Manage feed inventories for maximum profitability

Timely management of feed can make or break a dairy herd's profits.

Feed costs are the single largest expense on most dairy farms, comprising between 40 and 60 percent of the total cost of producing milk. It is thus important to closely manage on farm inventories of feeds in order to maximize the profitability of the farming enterprise. Feed inventory management focuses on determining the amount of feeds required for the dairy, the amount of feeds that are available and optimal allocation of available feeds to meet the nutritional requirements of the different categories of livestock on the farm.

You can find several useful spreadsheets at the University of Wisconsin Team Forage Harvest and Storage website.

  • Silage Pile Capacity Calculator
  • Silage Pile Dimension Calculator
  • Bunker Silo Density Calculator
  • Bunker Silo Sizing Calculator

Feed supplies can be inventoried at any time during the year but there are three periods when it is especially advantageous to assess the status of feeds.

In the fall feed supplies should be measured and any shortfalls can be addressed by purchasing feed. This is also a good time to make feed ration adjustments to avoid running out of feed or having to make future drastic or undesirable ration adjustments.

An early summer feed inventory identifies potential shortfalls in feed supplies and may suggest the purchase of standing crops from other producers.

A late summer feed inventory can be helpful in deciding how much corn should be harvested as silage or as grain.

The primary purpose of managing feed inventories is to balance the amount of available forages and grains with the nutritional requirements of the livestock production unit. Careful management of inventories allows advantageous purchases of required feeds, is helpful in planning for production of feeds, and ultimately can play a critical role in providing sufficient quantities of feed to allow optimal production by the livestock enterprise. 

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