Compliance is Critical for Effective Feeding Protocols
Aug 27, 2015
By Dr. Jeff Weyers, Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition Technical Service Manager, Central Region
Many jobs must be done on a dairy each day. From properly milking the herd to ensuring newborn calves receive adequate levels of high-quality colostrum to grooming stalls and pens, every job is important. Success in each role depends on doing the right things at the right times to obtain desired outcomes that enhance the performance of the operation.
Unfortunately, this objective isn’t always accomplished. For example, feeders sometimes evolve into “feed delivery guys” without fully understanding the importance of their job—but nothing could be further from the truth.
A dairy depends on its nutrition program—it is the foundation for animal health, milk production, reproduction and overall dairy profitability. Cows must receive properly formulated diets of quality ingredients that are accurately and adequately mixed and delivered in a timely, precise fashion.
Whether helping to get a new feeder set in the right direction or reinforcing protocols to prevent procedural drift, consider the following factors to determine how you might improve feed management and delivery compliance on your dairy.
Education is Essential
The operations primed for success are those that treat training as an opportunity to achieve goals—for employees and the dairy. Building its employees’ knowledge base and encouraging effective communication is the best thing a dairy can do. Confident and responsible employees troubleshoot issues more efficiently and keep your nutrition program running more smoothly and effectively than employees without these skills.
Regular, mandatory team meetings are effective as a springboard to improve understanding of protocols, troubleshooting and expectations. Keep these meetings short and focused. Emphasize learning and improving, not negativity or blaming. Continuing education should be an essential component of every part of your dairy business.
Define Bunk Management Protocols
Consider the following recommendations to include in your bunk management training and protocols:
- Observe bunks at the same time every day, preferably by the same person.
- Determine feed refusal targets. If you are feeding to 2% refusals, for example, establish what that amount of feed looks like in the bunk. Share this definition with those making feeding decisions.
- Define sorting and be sure feeders know how to evaluate sorting and its impact on refusals.
- Determine needed adjustments in feed delivery (if any) based on these observations.
- Maintain a daily written record of adjustments made—whether more or less feed was delivered or consumed each day. This allows the person monitoring bunks to share a quick visual report with the herd’s nutritionist. When making and recording adjustments, use actual pounds of dry matter not percentages (i.e., 100% adjusted to 103%). Nutritionists prefer to know if consumption is up or down by a specific amount of dry matter.
- Outline expectations for pushing up feed during all shifts to ensure it is always within the cow’s reach.
Outline Mixer Management Protocols
The best feeders know their mixers inside and out and can spot potential issues before they occur. Help your team develop this level of understanding with the following hints:
- Observe the empty mixer before feeding to see if anything is out of place. Make note of any issues with condition or wear and replace parts as needed.
- Count and monitor the condition of knives and kicker plate.
- Make note of any feed left on bottom or augers.
- Watch for the position of baffles.
- Never load the wagon if the power take-off is not running.
- Observe feed movement while the mixer is running.
Other than obvious mechanical issues, poor TMRs usually result from undermixing, so be sure your protocol includes adequate mixing time to ensure that feed ingredients are evenly distributed.
Outline feed delivery steps, too, including:
- Tractor RPMs.
- How to adjust the discharge door and tractor speed to produce a level feed drop and good bunk distribution.
- Watch for unmixed feed, and immediately communicate to supervisors if feed takes a long time to unload or comes out unmixed.
Specifically outline and continually inform employees about the importance of feeding protocols—and reinforce protocol adherence. This helps ensure consistent TMR content and delivery for optimal cow performance. And it offers teaching points to help bring new hires on board or assist with troubleshooting.
Feeders are much more than “feed delivery guys.” Make sure they are a valued part of your dairy’s team.