Purchase feed is the biggest input cost on most dairy farms, so when it comes to cost-saving small changes can make a big difference. To maintain yields and ensure good levels of health and fertility animals need to be fed well. Short term cost cutting such as reducing feed rates, using cheaper ingredients or having an unbalanced ration can have profound long term effects on output.
So what are the options on farm to improve feed costs without the prospect of negative long term affects? The key here is feed accuracy, ensuring that you are targeting feed so it is giving you the biggest return.
Feeder calibration is an area that is often overlooked but can have a massive impact on farm, not only on total feed usage but on the variation on individual animals in the herd. Over the last month, we have been encouraging some of our farmers to go through this process, the results have been interesting, to say the least. On average the total over feed was in the region of 10%, with large variations seen on individual feeders within a parlour (+ and – 50%). Ideally, this needs to be checked every load or whenever your cake changes as bulk densities may well vary. If you have had any work done on your parlour or software updates it is worth checking as well as sometimes this can have an effect.
Feed tables is also an area that people tend not to look at especially the feed to yield part. With many lead feeding up to a certain number of days it’s worth looking to see how these are set and comparing to the average days to the peak of your herd, can these be tweaked? The feed to yield settings need to be reviewed regularly in conjunction with your outside ration and forage analysis to ensure your maintenance + figures are a true reflection of what’s going on outside, this is particularly important this year with variability between cuts.
Feeder wagon calibration
Feeder wagon calibration, this is another area that we tend to assume stays the same. Doing a quick check to see that a known weight (bags of fertiliser are often used) is measuring correctly. Look at ration presentation as well, is it chopping properly or could the knives do with replacing. Also, look at the order that ingredients go into the feeder as getting this right will have an effect of the uniformity of the diet.