A $70,000 software system mounted in a loader bucket analyzes feeds and calculates for dry matter adjustments at the TMR mixer. It should pay for itself in a year, figures Steve Brand, who milks 900 Holsteins with his wife, Mary, near Ellsworth, WI.
Brand is the first in his state to buy the dg Precision Feeding System, manufactured by the Italian company, Dinamica Generale. The system uses near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy to measure a feed’s real-time dry matter and nutrient contents.
He had a couple of reasons for doing so.
“You get a feed program and the analyzer. We didn’t have a feed program. A lot of people who are our size (operation) already have feeding programs, so it may be a little more difficult” for them to justify buying such a system and discarding their current programs, he says.
“Then, too, we have inexperienced feeders; they do a good job but probably not at (measuring) dry matter. This machine really helps; it will tell them how much feed to put in.”
The system scans and analyzes each load of corn silage, high-moisture corn or alfalfa silage for dry matter, crude protein, ADF, NDF, starch, ash and crude fat contents within 30 seconds. Readings transfer to a scale and rations are adjusted for any dry matter variations.
Brand was surprised to find how feeds vary from one bucket load to the next. But the amount left in bunks from one feeding to another is the same, he says, “so you know it’s doing what it’s supposed to do.
“With high feed prices, it’s really a good tool to have because you’re not overfeeding forages and you’re not underfeeding them. And you’re getting the ration more consistent.”
Besides a feed savings, he estimates an increase in milk production of about 1-2 lbs/cow/day.
“It’s a really useful tool for the nutritionist, because we have it set up where he can go online and look at the feed quality that we’re getting. He can adjust the rations from home, then we just have to download it onto our computer and we’ll send it to the TMR mixer.” The adjustment is WiFied to the loader tractor and scale.
The system shouldn’t replace regular commercial-lab tests, Brand stresses. He has feed samples commercially tested about once a month.
For more information on the Precision Feeding System, contact Matt Dobberstein at 715-781-7134 or firstname.lastname@example.org.