Feed wastage can very quickly become a problem for farmers, particularly if they are relying on it for supplementary feeding or in times of drought when feed is hard to come by. Not only does it cost money but it also decreases the available food for livestock.
Feed wastage can occur for many reasons, through bad feedings methods, livestock interference or anything in between. Whatever the reason, it will cost you time and money.
But how does feed wastage happen and what can farmers do to minimise feed and financial loss? We’re going to take a look at the most common ways hay and silage loss occurs and how to reduce this by using better feed out methods, such as using bale saver feeders.
Let’s take a closer look...
Main reasons for feed loss
Feed wastage is a common problem, it’s estimated that losses from things like improper storage and feeding practices are in the millions of dollars annually. In the U.S. they estimate that their total losses exceed three billion dollars annually. It’s clearly a big problem, but one that can easily go undetected.
This also doesn’t take into account the economic losses related to the labour to store and feed out. This extra labour can have a big toll on the day to day operations and finances of a farm.
It’s normal to expect some amount of loss during feeding, but minimising feed wastage should be at the front of farmers' minds. If bales of feed, such as hay and silage, are stored and fed properly, losses can easily be minimised. So, how exactly is feed wasted?
Some feeding practices can increase the chance and amount of feed wasted. Feeding hay bales on the ground for example is one way that feed can be wasted. Livestock will likely pick through the hay, then trample on it, lay in it and defecate on it. Once soiled or when it mixes in with mud and dirt, it makes a mucky mess that livestock won't eat.
Hay losses from feeding can range from less than 2% to as much as 60%.
The type of feeder used can also increase wastage, with some feeders making it too easy or too difficult for livestock to access the feed. It is also important to think about the intervals between feedings and the amount of feed being used. When feedings happen too often and there is surplus feed, livestock can muck up the feed instead of eating it.
Improper storage also leads to feed loss. It can occur when bales are not kept dry, or experience chemical or physical deterioration. Contaminated bales will likely be refused by livestock and won’t be able to be used as feed
There are many other reasons that feed wastage occurs, and some of them can be out of a farmers control. Things like livestock refusal, weather conditions, and hay quality can lead to losses, so it’s important to take these into account when planning your feeding schedule.
How to reduce feed loss
There are a number of strategies to reduce the risk of feed wastage, and they’re important for saving time and money when keeping livestock.
Proper storage of bales will help to reduce contamination and deterioration. Bales should be stored in places that are not susceptible to roof leaks or storm runoff, which is usually why bales are stored off the ground in lofted areas. You should also avoid stacking them up to the ceiling, as this could mean they block air circulation.
Feeding practices can also reduce the chances of feed wastage. Things like efficient feeding schedules, taking into account livestock requirements and weather conditions, will help to ensure feed is properly utilised.
One of the key ways to reduce feed wastage is to use effective feed out methods, such as bale saver feeders. Bale feeders help to feed out efficiently, distributing feed consistently, rather than dumping entire bales on the ground. These feeders also have a high ground clearance, keeping the bales off the ground and avoiding soilage. Feeders also help to reduce the labour involved in feedings, as they transport the bales to where they are needed and can automatically feed out the hay or silage.
In summary, the best ways to reduce hay losses during feeding include:
Match the feed to animals’ nutritional requirements and the current weather conditions.
Store bales in dry and circulated places and select well-drained sites for outside feeding.
Use a feeder to reduce trampling and feed losses, as well as saving time and money in feed out.
Minimise the amount of hay that livestock will have access to at one time.
If you’re looking for a great bale feeder that will reduce feed wastage, a feeder from WMI Feeders is a good choice.
Our round bale feeders for example offer a cost-effective, long term solution to feed wastage.
The Pa-Mick is a hay and silage feeder that can carry up to two bales at a time, both round and square and in any order. It features high ground clearance, a strong robust design, and a curved chamber for pad feeding.
Each machine also has an independent tandem rock system, an extendable chamber to accommodate all bales, and can be used for carting in. It is one of the most versatile and effective bale feeders on the market.
If you’re interested in any of our bale saver feeders or have questions about how to reduce feed loss, get in touch with our friendly team today.