Nutrition Feeder Friendly

January 12, 2009 06:00 PM
Rick Lundquist
If feed is your biggest single expense, then your feed manager is one of your best assets.

I've always maintained that the feeder has one of the most important jobs on the dairy, maybe because my success as a nutritionist is in his or her hands. But this is especially true now, with margins getting slimmer.

Feed prices are coming down along with milk prices, but not enough to offset the loss in milk income. Plus, many of you may still be working off old contracts, so you can't take full advantage of lower feed prices.

This makes the feeder's job even more important. The feeder can help you tighten your belt. If a feeder performs his or her duties correctly, the ration that the cows consume is the ration that the nutritionist balances. With all the variables in between, this is a lot to hope for.

Make sure you train your feeders so they know their responsibilities as well as the importance of their role on the dairy. Not only will this ensure that they perform their duties properly, but it will also show them that they are a valued and respected part of your team. This is a greater consideration than money when it comes to what's important to most people in their job. A valued and respected employee is a satisfied employee.

Consistency is the key to a successful feeding program. The feeder is responsible for consistent feed mixing, delivery and refusal management. Your feeder should not only understand how to perform his or her duties, but also how each procedure contributes to the overall success of the dairy operation. Here are some important concepts that the feeder should understand:
  • Dry matter calculations.
  • Importance of accuracy.
  • Feed sequencing, length of mixing time and speed of mixing.
  • Minimum and maximum load amounts for equipment.
  • Maintenance and cleaning of mixers and scales.
  • Proper silo face management to reduce spoilage and the variability of silage dry matter.
  • Feed delivery timing.
  • Goals for refusal percentages.
  • Evaluating feed refusals for quality (smell, mold, sorting, manure contamination) if re-fed to heifers or dry cows.
  • The effect of all of these concepts and procedures on intake, production, cow health and profitability.

In addition to training in these concepts and procedures, feeders need to have legible load sheets. Training should be in Spanish if needed; poor translations lead to errors.

If you have feed management software, feeders should have adequate training in its use. Regular training and review of procedures is as key to success in this area as it is in the others listed above.

Your nutritionist can balance the ration, but it's what the cows actually consume that matters. Inadequate training, inconsistent procedures and failure to monitor feed procedures can result in errors which can lead to big dollars in excess feed cost and reduced production. If you're looking for ways to become more efficient as margins get tighter, utilize your feeders to their fullest extent.

Train your feeders so they know their responsibilities and their importance to your dairy.

Bonus content:

Click here to read in spanish.

Click here to read about "Finding Lost Feed Dollars By Reducing Variation In Rations."

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