The Art of Feeding

Dr. Scott Tripp

The art of feeding are the techniques that require a person to observe or to act. This is what moves an average feeding department to excellence.

Part 1 – Empty Bunks

In the last couple of weeks my brother in law was helping me put up a fence. He is a retired manager for a major dairy processor. In our discussion he talked a lot about a 1996 research study that was commission by Coca-Cola to look for incremental sale gains in grocery stores. The conclusion: Bare shelves represent a pervasive and expensive problem for retailers; and the principle source of the problem lurks within the four walls of the grocery store. Furthermore, consumers have little tolerance for out-of-stocks; they postpone purchases and even switch stores. The overall percentage is 8.2% but the problem is worse on Sundays and late during the afternoon and evening hours.

I immediately thought of how this is similar to feeding cows. Cows also show little tolerance for not having feed at the bunk. They do not switch stores they simply do not eat. How does a dairy get an empty bunk syndrome? Let me list the ways.

  1. Incorrect bunk calls.
  2. Not feeding the entire length of the bunk.
  3. Not enough head locks for all of the animals or poorly designed and broken headlocks,
  4. Too small of a size of a headlock also will prevent animals from eating.
  5. Not feeding evenly the entire length of the bunk. In other words uneven or even empty spots.
  6. The feed is out of reach. It is common for periods of time during the day or night, that feed is present, but not available to eat.
  7. Relief feeder’s mistakes.
  8. Management decision to feed to an empty bunk. My challenge here is always how long is it empty before feeding?
  9. Feeding times. This is basically like restocking the shelves.
  10. Inadequate push-ups.

Think about this, we monitor intake by the amount we feed and the push out amount. It is quite common to have a 2 to a 3 percent weigh-back. The interesting thing is to me, is that without visual observations to see how the feed is present over time we miss the empty bunk. To me this is the Art of feeding.

Part 2 – Shrink

Shrink is a fancy word that only means the difference between what was fed… and what was actually measured going into the feed center. It is a huge economical drain for most dairies. It is an interesting problem that results from the lack of precision of bringing feed into the feed center and storing it properly.

We usually just talk about the missing feed, however there is also nutrient shrink that is just as important. The ways I see shrink occurring are as follows:

  1. Not measuring all the incoming feed.
  2. Improper scale weights and procedures. Anyone lost scale tickets before?
  3. Not getting good dry matter percentages during harvest of wet feeds.
  4. Birds and varmints.
  5. Stealing by employees.
  6. Not weighing small feed ingredients on a small scale. One of my favorite ways to check is just to look for open bags where the small bagged ingredients are stored.
  7. Hay boil overs in the mixer while mixing.
  8. Spillage on the way to and at the bunk.
  9. Improper storage of wet feed. Do you have an inch or more spoilage that you are pitching off the bunk?
  10. One of my least favorites is over-estimating the amount in a storage bunker.
  11. Not taking dry matter percentages as you feed an ingredient.
  12. Not taking feed back to the storage location when you hit the target for the load.
  13. Improper application or lack of an inoculant.
  14. Lack of storage capacity.
  15. Load cell errors on the mixer.

 

 

Reducing shrink is a constant monitoring process from the field to the mouths being feed. It is an area that can add money to the bottom-line as you improve.

The author is a consulting veterinarian and this post are parts 1 and 2 of a 4 part series on the Art of Feeding appearing in the Amelicor DHI Plus newsletter. To be notified immediately when the other articles are published, subscribe and choose immediate notifications.

 

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