Systems to Turn your Feed Center into a Profit Center

Robb Bender

June 22, 2021

Both milk parlors and feed centers are key focus areas where efficiency has a profound impact on the net income and profitability of a given farm. Yet we often don’t see them managed to the same level of rigor. For obvious reasons, dairy producers have done an excellent job managing the efficiency of the milking parlor, regularly focusing on key performance indicators such as milk per cow, milk per stall per hour, turns per hour, etc.

However, the same level of management intensity often does not take place within the feed center, despite the fact that recent commodity, protein, and corn price trends have further drawn attention to the fact that feed cost is the single highest variable cost to producing milk on a dairy farm. Producers understand the value of tracking feed inventories and income over feed cost, yet calculating these on a consistent, accurate, and timely basis requires the implementation of key processes and the involvement of numerous key personnel. It’s critical that we double down our focus and begin to manage our feed center as a profit center.

We see several areas of focus when evaluating feed center performance and efficiency:

• Feeding Software – Let’s get more out of our feeding software and fully leverage the capabilities of the program to help make management decisions (See “Get Serious About Feeding Software, DHM article by Paul Dyk).

• Loading & Mixing – How is your mixer performing? How consistent is feed delivered to the bunk? How accurate are your feeders on each ingredient? We should consistently know the answer to these questions and much more.

• Feeder Training – When’s the last time your feeder attended a training session meant specifically for feeders? Relative to the impact that the feeder has on the dairy, continual training is absolutely paramount to a successful feeding program.

• Feed Costs and Budgets – Spend time evaluating feed costs, budgeting next years feed purchases, and evaluating different commodity options to ensure good buys and reduce the risk of being vulnerable to market fluctuations.

• Feed Center Design – Is your feed center designed to be as efficient as possible and reduce shrink? Perhaps there’s simple ways to improve.

• Clean Feed – Forage hygiene is critical to maintaining cow health and productivity. With a consistent focus on TMR hygiene, profitability of the dairy improves.

• Forage Quality – Forage is the foundation to a cow’s diet, and producing high quality forage is critical to ensure productive, healthy cows with a cost effective diet – maximizing income over feed costs.

• Feed Lean – Use the lean process to reduce waste, improve efficiencies, and enhance performance.

• Tracking – Creating relevant and timely KPI’s motivates the team to track metrics, achieve goals and drive success.

It’s important to take a holistic approach to feed center management, while using the focus areas above as a way to drive success through feed cost control management, improved accuracy of feeding, and improved performance of the herd. Operational excellence and efficiency are foundational to the systems-approach and application. At GPS Dairy Consulting LLC, we’ve lumped this collection of resources and systems approach to feed center management into a comprehensive, module-based program that we call FeedFITTM, which includes on-farm evaluations, team training, and the use of technology for data sharing of the key metrics associated with the feed center and feeding.

There’s a lot to unpack here, but by taking bite-sized pieces in module-by-module steps, we can turn your feed center into a profit center. Let’s get to work!