needed some fine-tuning,” says Chad Mullins, the consultant who was called in. 

So, Mullins convened a meeting and did his best to explain to the feeders why it’s important to do things a certain way.

Certainly, with regard to feed refusals, there was some opportunity ― the numbers being called were all over the board, and part of the problem stemmed from not dropping feed at the same time every day.

He recommended that the feeders strive for a refusal rate of 2.5 percent or less with regard to the milk cows, but not running the cows out of feed for more than 5 percent of the feeding events.

Mullins put special emphasis on calling the bunks at the same time every day, along with feeding at the right time every day. Every hour represents more than 4 percent of the day, which creates challenges for reaching low refusal rates. Still, even when cows are fed on schedule, to achieve tight bunk management the feeding crew needs to feed pens for the right number of animals and ensure that the forage dry matters are correct.

Meeting with the feeding crew that day was a great opportunity, he says. It was a chance to have everyone in the room and talk about a strategy moving forward. 

In the past year, the feeding crew is doing a much better job calling the bunk and getting the rate of refusals down to around 2 percent.

“(The manager) is pretty confident and happy he is near that 2 percent mark,” Mullins says.

It’s satisfying for Mullins to hear the progress the farm has made. And, he says, it has helped re-energize him for future farm visits.             



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