Feed and forage inventory management goes to new heights

Posted on March 10, 2022 in Forage Foundations
By Dr. Matt Gabler, regional business manager
Every day, farmers work to enhance and increase every facet of their operations – from animal health to facility design and from reproduction strategies to parlor efficiency – with an ultimate goal of more milk and milk components going out the door.

The feed and forage storage center also contributes to reaching this goal, yet thoroughly planning for this area of the farm is often low on the priority list.  The result is a hectic space with a very frequent need to evaluate and maximize feed and forage inventory.  The next crop is being harvested and I need to figure out where to put it.  I’m adding animal units or acres and my accountant needs an update of feed on hand.

Farms need accurate information
Today, farmers and nutritionists evaluate and measure feed and forage inventory and management through visual and manual means.  Tools include measurement wheels, tape measures, cordless drills, probes, hand calculations, and lots of assumptions and observations of slope and dimensions. All these tools and techniques have a margin of error and, in many cases, important safety concerns.  Does the payloader operator see me as I’m out here measuring?  Can I measure without getting close to the face of this tall pile?

New technology now provides us with a safe, easy, insightful, and accurate means to evaluate and measure feed and forage inventory and management.  Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) – often referred to as drones – aren’t just for the military to protect our freedom; they are useful tools in maximizing operations in a wide variety of applications – including forage and feed management.

How it works
A certified remote pilot and drone with the right process and software will capture the data and insights from a safe distance while providing timely, frequent, and accurate evaluation and inventory of your feed and forage.

It’s essential to have a process and software that uses ground control points that allow you to georeference the drone images to a high level of precision.  Every feed center and forage storage area should have slope for proper drainage.  Due to the need to maximize this space, feed and forage areas may be located in some “creative spaces” as they evolve through time.  Properly positioned ground control points marked with GPS survey equipment provides control reference to ensure accuracy and consistency of measurements.

An experienced drone service can safely and accurately provide feed and forage center layout, inventories, volume, usage rates, densities, feedout projections, pile or bunker dimensions, pile or bunker slopes, identification of possible pile or bunker safety concerns, tire coverage, and feed and forage future staging. Contact your Vita Plus consultant to learn more.

Category: Business and economics
Facility design
Forage Foundations
Forage storage and management