by Rachel Kenneke, Field Technical Support
One of the nation’s largest financial corporations has coined the slogan “What’s in Your Wallet?”. As dairy farmers, we can ask ourselves a similar question- “What’s in Your Bunk?”. What can you do to make sure you are putting everything your cows need in their bunk while being profitable to put money in your wallet?
Know Your Feed and Forages
With a change in weather usually comes a change in forages fed on farms. Many farms will start feeding 2020 corn silage soon if they have not already. It is important to sample and analyze forages often to keep the ration as consistent as possible. While sampling frequency will vary from farm to farm, it is crucial to have a plan established to ensure you know what is truly being placed in front of the cows. Because feeding the right amount of dry matter of each feed in the ration is important, dry matter testing is recommended to be done as frequently as possible. One advantage of feeding QLF is that while everything else in the diet can change, the liquid stays consistent as a manufactured product.
Know Your Mixer & It’s Protocols
Like every other piece of equipment on the farm, your mixer also needs regular maintenance. In addition to routine maintenance, it is vital to check the wear on the knives, if being used, and kicker plate. Replacing worn pieces on your mixer is key in mixing consistent batches.
When conducting a mixer evaluation, make a note of a few essential items. These items include feed sequencing order, feed loading placement, mixing time, and mixing speed. Each one of these items plays a crucial role in delivering consistent feed to the cows.
Know Your Cows
How often do you walk pens or observe cows from the feed alley? Cows can tell you when it is time to sample your forages or feedstuff. Monitor their body condition score, manure score, and feed intakes frequently. Knowing and paying close attention to your cows can help catch problems before they start.
Know the Importance of Evaluating Your Feeding Program
QLF offers “Quality Control” work on farms. The Quality Control program focuses on consistency- specifically, consistent feed across the feed bunk. Shown below is a piece of data taken from a farm in Wisconsin. Fresh feed was sampled seconds after it was delivered to the bunk. Seven samples were taken across the bunk- Sample 1 is the spot where the mixer first started dropping feed and Sample 7 is the opposite end of the bunk.
As you can see, this batch of feed was not consistent across the bunk. The protein levels had a trend of being low at the beginning of the batch and high towards the end. Cows that eat on the left side of the bunk (Samples 1 & 2) were eating about 14.5% protein, while cows eating on the other side of the bunk (Samples 6 & 7) were eating about 16.9% protein. Samples 3-5 represent the middle of the feed bunk.
We took this data, along with the video from a Go-Pro mounted on the mixer, and determined what could be done to make the feed more consistent. The main goal was to have all cows eat the same exact feed, no matter where they ate in the bunk.
After changing the feed sequencing order, placement of feeds being added to the mixer, and increasing the mixing time by a minute, we resampled the same pen again a few weeks later- shown below.
The previous protein trend was corrected, and the feed was more consistent across the bunk. Having consistent feed often improves DMI and milk and component yields. In pre-fresh and fresh pens, this consistent feed also reduces fresh cow health incidences.
As winter approaches and fieldwork nears completion, take time to evaluate your mixer and mixing protocols. There are often a few small changes that can be made to improve the consistency of feed delivered to your cows. By making a few small changes, you can have a better idea of what’s is in your entire bunk. Contact your local QLF representative to get more information on the services we can provide through our Quality Control program.