|Optimal Feed Mix Decision Support Tool|
The Decision Support Tool (DST) was developed to support dairy farmers in providing feeds for their dairy cattle in the appropriate quantities and with the required quality. Previous research has shown that in many instances dairy cattle produce milk in amounts much lower than expected due to poor feeding.
The DST has therefore been developed to provide information to farmers and their advisors on quantities of available feeds that they can use to meet the feed requirement of their animals depending on the various characteristics. Feed requirements in this case have been based on 2 major feeds components namely metabolisable energy (ME) and crude protein (CP). Such characteristics include the type of animal whether cow, bull or heifer and its physiological state. The DST also provides information on the cost effectiveness of using the feed formulation in consideration.
The DST was developed for farmers who have access to and can use computers. It was also developed for extension personnel to use as basis for advising farmers and for researchers who wish to develop appropriate dairy feeding packages for their research cattle. The tool will also be useful for students and lecturers for purposes of training. The tool will also provide information for guiding policy.
Information already existing in the tool
Information that must be selected in the tool
Table 1. Tool options for selection of cattle type that fits that for which feed formulation is required
NB: Calves and weaners are not yet catered for by the DST
Information that must be calculated
It is advisable, therefore, that if the cost-effectiveness of the formulated feeds will be of interest to the user that cost of production for a Kg of each feed be calculated. These should use the current costs for the location and should then be entered into the tool.
Costs per Kg for purchased feeds is obvious and readily available, however, cost per kg of farm grown feeds should include costs of
Table 2. Yields (Kg per acre per harvest) from the feed types included in the DST
2.4 Converting the tool output into a usable
Output 1: A combination of feeds and their respective amounts (Kg dry matter) that provide a daily the feed requirement for the cattle specifications you gave
Output 2: The cost of the feed combination given in Output 1
As shown under Output 1, the values for the feed type quantities will be according to the dry matter basis. However, on farms we weigh the feeds on fresh weight basis. Hence the quantities given by the tool will have to be converted to fresh weight by a simple calculation shown in equation 1.
Equation 1. DM% of the Feed Type x Feed Quantity
in Output 1 = Fresh Weight
The dry matter percentages for the feeds are provided in the Feeds list in the DST and the Feed Quantity will be that obtained in the tool output.