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FeedWatch helps Arizona dairy produce more milk and butterfat from every pound of feed

Whitehurst has noticed new capabilities with the newest version of FeedWatch that have already helped improve his profitability.

Arizona - 9 14 2017

“How much milk can we get out of a dollar’s worth of feed?” That’s the question Jim Whitehurst of Shamrock Farms in Stanfield, Arizona, wrestles with every day. VAS FeedWatch software allows Whitehurst to constantly monitor and manage every aspect of his feeding program.

“It wouldn't do us any good to save fifty cents [on feed] and lose seventy cents worth of milk,” he explains. “We've actually increased our cost per head per day, but the milk increase [and] the butter fat stability has more than offset [that]. We’ve probably gotten a two-fold return on that increase just in milk and butter fat production.”

Whitehurst milks 10,500 cows and has more than 21,000 cows on the facility from young stock, day olds all the way up to milking cows. 

“We're pretty much just concentrated on milking cows. We farm very little. What we do farm is organic pasture ground because we also have a 600-cow organic dairy on the same footprint.”

With that many cows at different stages of development and demand, FeedWatch helps Whitehurst and his crew tailor feed based on specific dietary needs.

“In all, we have five feed wagons feeding 21-22,000 animals, all going into that same computer terminal [to help us] manage the feed inventory and quite a few other things. We feed out of one central location for the conventional herd. And out of that location we feed all the calves. We make the calf pre-mix, we make the calf grain. We make the starter mix for the calves. We also feed the younger heifers and all the milk cows and dry cows. So, we have three units at the main dairy that we operate on FeedWatch. The organic [herd] has their own feed area that functions with the FeedWatch program. About a half a mile away we have our main heifer raising operation and they also have a feed wagon that is connected to FeedWatch.”

Whitehurst has noticed new capabilities with the newest version of FeedWatch that have already helped improve his profitability.

“We've been using it just as a feed program [in the past] but it does a lot more,” he says. “Now we're entering our feed that comes in on a daily basis. The biggest benefit of FeedWatch, right out of the gate, is the ability to monitor what the feeders are actually putting into the feed boxes and really be able to look at it in real time, [and] have the errors and exceptions reports. We're actively using it to monitor our inventories and the cost of our production, feed costs and how it affects our milk cow production.”

“We also use it to reconcile our feed usage at the end of every month to match up against our ending inventories — make sure that the feeders are feeding the right ingredient. Using FeedWatch for inventory control helps us spot that. Every two weeks we look at that to see if our ending inventories match up with what we should have. We're continuing to expand what we can do with the FeedWatch program. Right now, we're scratching the surface of what it's capable of. “
Whitehurst also credits the new version of FeedWatch with improving the uniformity of his TMR, which in turn has made his dairy more productive.
“Our butter fats have been higher [and] our milk production's been higher [because] our dry matter intakes are higher. Our milk production…is about eight percent higher than our historic average was before we started doing these things.”

“The single biggest thing we were able to discover with the new version…was [to control] particle length,” he continues. “We use the timer feature in FeedWatch so the feeders can't add another ingredient until they've processed the previous ingredient. So, we were getting our feed better processed. The whole idea of a TMR is that every bite is the same as the next bite. It also eliminated the sorting problem that we had because we were suffering from some slug feeding. We had some sub-acute acidosis going on. But once we were able to process those longer particles to the size we wanted, the cows could no longer sort them out. We’re not wasting near as much feed. We're getting it all into them. We really haven't lowered our feed cost, except for on a hundred weight of milk basis, which is what we look at anyway.”

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