This illustration shows a feed center with a stationary mixer station.
Minimize feed loss with proper storage and management
How much shrink does your dairy’s feed supply undergo? Ten percent? Twenty percent? More? How much does rain, wind, spoilage or even scale inaccuracy rob you of one of your most expensive necessities?
Shrink, or feed loss, occurs daily on most dairies, yet the costs associated with shrink are often ignored, says Joe Harner, a livestock systems expert at Kansas State University.
"On-site dairy discussions tend toward considering shrinkage a non-issue or part of normal feed cost, and opportunities for improvement are considered limited," Harner says.
But a willingness to understand and address the true costs related to shrinkage can lead to significant economic benefits.
Shrink may account for 15% to 20% of your total feed cost, with wet and expensive ingredients representing the greatest concern, Harner says. Whole cottonseed, dry meal and soybean hulls can see shrink losses of 5% to 20% in uncovered open piles, while dry distillers’ grain can lose up to 40%. Ingredients in covered, three-sided bays generally see shrinkage of about half of the open-pile loss. That’s still a loss of up to 20%.
A 2010 study showed that if shrink losses were reduced by 50% for each ingredient used in rations, a dairy could save $100 annually for each cow.
Shrink can be caused by wind, birds, rodents, rain, snow or solar radiation. Delivery weight errors, discarded feed, feed dispersed by tires and tracking, and mixing errors also contribute to feed loss.
"Generally, shrinkage includes not only storage losses but excessive inclusion rates in rations that are unnecessary to meet the nutritional needs of the animal," Harner says.
- May 2011