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Several feed inventory tools available for livestock producers and service providers

Dec. 13, 2012 | 0 comments

There are several reasons producers might want to do a feed inventory, such as projecting future needs, allocating feeds over the year, determine feed purchase needs, planning storage needs, planning what to plant or determining how much surplus is available to sell.

For dairy producers, feed costs are typically about 50-60 percent of the total cost of producing milk.

With the 2012 drought having the potential of making feed supplies tight, it is important for producers to periodically manage their feed inventories and determine their feed needs.

A livestock manager must address three basic questions when managing feed inventory:

1. What feed supply do I have available?

2. How much feed do I need?

3. How do I develop my feeding program to balance is the available feed supply and the nutrient needs of the animals?

A basic way to address the issue of projecting feed needs is to follow these steps:

1. Determine the feed that is available (feed inventory)

2. Calculate the herd's daily feed needs

3. Calculate the number of days feed will last

4. Determine the number of days the inventory is in excess or deficiency

5. Calculate the quantity to sell or buy or consider modifying the ration to get more days of feed out of the available inventory.

This article will focus on the process and tools for taking a feed inventory.

Additional articles and resources will be provided in the next few weeks discussing the issue of calculating feed needs.

Generally, the process of conducting a feed inventory involves determining the volume of each feed stored and then multiplying by the stored density to yield a weight of feed.

For example, silage in a bunker silo has a dimension of 30' x 10' x 50'. Its volume is 15,000 cubic feet (cu ft). If the silage has a stored density of 40 lb (as fed) /cu ft, the weight of feed in the bunker is: 15,000 cu ft x 40 lb as fed /cu ft = 600,000 lb = 300 tons as fed.

There are several ways to do a feed inventory: 1) pencil and paper, 2) computer spreadsheets, 3) commercial software that integrates with your feed weighing system.

There are a number of publications and software tools that can help establish your feed inventory.

Several resources and materials can be obtained at University of Wisconsin Extension Team Forage- Harvesting and Storage web page: www.uwex.edu/ces/crops/uwforage/storage.

There is no one best time to do an inventory. Doing an inventory at different times for different reasons may be beneficial. For example, doing an inventory in:

• October/November - allows producers to make a projection to see if purchased feed will be needed or if the consumption rate needs to be adjusted. This allows needed purchases when commodity prices are apt to be lower in winter and will allow purchases before December 31, assisting in tax management.

• February/March - allows producers to make a mid-course correction prior to the harvest season. Estimates of density will be more accurate after having fed from a storage for a while, so estimates of quantity stored will be more accurate.

• June/July - allows producers an early warning of inadequacy of feed supplies for the up-coming feeding season. Purchases of standing crops remain an option if deficiencies are discovered.

• Anytime producers are required by a lender to provide a balance sheet, a feed inventory and the feed value is needed.

Producers who are in the market to buy or sell feed can connect with others on the Farmer to Farmer Hay, Forage and Corn List. This list puts Wisconsin farmers in touch with one another for the purpose of buying and/or selling corn and forage.

The farmer to farmer list is free to both buyers and sellers. Users can list or search for hay, alfalfa haylage, corn silage, high moisture corn, corn grain, or other forages (i.e., oats, peas, or Sorghum-sundangrass). This list can be found at farmertofarmer.uwex.edu.

For more information about feed inventory resources go to the UW-Extension Team Forage - Harvesting and Storage web page www.uwex.edu/ces/crops/uwforage/storage and click on "Forage Inventory".

The first resource listed in this section is a fact sheet, Making a Feed Inventory, which provides several resources.

There is also additional information on the UW-Extension Drought 2012 web page: fyi.uwex.edu/drought2012.

An archived webinar that discusses how to use these feed inventory tools can be viewed at dairy.wisc.edu/FIT.

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