How much time do you spend finding ways to reduce feed losses? How much of that time is focused on monitoring your feeder’s performance? And when was the last time you had a training session or refresher for your feeders focusing on how to reduce feed losses and what your expectations are?

I sometimes see dairies running well over 10 percent feed losses due to a lack of training and preparation for feeders. This can cost the dairy owner more than $15,000 a month or over $180,000 per year for every 1,000 cows. Keep in mind that this is money spent on feed that will never generate revenue to the dairy operation. In other words, it’s money down the drain!

Although you will never eliminate feed losses completely, it doesn’t mean that you and your feeders can’t control and minimize losses to the max. In order to accomplish this you need a well-planned feeding management system and well-trained feeders to execute the feeding program.

Here are five steps that will help you accomplish this:

1. Evaluate where most of the feed losses come from.
Once the grain, commodities and minerals arrive at the farm, a significant amount of feed can be lost if not managed properly. With the help of your nutritionist and/or consultant establish which are the key control points that directly impact feed losses at your dairy operation. Typically the three key control points are:


• Feed handling and storage
• Mixing and feeding process
• Feedbunk management

2. Establish a monitoring system.
Once you determine the main control points where most of the feed losses occur, you need to establish a monitoring system that will help keep track of those losses. Using feeding management software can help keep track of feed losses. At the same time, it will allow you to better monitor feeder’s performance and accuracy.

3. Develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) and job descriptions.
With the help of your supervisor and an outside consultant, establish, write down and train feeders about their role on the dairy. Also, develop SOPs is to reduce group and individual variation among feeders. Remember that feeding consistency is one of the key factors in reducing feed losses.

4. Develop key performance indicators (KPIs).
With the help of your nutritionist and supervisor, establish those parameters of the feeding process that impact feed losses the most and that are directly affected by your feeder’s performance. These KPIs should be monitored daily or at least weekly. Examples of these KPIs could be loading accuracy, feed delivery accuracy and shrink losses of key ingredients.

5. Develop a training program.
With the help of your nutritionist, outside consultant and supervisor, develop a training program for feeders that will cover all these main aspects of feed and forage quality assessment: feed handling and storage, the mixing and feeding process, feedbunk management and mixer maintenance. A good training program will reduce errors and feed losses and will keep established feeders refreshed and motivated.

In order to help your feeders succeed, you will need to develop great supervisory skills. Ask your supervisor to help you become a better supervisor or ask for an outside specialist that could help you work on this. Also, training on the use and applications of your feeding management software can be very helpful.

Communicate with your feeders daily or at least weekly. Remember that constant communication is very important if you want your people to succeed. Goals, expectations and KPIs should always be part of the conversation.

Go to for more information on feeder and feed manager training. EL

Felix Soriano, MS, PAS