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New Mexico dairy’s feed center generates 17 loads of feed in 2.5 hours

Melissa Hart for Progressive Dairyman Published on 22 September 2017

Downsizing from four mixers and four tractors to one mixer, one loader and a consistent product that has produced beneficial results in a tight dairy economy are the big reasons Cheyenne Dairy of Dexter, New Mexico, revolutionized their feeding system in one short year.

Porter Beene is the feed manager at Cheyenne Dairy, where they milk 12,000 cows on four different facilities. David Hoekstra, the owner, began building the dairies in the early ’90s, and today they continue to be on the cutting edge of feeding efficiency with their new feed system that has completely changed the feeding game on Cheyenne Dairy.

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They began construction on their unique feed center in 2015, where they built a 300-foot tunnel under two stationary mixers. The feed trucks drive in the tunnel under the mixers, load up and then deliver the feed to the appropriate pen.

“We are feeding 17 truckloads of feed to about 12,000 milk cows in two hours and 30 minutes with two trucks, two stationary mixers and one loader,” Beene states. “All the feed is in one place, and now we save a lot on shrink, time and running equipment. We went from four tractors and four mixer wagons to two feed trucks, two stationary mixers and one loader at the feed center.”

As a pioneer in the dairy feeding business, Beene says the owners of Cheyenne Dairy looked at other places to see what they were doing with stationary mixers. While they saw one dairy that had a stationary mixer built into the side of a hill, no one had a feed center like the one they built. Beene assures, “No one is feeding as quickly as we are.”

All the feed is either grown on the dairy’s 850 acres of irrigated ground or purchased from nearby growers. Beene points out, “There is no dryland here; it’s completely irrigated. So we buy our corn and silages from nearby farmers, but we buy hay from all over.”

The dairy’s new feed system, dubbed the Micro Read-N-Feed system, was adapted from a feedlot system to a dairy feeding system.

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“The Micro machines [Micro-Weigh System] are where all of our basic minerals and micro-inclusion minerals are measured into the mix as it’s mixing,” Beene explains. “It’s more precise than a guy opening up a bag of mineral and dumping it in there.”

An automated micro-ingredient delivery system accurately weighs both liquid and dry ingredients, and uniformly delivers them to the ration. Cattle receive the right amount of recommended additive in every bite of feed, guaranteeing the maximum benefit possible from the additives used.

The loader operator gets to the feed center about 10 minutes before the truck drivers, mixes his first load of hay, corn, premix, wheat silage and corn silage, and then goes to the next mixer and starts mixing.

Once the first load is mixed, the truck driver comes under the mixer and is loaded up. He accepts the load in the computer system and is told which pen to feed and how much to unload.

The computer system helps feed truck drivers deliver feed to bunks while automatically collecting feeding information as feed is fed. Ration delivery validation and pen verification is ensured with automatic pen identification via integrated GPS within the computer system.

The main component of the system is the feed truck computer, which is custom-built running Microsoft Windows 95/98. Its elements are located in a self-contained enclosure mounted inside the cab within easy reach of the driver. A flat-panel color display and touch screen on the front of the enclosure is used to easily operate the system.

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The automatic pen identification feature uses information from GPS satellites to determine where the feed trucks are throughout the dairy. To get more accurate position information, differential GPS is used to sharpen position information to within about 2 meters (6 feet).

While the transition to a centralized feed center with completely computerized mixing and feeding features was painful for the first few months, Beene explains the benefits far outweigh any trouble they endured. He said it was difficult for the first four months as they went from mixing and feeding at each dairy to two trucks feeding all four dairies and the coordination of the needs of each cow group at specific times of the day.

The feed system can be programmed with the exact rations needed for cattle at their various stages of production and quickly reprogrammed to accommodate special needs like changes in climatic conditions or the health requirements of the cattle.

The unique load cell system within the automated micro-ingredient delivery system individually weighs both liquid and dry ingredients in precise half-gram increments. When it comes to a uniform delivery of micro-ingredients, the liquid and dry ingredients are kept separate in individual, sealed-bottom compartments during the weighing process to avoid clumping.

Then the motorized impellers mix the additives and slurry to ensure a homogeneous blend before delivery to the ration. An automatic, complete-flush feature guarantees delivery of all ingredients to the correct batch of finished feed. It also eliminates potential carryover.

A daily ingredient report provides an inventory control tool. This computer-generated report details the rations made and the amounts of ingredients used, actual versus projected.

“Consistency is key. Everything is so consistent now, and it’s easier to control all the ingredients because they are all in one place and everything is centralized. It has helped with our reproductive management, increased our milk production, and we have a better handle on feed shrinkage.” Beene continues, “There is so much feed going in and out, and it’s much easier to catch mistakes because it’s all in one place.”

The morning feeding routine takes four-and-a-half hours and includes rations for the milk cows, the dry cows, the close-up cows and the heifers. In the afternoon, they feed just the milk cows, and that is a two-and-a-half-hour process to feed 17 loads of feed.

“There was no blueprint to this feed center, so it was a learn-as-we-go process to build it. If we were to build this again, there are a few things I would change, but for the most part the feed center is doing exactly what we had hoped,” Beene concludes.  end mark

Melissa Hart
  • Melissa Hart

  • Freelance Writer
  • North Adams, Michigan

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