COLUMN: Calibration Clinics Evaluate Feeding Accuracy | Agriculture / Energy

Knowledge is power. I have alluded to this in most of my articles this fall.

Whether it’s hay analysis or ration evaluation, gaining knowledge about the components of a livestock nutritional program can be very powerful.

This fall, OSU Extension gave growers another opportunity to gain knowledge and improve feeding accuracy by hosting cake/bucket feeder calibration clinics throughout Northwest Oklahoma.

You may be wondering, “what is a feeder calibration clinic”? It’s a quick and easy clinic where growers show up with their pail dispensers and OSU Extension staff test the accuracy of the dispenser.

The first objective of these clinics is to determine the average feed delivery from each producer’s specific feeder and adjust if necessary. We ask growers how much they expect to feed and help them change their practices if our test shows the feeder isn’t delivering accurately. you

The entire process takes about five minutes, but growers can spend more time getting nutritional advice if they want. Each of these clinics is organized by county extension and run by cooperatives or local food companies.

It may be surprising that the outcomes of food delivery in these clinics varied from one end of the spectrum to the other, from undernutrition to significant overnutrition. Even feeders of the same brand can vary widely in accuracy. To illustrate this situation, I chose a group of growers who attended one of our clinics this fall. It’s a story of three feeders: one that delivers too much, one that delivers too little, and one that hits the mark.

These three producers each attended to evaluate their 3C brand cake feeder. Interestingly, all of these producers were feeding a 20% pellet of the same size. One would expect these three feeders to deliver the exact amount, but this was definitely not the case.

The first producer to attend did not have a digital timer for his feeder, but he informed us that he fed using his own mental counting and had a consistent feeding goal of 1.5 seconds per cow. By evaluating feeder production, this producer was able to determine that his feeder was providing an average of 6.7 pounds per second for his cows. By his goal, he was delivering just over 10 pounds in 1.5 seconds.

This was a bit higher than he wanted, and this knowledge allowed him to fine tune his feeding time to better target his desired feeding level.

The next two producers had digital counters on their 3C feeders, and each assumed their feeder output to be 1 pound per count. The second producer was very accurate, providing 102% of what he expected.

The third producer had a feeder that was feeding slightly more than expected, feeding 1.22 pounds per digital count or 122% of the expected amount. One may think that 0.22 pounds above the desired feeding level isn’t a big deal, but the numbers get really inflated as more animals are fed.

The reality is that every pound fed is 22% more than desired.

Think about your expected grocery bill each month and add 22%. Would that be acceptable to you? Food for thought.

The second objective of the clinics is to survey producers to gain insight into feeding practices such as feeder brand, feed type, and feeder fill level. Our future plan is to compile the results of our survey for an extension document summarizing the feeding practices of Oklahoma growers.

In the meantime, I am really enjoying these clinics and the opportunity to meet with the producers. If you are interested in a clinic like this, please contact your county outreach educator and we will get you a date at the show.

Zook is a cattle specialist for the Northwest area of ​​the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.

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