Post by Caroline Rasmussen

AMTS LLC, in conjunction with the Upper Susquehanna Coalition, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and Cornell University, is implementing a precision feed management project in the Upper Susquehanna Watershed with the goals increasing feed use efficiencies and reducing nutrient loss on dairy farms.

As part of the 3 year grant, funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, AMTS LLC is working with 7 dairy farms located in the Upper Susquehanna Watershed. The project includes installing electronic mixer wagon scale heads, integrating the on-farm feeding system with AMTS ration formulation software, and collecting data to measure and improve farm nutrient use.

As an important part of both increasing feed use accuracy and providing detailed records electronic scale heads provide two-way communication between farm office computer and the mixer wagon. Rations formulations are sent from the farm computer to the mixer wagon scale when diets are reformulated. Any changes in diet formulation can be easily implemented for each group fed; day-to-day changes in feeds and animal intake accounted. The mixer wagon scale communicates back to the farm computer the quantity and accuracy with which each ingredient was loaded, the time spent mixing, the time between loads, and the total time spent feeding. This information can be aggregated to more accurately quantify the total purchased and farm produced feeds fed. This information can be used to track inventories and estimate the feedstuff contribution to the farm’s mass nutrient balance. Monitoring these records improves nutrient management by identifying factors (feeder accuracy, load order, etc.) that contribute to inaccuracies. The scales allow a seamless interface between AMTS.Cattle™.Pro software implementation of the CNCPS 6.1 rumen model and on-the-farm delivery of more precise, balanced rations. This, in turn, will minimize N and P excretion while maximizing farm income. Animal weight scales are also being used to collect accurate animal weights, further ensuring more targeted nutrient use.

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This project requires the collaborative efforts of many individuals. AMTS Precision Feed Specialist, Doug Benson, is responsible for installation of the scales, support of both the scales and software, and farm data collection. The backing and expertise of the dairy’s nutritionist and feeder(s) are critical to the project. All data collected and analyzed, as well as project reports are shared with the cooperating producers and nutritionists. This graph illustrates the percent difference between the ration quantities formulated by the nutritionist (Target) and the quantities loaded into the mixer wagon over a 27 day period:

By examining this type of information it is possible to understand and change areas of weakness and to remedy wastefulness. Using the Feed Wagon Scales which communicate with the AMTS nutrition software farmers are better able to ensure that the nutrients they put into their cattle is used for producing milk as efficiently as possible. This system will allow farmers to improve their income over feed cost through more precise feeding and also to improve the environmental effects within the watershed through reduction of excess nutrient release. AMTS is pleased to partner with the Upper Susquehanna Coalition, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and Cornell University in improving on-farm nutrient management.

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