Phantom feed thief – Gary Sipiorski, Vita Plus

Posted on May 23, 2017 in Forage Foundations
By Gary Sipiorski, Vita Plus dairy development manager
If you compare all the milking cows in the world by volume per cow, nobody can beat the U.S. dairy herd.  In fact, the U.S. dairy cow is one of the most productive and efficient milk producers in the world, and this has only increased with time.

In 1945, the average U.S. dairy cow produced 6,000 pounds of milk a year.  Through scientific and technological advancements, and a greater understanding of cow comfort, care, and nutritional requirements, the average U.S. bovine now produces more than 21,000 pounds of milk a year.

But all of that milk comes with a cost, and you don’t need a certified public accountant to tell you the greatest expense on a dairy farm is feed.  You might think you are writing those checks payable to a feed company, broker, or hay dealer, but do you realize many are also written out to the “Phantom Feed Thief?”

Let me draw your attention to a feed detective trying to handcuff the thief and take him out of business.  Virginia Ishler, an extension dairy specialist with Penn State University, has analyzed hundreds of dairy farm budgets in her career, and she found the difference between the average herd and the more profitable herds was the ability to manage forage quality and inventories.  How much did this make a difference in feed cost?  Farms that managed feed costs well spent 39 percent of the farm’s total income on feed purchases.  The other dairy farms that didn’t do as good of a job spent 48 percent of their total income on feed purchases, a 9-percent difference.  Think about what you could do with 9 percent more of your gross income by managing your forages better.  Too many farmers are dolling out 9 percent of their income to the Phantom Feed Thief.

To help capture that 9 percent, here are a few things you can do to improve your forage program:

  1. Sit down with your crop specialist and nutritionist during the winter months and set a plan for spring.
  2. Clean and tune-up all harvest equipment so it is ready to go when the time comes.
  3. If you use a custom harvester, make an appointment in the winter to ensure your crop will get harvested at peak protein and energy.  It is also good practice to assure the custom harvester they will get paid upon completion.
  4. Plan early to take advantage of the best growing days, as spring weather permits.
  5. Plan to harvest when nutrients are highest in the field.
  6. Weigh everything coming in from the field to accurately measure shrink, if possible.
  7. Inoculate silages to make sure beneficial bacteria show up in the greatest numbers.
  8. Pack, pack and pack again.
  9. Cover immediately with a quality plastic silage cover.
  10. Weigh the plastic down with tires or other heavy items.
  11. At feedout, uncover only as much feed as needed at the time.
  12. Always keep a clean face at feedout.
  13. Monitor and control shrink by weighing everything fed with a feed monitoring system.
  14. Make sure the recommended ration is the ration fed.

The Phantom Feed Thief is everywhere.  Make sure he stays out of your pocket.

Category: Business and economics
Forage Foundations
Forage storage and management