How much feed do you have in inventory?

Posted on August 22, 2023 in Forage Foundations
By Jon Rasmussen, Vita Plus dairy technology specialist

Routine feed inventory assessments are critical for managing your livestock operations.  We need to have enough feed (but not too much feed) and we also need to plan feed budgets based on what will be available.  When Mother Nature interrupts normal harvest intentions, we need to measure inventories more frequently and discuss alternatives to fulfill the feed budget.

Using measuring wheels and the Vita Plus Feed Inventory Projector Workbook or using accurate drone flight measurements is normally sufficient when completed at least quarterly.  We can project how long crops will last based on the obtained tonnage and feeding information.  This also helps us track how changes in forage quality shift feeding levels and how slight changes in animal numbers will affect inventory projections.  Monitoring these projections can help keep our rations more consistent, which should encourage optimal animal performance.

The more frequent the measurements, the more accurate the projections become.  In many regions, a lack of rainfall is challenging the tonnage that we have become accustomed to.  This makes measuring with increased frequency more critical as we need to tighten projections.  Increasing the frequency to every two to four weeks, in some cases, may be necessary.

Forward planning with limited forage
In these projections, we also need to implement planning of how to extend inventory.  Using our Forage Inventory Projector workbook, we can input the tonnages of crops that we expect to harvest to help with our planning.  This might be tonnage that we plan for corn silage to be harvested this fall, or it could be tonnage that we accumulate with a late-planted crop such as sorghum or oats.  With the forward projections, we can work with the feeding rates to see what the forage will allow us to feed daily.  The advantage of doing this allows us to calculate how different commodities may supplement our homegrown forage inventories.

Late in the season, it becomes difficult to alter tonnage plans, but there are a few things that remain true to harvesting and feeding.  With lower-quality forage, the inventory of that forage usually lasts longer due to increased harvested tonnages and lower dietary inclusion rates to avoid stuffing the rumen.  The opposite is true with high-quality forage. This may encourage us to aim for more tonnage and lower-quality legumes and small grain forages in growing areas with tight inventories.

Every year, we seek improved methods to reduce forage shrink.  Forage spilled during the loading processes or spoilage layers are a couple areas of opportunity to reduce shrink. Consider:

  • Can we improve the packing and sealing of the silo?
  • Does every tire touch another tire on the piles and bunkers?
  • Are the plastic edges next to the wall or ground tightly sealed to prevent any oxygen from getting between the plastic and forage?
  • How are we managing the face?
  • Are we sealing the cut plastic with gravel bags or multiple layers of tires?
  • Do we remove one row of tires at a time when cutting back plastic?
  • When moving forage for feeding, can we manage the bucket fill levels so we don’t lose feed as we travel?
  • Are pests kept under control?
  • Can your consultant advise you on reducing shrink?
  • Does your inoculant strategy improve dry matter recovery and/or reduce spoilage?

Challenging times often present us with great opportunities to evaluate what we are doing and to find ways to make situations work.  That is certainly the case for many producers as they work with this year’s feed inventories.

Category: Feed quality and nutrition
Forage Foundations
Forage harvesting
Forage storage and management