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Dairy Today Expo Extra

RSS By: Catherine Merlo, Dairy Today

Dairy Today's Catherine Merlo brings you the latest from the World Dairy Expo.

Dairy Feeding Goes High Tech

Sep 30, 2010

Think about what GPS did for crop production.

That’s what the Italian manufacturer and the U.S. distributor of a new precision feeding system believe their equipment can do for dairy nutrition.
Italy’s dinamica generale and Illinois-based Engineered Storage Products Company (ESPC) showcased the new high-tech system Thursday at World Dairy Expo.  
Here’s the technical part:
Designed to deliver a balanced and consistent ration, the Harvestore® FeedScan™ Precision Feeding System analyzes forage and grain dry matter content on the farm in real time before it goes into the mixer. In seconds, it adjusts dry matter weight to match nutritionist recommendations. The system uses software, infrared sensing, a remote control and a weighing scale that wirelessly receives data.
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Matthew Dobberstein of dinamica generale demonstrates the precision feeding system Thursday at World Dairy Expo.
The FeedScan NIR Analyzer is mounted on the Harvestore feed conveyor system, while the dg precision feeding system’s NIR (near infrared) analyzer is mounted in the pay loader bucket. The entire system is controlled at one or more personal computers loaded with the feed management software.
Here’s the marketing part:
The cost is somewhere in the range of $60,000 to $70,000, depending on its various options, ESPC officials said. They believe the system offers a rapid return on investment, in terms of feed efficiency, production and herd health.
They have a point about production. Studies conducted by the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center show that variations in dry matter content after rain or snow will decrease dry matter intake by cows. That results in a sizable drop in milk production.
But here’s the exciting part: Those who have seen the precision feeding system believe it’s revolutionary.
“We have not had this technology in the U.S. before,” said Dr. Noah Litherland, with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Animal Science. “We have robotic milkers and automated calf feeders. This is the next big thing.”
Litherland admitted he was initially skeptical about the precision feeding system. But after seeing it tested at Minnesota’s Gar-Lin Dairy, he’s become a believer. He said the system offers such benefits as improved consistency of nutrient delivery, providing a diet as formulated, reduced environmental impact, consistent access to feed and improved cow response.
Andrea Ghiraldi, president and owner of dinamica generale, believes the precision feeding system can reduce feed costs by 20%. Studies on a dairy with 1,000 milk cows showed a savings of some $300,000, Ghiraldi said.
“This precision feeding technology brings the real-time accuracy of NIR technology to the farm versus the laboratory,” said ESPC’s Richard Nelles. “So instead of waiting several days for feed analysis information, the farmer knows instantly the dry matter and nutrient content of feed as it is unloaded.”
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Dean Allen's Gar-Lin Dairy in Minnesota is the first dairy to put the new precision feeding system to use. Allen attended the demonstration at World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis., Thursday.
I was interested in what the dairy that’s testing it thinks. Minnesota’s Gar-Lin Dairy is the first in the U.S. to use the precision feeding system. The well-run operation milks 1,700 cows. Dean Allen is a partner in the dairy.
“The concept is phenomenal,” Allen said, as ESPC officials demonstrated the system at their exhibit. “It’s definitely an advantage and something that’s coming down the road.”
ESPC expects the dg precision feeding system to markedly change the way livestock producers view nutrition management. From the robots and automated equipment I’ve seen here at World Dairy Expo this week, it won’t be the only new innovation likely to reshape how dairying is done over the next 10 years.
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