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Shrinking everything but feed

Progressive Dairy Editorial Intern Madison Leak Published on 07 October 2021
A feed collection bin in action

Shrinking is generally not your friend. Whether you’re talking about your favorite pair of work pants or feed, it’s not something that benefits you or your operation.

To avoid wasting comfort and money, it’s important to look for ways to reduce shrink on your dairy.

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Several dairies in southwest Idaho have started using a feed collection bin to temporarily store batches of feed before being mixed. A side-dump box powered by an electric motor and controlled by a remote, the Batch Box, made by Feeding Systems, serves as a temporary place to hold batches of feed.

Bettencourt Dairies of Wendell, Idaho, recently implemented the use of a feed collection bin to streamline their feeding process at one of their Jerome facilities.

“We have an enclosed commodity shed that helps with shrink,” says Mike Holland, Bettencourt’s primary veterinarian. “Obviously that keeps commodities out of the wind and weather, but with the help of the Batch Box, it’s reduced shrink by around 7 percent.”

Collection bins are located at the end of Bettencourt’s enclosed commodity barn, elevated so feed trucks can drive underneath them to receive a load. Bins have a scale, allowing employees to add the correct amount of ingredients to the bin before being dumped in the feed truck to be mixed.

“There are essentially fewer moving parts,” says Holland. “If you’ve got a stationary mixer and delivery trucks, if your stationary mixer goes down there’s no way you can feed. With this system, if there’s an issue you can still feed the traditional way.”

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Instead of waiting for the loader to fetch each individual ingredient, the feed collection bin can dump feed into feed trucks in 30 seconds, sending trucks on their way in under a minute.

“It’s certainly sped things up for us,” says Holland. “At one facility we use two loaders; they can get a 32,000-pound load in about six minutes. If you’re going with a traditional way of feeding, depending on the loader operator it takes around 25 minutes to make one load.”

Using three boxes, three feed trucks and two loaders to feed around 26,000 animals, Bettencourt’s Dairy No. 3 makes over three loads per hour, as opposed to 1.5 when feeding the conventional way.

“We’re averaging around 58 gallons of diesel per day per truck,” says George Xavier, Feeding System’s representative working with Dairy No. 3. “Which calculates out to around 1.75 gallons per load. So we’ve saved around 45 percent in fuel savings.”

The feed collection bin is currently offered in two sizes. One option is a 16 cubic feet by 10 cubic feet and 12-feet-tall bin with a working capacity of 20,000 pounds and a 30-horsepower motor. Another option is 19 cubic feet by 10 cubic feet and 12 feet tall, with a working capacity of 40,000 pounds and a 60-horsepower motor.

TLK Dairy of Mountain Home, Idaho, was the first dairy operation to implement the use of a feed collection bin with the design of their feed “pantry” in 2017. TLK built the first completely enclosed commodity barn with a drive-over bridge, eliminating shrink by keeping the elements out. With over 20,000 head, feeding takes the majority of the day.

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“We knocked off about 50 hours of machine run time per day,” says owner Terry Ketterling. “We were using three feed-mixer wagons, two that ran during the day and one that ran all night. Now we only use two feeders; they start at 4:30 a.m. and are usually done around 2:30 or 3 p.m. Loading the feed wagon only takes two minutes where before it was 15.”

Ketterling noted the use of a feed collection bin severely cuts down on run time on equipment.

“Before, the feed-mixer wagons would wear out,” Ketterling says. “You have feed-mixer wagons turned on while you’re loading, sitting there running and wearing out metal. After using the dump box, our maintenance on knives and screws in the mixers went way down.”

Feed consistency has also improved, increasing milk production.

“The cows told us it was better,” Ketterling says. “Instead of the feed truck wiggling around while it’s running and the weights varying, the box just sits still; it’s not moving, so the load and the feed accuracy is a lot better.”

Ketterling feels his team has mastered the use of the feed collection bin, increasing efficiency.

“One thing we didn’t think about was when you traditionally mix feed you put alfalfa in first, so it has time to chop up,” Ketterling says. “With the Batch Box, we load all the other ingredients first and put the alfalfa in last. We then have the box programmed to dump the alfalfa into the feed-mixer wagon, wait 50 seconds and then dump the rest of the ingredients.”

Shrinking your fuel bill, maintenance, labor, time and, well, shrink while saving you time and money – something we could all use a little more of. end mark

PHOTO: A feed collection bin in action. Photo provided by George Xavier.

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