Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Smart feeding pays dairy dividends in Worcestershire

April 30, 2018 by  
Filed under Livestock

A smart feeding programme is boosting on-farm efficiency for dairy farmer Tristan Bennett in Worcestershire.

Since returning to the family business in 2012, Mr Bennett has taken responsibility for the day-to-day management of the dairy herd at Bennetts Farms,  on the outskirts of Worcester.

Comprising 80ha of owned land at Manor Farm, with an additional 80ha rented, the business is milking 220 Holstein Friesians on an all year-round calving system. A closed herd, all replacements are reared, with any surplus heifers sold, and all beef calves are taken through to finishing. 

As the cost of production continues to rise and squeeze margins, efficiency has become a top priority for the business and this has led Tristan to adopt a ‘smart feeding’ programme.

“Feed is by far our biggest cost of production and our target is to therefore make our feeding programme as efficient as possible, to ensure it delivers optimum levels of production as well as cow health,” explains Mr Bennett.

Using a Keenan MechFiber320 diet feeder, fitted with an InTouch controller, the milking herd receives a total mixed ration (TMR) comprising around 70% forage, including grass and maize silage, lucerne and fodder beet, as well as 5kg of concentrate. With optimum feed efficiency a priority, Optisync, a unique non-protein nitrogen from Alltech, is also included in the ration.

“We work closely with our InTouch Feed Specialist Denis Dreux and his team, to ensure rations are formulated to suit our system and the feeds available, as well as cow requirements. We’re looking to achieve good levels of milk from forage, which is our cheapest feed available, and reduce reliance on concentrate feeds,” says Mr Bennett.

He explains how he has utilised the InTouch system to improve the accuracy and efficiency of his feeding programme, to ensure he’s getting the most out of the ration.

“Connected to a weighing device on the diet feeder, InTouch guides me through the correct loading order, quantity of ingredients, and mixing time. Not only does it ensure a consistent mix for every feed, it reduces waste. If anything isn’t in-line, either with the mix or cow performance data, I’ll be alerted to the problem by the InTouch team, so I can remedy it before I see an effect on production.”

Mr Bennett uses the technology to combine feed data with production figures, which allows him to gain insight into KPIs such as feed conversion efficiency (FCE). He says he has found this particularly useful to monitor the effects of any changes to ration, including the value of including a non-protein nitrogen.

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