When considering the assets you have invested in your dairy operation, the first things that probably come to mind are your barns, buildings, equipment, and animals. We may not often think about the investment that’s packed under some plastic or filled into a silo on the property.
What might be the size of that investment?
As a point of reference, John Goeser and colleagues estimated it nears $250,000 for a 500-cow dairy with an average diet. In his work at Rock River Laboratory with farmers, Goeser came to that number including costs from inputs to storage.
That’s an asset no one wants to waste, but some waste does occur each day through feed shrink in storing, loading, mixing, or delivering. Fortunately, shrink is an area that the dairy’s team is largely in control of, starting with effective storage.
“Do you have an oxygen barrier on top of that bunker or that pile? What kind of plastic covering do you have? Do you have enough packing?” asked Michael Hutjens on the December 8 Hoard’s Dairyman DairyLivestream.
The professor emeritus from the University of Illinois elaborated with data from New York that shows shrink dramatically declines when silage densities reach 18 to 20 pounds of dry matter per cubic foot. He noted that farms using upright silos to store silage have an advantage here due to the natural compression that develops.
Of course, packing and covering must be taken care of in August and September when corn silage is put away. There’s also the opportunity to use additives that can prevent mold formation and fermentation loss, Hutjens added.
Reviewing these strategies and preparing for next year’s season can be a relatively easy payoff — consider that just a 2% reduction in feed shrink could help recoup $5,000 of a $250,000 investment.
“What can we do to optimize that economic investment?” Goeser concluded. “$250,000 is a lot of dollars at play.”
To watch the recording of the December 8 DairyLivestream, go to the link above. The program recording is also available as an audio-only podcast on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, and downloadable from the Hoard’s Dairyman website.
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