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Tips to Lower Feed Cost

Here's a list of recommendations on reducing feed costs for adapted from dairy nutrition consultant Felix Soriano of Warrington, Pa:

Do an assessment on how ingredients are being handled from the time they arrive at the farm. Do you have standard operating procedures in place for receiving feeds and commodities?

Store expensive protein sources and concentrates in upright bins. If you are storing these in a commodity shed, calculate current losses and decide whether investing in a few upright bins could be profitable. If your current losses are 4% or more, investing in a few bins often is worth the expense.

Develop a mixing and feeding protocol to minimize the within-batch and between-batch variations in mixes.

Spend time and money coaching, training and giving feedback to your feeders.

Use feeding management software to monitor and adjust your feeding. This technology will help reduce batch variations, reduce feed losses and give you a more accurate feed inventory.

Closely monitor the feed bunk and cut down on feed refusals to better control feed losses. When your feed management and storage practices are overlooked or lack consistency, the shrinkage can account for a 10-15% loss and amount to more than $2,000 per month for a 100-cow herd, says J.W. Schroeder, NDSU Extension specialist.

From time to time, check mixer scales for accuracy, as well as mixing uniformity, by sampling and screening the total mixed ration with a particle separator box.

Periodically observe and monitor manure consistency. Better yet, develop a manure scoring protocol and train your employees to use it.

Also, feed costs can be controlled better when feeding cows more accurately. Schroeder recommends that producers periodically adjust feeding charts according to cow numbers in the pen or group to improve the accuracy of bringing feed to the barn. Typically, a 4-5% rate of refusal is common when feeding milking groups. With current high feed prices, managing feed bunks for 2-3% refusals could have a significant impact in feed costs.

If current feed refusals are 5% and the feed cost is $5.50 per cow a day, then a producer's feed losses will be almost $100,000 per year for a 1,000-cow herd. In contrast, when running a more lean bunk with refusals at 2-3%, feed the refusals to heifers or low-group cows. On some dairies, these refusals are sometimes fed to far-off dry cows, depending on the ingredients.

"Reducing refusals would take closer and more frequent attention, as well as excellent communication among all people involved in feeding," Schroeder says. He suggests producers consider using a feeding management software system, especially with larger herds.

"Practicing these ideas and working with a nutritionist can contribute to some significant savings during these times of high feed costs," he says.

Source: NDSU Extension Communications

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