By: John K. Bernard, Dairy Research and Extension, University of Georgia
One area that many producers overlook is shrinkage or the difference between what you paid for and the amount of feed that was actually consumed and converted into milk or body weight gain for replacement heifers. Shrinkage occurs during delivery of feed, storage, mixing, and feeding.
Dr. Joe Harner, Kansas State University, lists the following common areas where shrinkage occurs around commodity barns:
• Unloading on concrete slab versus direct unloading into the bay - wind movement of ingredients, failure to move 100% of an ingredient into a bay
• Ration preparation - accuracy of measuring individual ingredients with a bucket loader is limited to about 1 to 2 cubic foot, resulting in over or under feeding individual ingredients
• Weather - building is often oriented based on prevailing wind, leaving feed exposed to blowing precipitation, resulting in spoilage due to rain or snow
• Number of bays - failure to empty bays completely often results in spoilage of ingredient along the back wall due to the inability to use in timely manner
• Management - more emphasis on time or getting cows fed versus accuracy of feed ration
• Feed center layout - efficiency in procurement of ingredients
Harner indicates that the normal shrinkage for a three-sided commodity barn is 8%. If you are purchasing ground corn for $350 per ton, an average 8% shrinkage adds $27/ton to your feed cost. If you multiply this out over the volume of feed used for the year, it adds up to a considerable amount of money which is lost. This is repeated for all ingredients stored on the farm. The same applies to forage as well.
Hopefully you have a better handle on shrinkage that this example, but most of us have room for improvement. In most cases, the changes needed to reduce shrinkage may be as simple as talking with the feeders to emphasize the importance of feed handling and proper mixing of rations or minor changes that would reduce wind losses. Most producers could realize saving by reducing the amount of shrinkage we currently have.