Design YOUR ideal feed center
More farms are considering feed centers as a means to reduce shrink and improve efficiency by reducing the steps, wheel traffic, and time to load a TMR mixer. Here are a few suggested steps in the process of designing your ideal feed center.
Step 1. Evaluate your current system.
The first step in improving your feed management system – and potentially investing in a feed center – is identifying your best opportunities to improve efficiency. As feeding management programs increasingly become available, tracking deliveries and feed used is a big part of justifying the next step you take in your feed center.
Let’s say you had 40 tons of a $500-per-ton commodity delivered, but your data shows you had only fed 36 tons when it was gone. The missing 4 tons equals a loss of $2,000 in shrink. Knowing these numbers can help you justify your investment and set a budget for a feed center.
Step 2. Learn from your peers.
Make it a priority to tour different feed centers. Lean on your consultants to help you see a variety of facilities and management systems. This will lead to conversations about how to measure shrink, correctly size bays, position doors and ramps, organize products, clean, and purchase necessary equipment.
Step 3. Critically consider and prioritize your building features.
- Bays: Most bays are 24 to 32 feet wide and 30 to 40 feet deep. These dimensions allow trucks to back into them and allow for old feed to be removed while new feed is delivered. Sizing feed bays or bins to handle more than a semi-load of an ingredient is important. Freight logistics has not been a friendly topic lately, and many producers have been ecstatic to have room for two or three semi-loads of an ingredient given current market conditions. In addition to commodities, some farms are using bays for defaced forages as well. This speeds up the loading process and creates a better blend of the forages loaded into the TMR.
- Traffic flow: In an entirely enclosed commodity shed, it is beneficial to have two large doors for entering and exiting. With just one door, it’s challenging for large trucks to turn around. In the winter, you may battle a mess of road salt dripping off trucks and need a plan to minimize and manage these types of challenges.
- Lighting: Good lighting in the building for deliveries, feeding and cleaning is essential.
- Ventilation: You might consider some form of mechanical ventilation to reduce condensation or handle dust that’s created by moving feed.
- TMR mixer: Loading the TMR mixer (stationary or portable) inside keeps weather from challenging the process and also allows the feeder to see more clearly through the windows during rain or snowstorms. In many modern feed centers using a portable TMR mixer, the loading position is slightly recessed into a pit. When built correctly, the solid floor will help keep the mixer level when loading and mixing, which is a critical aspect of properly mixing feed. A recessed pit allows the feeder to look into the mixer from the loading apparatus, keep a good height for any bin augers, and find the center of the mixer more easily as that is also critical to creating a consistent TMR mix.
- Automation: Consider whether you want to move toward automation today or design your facility in a way that automation may be introduced in the future. This might include an area that could house a stationary mixer or a preloading hopper capable of loading into a portable mixer.
This article was originally written for the July 19, 2022, issue of Progressive Dairy. Click here for the full article.
Forage storage and management