11 September 1998

FEEDING FOR

LEAST COST?

This years Spotlight on Profit marquee will feature a new

computer feed rationing system. Jessica Buss reports

FORMULATE least-cost diets for dairy cows with FeedByte, a new computer rationing programme.

Developed by SACs nutritional experts using the latest scientific knowledge, FeedByte helps maintain healthy herds by providing a balanced diet while keeping feed costs down, says SAC dairy consultant Jimmy Goldie.

The computer program, which runs on the operating system Windows, allows winter rations to be planned based on both forage quality and availability. Beef cattle and sheep can also be rationed using the programme.

SAC consultants have been using the programme for about a year, and it is now being offered to other consultants and feed companies.

The programme uses the Metaboli-sable Protein rationing system which has been in use in the UK for over five years. But it differs in that it calculates the quantities of feeds needed to supply cows energy and protein requirements at least cost, within appetite limits. Most current programmes need the consultant to enter a feed rate for each ration ingredient. FeedByte can be used to formulate and evaluate rations.

"The result is a well balanced diet by the best mix of feeds available at least cost. "However, a least-cost ration is not always the best," admits Mr Goldie. Thats when hand steering the ration to allow a minimum inclusion rate for a particular feed can be used. Limits can also be set for ration content of long fibre, fat, crude protein, starch, sugar and nutrient detergent fibre.

Information on annual or daily milk yield, animal weight and milk quality must be entered before the ration can be calculated. The addition of calving dates and calving interval will allow a winter feed plant to be calculated.

"Rations can, therefore, be designed to feed the cow in the most cost effective way using feeds which are available on-farm. When supplies of a feed are restricted – or available in excess – rations can be adjusted to take this into account."

FeedByte also includes an accurate prediction of stock appetite based on silage intake factors from SAC forage analysis results based on SAC research says Mr Goldie. Where producers do not have an SAC silage analysis, ammonia level can be used to describe fermentation.

Producers using mixer wagons can also calculate mixes based on wagon capacity for easy feed loading management.

FeedBytes database includes over 100 typical feeds. This can be edited to suit supplies on-farm, and additional feeds added. Cost of each feed should be entered on farm.

Relative feed values can also be calculated to work out which feeds offer best value on energy and protein, he adds.

Producers who wish to find out more about FeedByte should visit the DRC stand in the Spotlight on Profit marquee at the European Dairy Farming Event on September 23 and 24. If youd like to try out your ration on FeedByte, take a silage analysis and feed prices to the event.

FEEDBYTE

&#8226 Based on Metabolisable Protein rationing system.

&#8226 Formulates rations on least cost basis.

&#8226 Uses silage intake factor to predict cow feed intakes.

&#8226 Relative feed value option to find best buy.