6 Tips to Improve Feeding Accuracy

6 Tips to Improve Feeding Accuracy
11/28/2017

A study of 26 California dairies found deviations from target weight on individual ingredients ranged from 78.7 percent to 21.9 percent. The one-year study, which examined high-cow and high-cow-premix rations, also showed the precision or accuracy with which an ingredient was loaded varied by ingredient. Alfalfa hay, corn silage and canola were the ingredients most often loaded with poor precision and limited accuracy.

The following are six ways to improve feeding accuracy on your dairy:

  1. Set Goals. Set achievable goals for feeding accuracy and share with your feeder. Remember, feeders are loading pounds. Dairies with large mixers may appear to have small loading errors when measured as a percentage, but when measured in pounds, the errors are large. Review feed management software reports with feeders so they understand what is being done right and what areas may need improvement.
  2. Re-evaluate the Use of Tolerance Levels. In our study, the use of tolerance level allowed a deviation from target of more than 2 percent in 46 percent of the ingredients. In four dairies, 75 percent of the ingredient loads were below target weight. On those dairies, feeders were using the load weight as defined by the tolerance level as the target weight instead of the actual target weight. Use of tolerance levels for ingredients should be reevaluated and limited.
  3. Communication. Managers and nutritionists often limit communication with feeders to negative feedback. Feeders get reprimanded for loading expensive ingredients over the target weight. However, this message has led some feeders to mistakenly conclude that on expensive items they should always err on the side of less than target weight. Loading errors may result in a TMR with a nutrient composition different from the formulated one.
  4. Listen to Your Feeder. Take time to listen to your feeders; they have good ideas. After you share feed management software reports, ask questions. It could be that training or practice is needed. Remember, loading ingredients precisely is a learned skill.
  5. Consider Premix. When formulating rations, be cognizant of the physical requirements to create that ration daily.
  6. Check the Mixer Scale. Loading accuracy requires the scale of the mixer box is properly calibrated. On dairies with an on-farm scale, this can be easily accomplished; otherwise, the mixer box scale can be calibrated by hanging bags of known weight on each corner above the weigh cells. It is difficult to accurately load ingredients when the scale number bounces up and down.

Loading ingredients with minimal error can be done. Five dairies in this study demonstrated a very high level of precision and accuracy. Take some time to think about what you can do to set feeders up for success.

Progressive Dairyman, October 2017.

Tags: Feeding Strategies, Management Tips