An NIR feed analyzing monitor, mounted on a loader bucket, may offer dairy producers a more precise way of feeding, reduce feed losses – and put more milk in their tanks.

A significant milk increase is likely using the dg Precision Feeding System, according to preliminary results of a University of Minnesota study comparing the system to traditional sampling procedures.

The dg system, distributed through Engineered Storage Products Co., DeKalb, IL, and manufactured by dinamica generale of Italy, was announced at World Dairy Expo last month.

“It’s an NIR machine in a bucket of a tractor that scans forages and adjusts dry matter nutrients on the fly,” said Noah Litherland, the University of Minnesota animal scientist who tested the technology on Gar-Lin Dairy Farm, Eyota, MN.

“You just scoop up the forage, whether it’s corn silage or high-moisture corn or alfalfa silage, and if you push a button in a cab, the NIR reader reads it and it scans the forage. It gives the dry matter, the crude protein, the NDF, starch and ash content in just a few seconds.

“The scale then is wired to communicate with the reader and make the adjust on the fly for just how much forage we’re supposed to add. So if the corn silage is supposed to be 35% dry matter, it rained every night and it’s 30% dry matter, we add more corn silage to make up that water difference. Cows are getting more corn silage and the same amount of dry matter,” Litherland said.

A major benefit of the unit is that it improves consistency of nutrient delivery, he said. “It provides a diet that’s formulated. Right now we have a diet that’s formulated on paper, the diet the mixer mixes and the diet the cow eats. We want them all to be the same – to deliver the nutrients specifically to optimize the cow’s chance to meet her potential.”

In his study, he compared dry matter content only; results will be available in December.

There are some challenges with the method, Litherland cautioned, including human error and learning how to properly use the equipment.

He also thinks the monitor-loaded bucket could be used to test the consistency of TMRs.

Although studies have shown that up to 20% of feeding costs could be saved by utilizing NIR, Andrea Ghiraldi, president of dinamica generale, estimates an 8% savings with his dg system.

“We have taken the assumption that, checking every day, we can save 8% of feeding costs. This means that, with 1,000 milk cows/day, you can save up to 157,000 Euros ($218,000 U.S.),” he said.

The cost of the system will range from $60,000 to $70,000, said Dick Nelles, ag national marketing manager with Engineered Storage Products Co., which also sells Harvestores.

Dairies with 200-head herds can expect a payback within a year, he added.

The system includes DTM professional feed management software, an Intelligent Ration Management NIR feed analyzer, a remote control and the Top Scale. The scale is a high-tech weighing controller that wirelessly receives data from the NIR analyzer that mounts on a bucket.

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