Feed accounts for 40% to 70% of most dairy farms’ production costs. So, how can you ensure you’re making your feed work efficiently? One easy way is using a feed management system to monitor your feed from harvest to bunk.
“Our feed management software is a tool that makes us more organized and provides us with daily reports we need to make decisions,” says Jim Hahn, feed manager at Blue Star Dairy in Wisconsin. “It makes it easier to feed cows and helps us manage shrink and balance our inventory.”
The team at Blue Star has been using the FeedWatch feed management system for 20 years.
Here are three ways a feed management system can help you get the most from your feed.
1. Review feed inventory
Unexpected weather, a bad spot in the bunk, incorrect deliveries, shrink, and feeder errors all can play into unexpected changes in your feed inventory.
Frequently rechecking your feed inventory can help ensure you have the correct amount of feed to optimize your herd’s diets or make ration adjustments, such as stretching a forage until the next crop is available.
By staying ahead of inventory, you can make proactive changes to save on feed costs.
2. Check for total mixed ration errors
While we expect our feed to make it into the mixer at the set ingredient amounts, mistakes can happen. Carefully review data from your feed management software, like FeedWatch, for mixing errors.
Review timing between total mixed ration ingredients, the volume, and order of ingredients used. Overfeeding an ingredient instead of returning it to the commodity bay is a nearly invisible way feed gets lost.
Most feed management software can flag when an ingredient is added too quickly after another, indicating feed was still in the loader bucket before grabbing the next ingredient.
Keeping a close eye on the actual weights of each ingredient added can add up, too — especially if weighbacks or refusal volume isn’t where you’d like to see it.
3. Dig in to shrink and weighbacks
Does your fresh cow pen have the same refusal goal as your low group? Should they? Consider your goals and make sure your weights add up. If they don’t, it’s time to do some investigating.
Keep your feeder aware of cow pen moves and number changes before making a new batch of feed. If you’re using FeedWatch as your feed management software, pen numbers will automatically update your reports from DairyComp herd management software.
Consider target weighbacks. Keep in mind that shrink isn’t just the feed that blows away. Unprocessed corn kernels in manure, excess nutrient volume beyond a cows’ needs in an unbalanced ration, and spoiled feed are all sneaky ways shrink can cost you money.
VAS is the global market leader in connected farm management systems. For 40 years, VAS has been the operating system of choice for the most innovative dairies around the world. VAS’ software and information solutions help collect and connect a farm's data – from herd management records, to feed and nutrition records. These insights are a source of truth, empowering producers and their trusted advisors to make profit-driven and sustainable management decisions. At the forefront of thought leadership within the dairy industry, VAS is trusted by the producers we serve and the greater dairy community.