There is opportunity on your dairy. Do you know where to find it? It’s the red headed step child of computer programs on many dairies, the one found on the “extra” computer. For a 1000 cow dairy, a couple million dollars of feed passes through its algorithms every year. Yep, it’s the feed software program that sometimes only the feeder and nutritionist know about.
Where do I start?
The starting point is picking out the right software for your operation. Many farms have used some feed software for a while but they have an outdated version and hardware on its last legs, a boat anchor with a screen. What are the criteria you should use to pick out software? This is not easy for most managers because they don’t realize the hidden capabilities that exist.
Some criteria that you might want to consider:
- How important is “easy to use” to you? If we’ve learned anything about the growing mountain of data being generated on farms, we know that ease of use is important for both daily users (feeders) and managers.
- Do you want to track inventories?
- Can the software get you real numbers on shrink?
- Do you want to have a cloud based application? Access to data on the phone and subtraction of wires has become more appealing over time.
- Can the program send out key reports to stakeholders in an automated, timely fashion?
- Will the feeders use the program to track deviations?
- What other data do you need?
- Does program play nicely with the various herd management programs out there to share production data?
- Does the software integrate with on farm truck scales (for semis with commodities)?
- Are the reports easy to understand? Does the program use graphs to connect to the visual learners on your operation?
- Do you think this company will be around for the next 5 years?
It does make sense to interview some software companies. Do they have the support you need and do you feel comfortable with your rep for the company? A good question to ask is, what else can this program do? Have them show you how to run the program. Was that easy for you to understand?
As I’ve implemented the GPS FeedFITTM system on dairies, it has been critical to work with the team to maximize the potential of the software. This might mean an office manager needs to be trained to add feed prices into the software. Training likely needs to come from the software company to build needed reports that can go out weekly. Integration with the financial data will pull in an accountant to zero in on real shrink numbers (what did you pay for vs what did you feed…). Scaling feeds religiously requires SOPs for outside vendors. It’s not just good enough to buy a computer and a program; the software is one tool in the feed system.
The goal is to have trusted data to make important decisions.
If the data is real, you can begin to ask and answer real questions. What should the KPIs be for feed cost? How does my shrink impact my bottom line and can I consider a major capitol purchase to impact this shrink? Do I know what percent of commodities I have covered by contract for the 4th quarter this year? Am I tracking my contracts correctly? How closely do my billed, scaled, and fed weights align?
And once you’ve started, are you committed on a daily basis? Imagine your herdsman not entering breeding dates every day because he got busy or she was covering the bunk with tires. Operational excellence in a parlor includes following procedures the same way, every time, every day. Operational excellence in the fresh pen includes recording all treatments and health issues to monitor success. Operational excellence in the feed system requires prices, inventory, dry matters etc to be tracked every day.
Trusted data leading to trusted decisions is your opportunity.
Paul Dyk, PAS, MS, is a dairy consultant with GPS Dairy Consulting.