Why livestock producers should have a feed plan and budget for their animals
Feed planning and budgeting is the practice of planning the livestock feed supply to meet the nutritional requirements of the herd and production targets of the farm. In the process you as the producer will be able to:
- Feed the animals sufficiently so they can meet set production targets
- Minimize wastages
- Predict surplus and shortages therefore take appropriate action
- Foresee supplements requirements a long way in advance and purchase at the lowest price
- Contemplate the best and worst case scenarios to reduce the impact of low growth periods
Producers rely on pasture and fodder as a cheap source of feed for their ruminant animals where it constitutes 60 – 100% of feed intake. As fodder and pasture comprise 60 – 80% of the total production cost, farm profits depend on how well they are managed.
What farmers need to do
When planning for feed, take into account the farm plan, grazing plans and feed budget. Farm plans are long term plans that set production targets for homegrown feed and farm produce. Feed budgets are medium term plans that inspect management options that can overcome feed imbalances and make the best use of pastures and fodder, supplements and conserved feeds. Grazing plans are short term plans that maximize production and utilization of pastures and fodder through various grazing strategies. Integrate all these plans in a manner that maximize profit for the farm.
Three levels of feed planning
- Estimating the length of time that fodder and pastures can adequately sustain all the classes of livestock in the farm
- Grazing management
- Compiling a feed budget
You will need to have an accurate knowledge of the seasonal pasture and fodder growth in the farm, the ability to estimate the pasture forage mass in the field, and knowledge of the grazing habits of dairy cows to be able to accomplish these.
As a first step, calculate the daily feed requirements of all the animals. Having estimated the total amount of pastures and fodder in the farm determine the length of time that the pastures and fodder can sustain the animals in the year. Finally draw a feed budget that takes into account any needed supplementation.
Steps in compiling a feed budget
- Calculation of the month-to-month feed demand
- Calculation of the month-to-month total feed deficit
- Calculation of the month-to-month quantities of purchased feed required
Month-to-month feed demand
- Count the number of animals to be fed and the growth and production targets for each animal
- Calculate the Metabolizable Energy (ME) requirements for each class of animal, e.g. calves, milkers, bulls etc
- Calculate tons of Dry Matter (DM) required for all the animals each month
Month-to-month feed deficit
- Calculate tons of homegrown DM available each month. These include pastures, fodder, standing crops, hay, silage, crop residue etc.
- Subtract tons of homegrown DM from tons of DM required for all the animals each month
Month-to-month requirement of purchased feed
- Describe what feed you require to fill the deficit each month
- Formulate diets for each class of animals
- Using these diets and the stock from step 1, calculate the total tons of each feed that need to be bought each month
Differences in productivity and income between farms arise from differences in continuity of feed supply and level of feeding. Feed planning and budgeting foresees periods of surplus and deficit hence preparing the producer to maximize feed utilization and minimize wastage during surplus, and mitigate low feed intake during periods of deficit.