Feed Inventory: Do You Have Enough?

Estimate Your Feed Inventory

Late summer is a very good time to evaluate your feed inventory – what do you have and what will you still need to put in storage to make it through the next year? The weather always presents challenges and variabilities. It’s important to keep in mind that harvesting the same amount of acres of a certain forage year after year might not work. 

Too many times we have received calls saying, “I’m out of certain forage.” Feed inventory is critical and always changing. It is something that needs to be tracked on all dairy farms. Dairy producers need to know what the nutrient composition of their feed is so plans can be in place before feed runs out. It also helps to position different quality forages to different animal groups. This will maximize production and economic value.

Let’s say you have a pretty good idea of how much hay you have and you are able to forecast what you will be getting for the next cutting. So, how much corn silage do we need to chop? Or, do we have an annual summer crop to harvest yet? Or, do we need to seed alternative forage that we can harvest this fall or next spring?

Remember to take into account harvest and storage losses as well as feed out shrink in planning your needs. It’s critical to harvest at the proper moisture and to process and treat with inoculants to maximize dry matter recovery and digestibility.


“Feed inventory is critical and always changing, it is something that needs to be tracked on all dairy farms.”


Estimate Your Livestock Inventory

The best estimate for feed inventory needs requires you to know your livestock inventory as well. This may also be a good time to evaluate your culling parameters to control the number of animals that you have to feed. Start by looking at individual groups of animals along with their rations so you can calculate how many pounds (divide by 2000=tons) to determine your needs for each group and then multiply for the length of time. Add up the feeds from each group of animals and subtract from the current inventory. Then consider what your storage holds. The result is the amount of feed that will be needed to feed your herd for the selected amount of time.

Now add in harvest, storage, and feed out shrink to determine the amount of additional feed needed to harvest or purchase. Feed out shrink is real and something most don’t plan enough for. Total forage dry matter losses can easily range from 10%-20% coming from losses associated with filling, seepage, fermentation, and surface spoilage from birds, rodents, and tires tracking feed. This is something every producer needs to acknowledge and take steps to reduce. It is worth taking the time to evaluate your operation and see where the opportunity lies to reduce this profit robber.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Your BioAg consultant is here to support your journey to more profitable farm management.