Impact of Precision Feeding Strategies on Whole Farm Nutrient Balance and Feeding Management

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Virginia Tech


Impact of precision feeding with feed management software was assessed for whole farm nutrient balance (WFNB) and feeding management from January through December 2006. Nine treatment and six control farms were selected in four regions of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed of Virginia. Herd sizes averaged 271 and 390 lactating cows for treatment and control farms while milk yield averaged 30 and 27 kg/d per lactating cow, respectively. Crop hectares grown averaged 309 and 310 ha for treatment and control farms, respectively. Treatment farms purchased and installed feed management software (TMR Tracker, Digi-Star LLC, Fort Atkinson WI) between May and October 2006 and received more frequent feed analysis and feedback. Data were collected for calendar year 2005 and 2006 to compute WFNB using software from the University of Nebraska. On treatment farms, up to five feed samples were obtained monthly from individual feedstuffs and each total mixed ration (TMR) fed to lactating cows. Control farms submitted TMR samples every 2 mo. Standard wet chemistry analysis of samples was performed. Data stored in the software were collected monthly from each treatment farm concurrent with feed sampling. Producers from each treatment farm participated in a 24-question personal interview in December 2006 addressing installation, operation, and satisfaction with the software. Daily feeding deviation of all ingredients across treatment farms averaged 173 ± 163 kg/d. This corresponded to average daily overfeeding of CP and P of 17.6 ± 17 and 0.4 ± 0.3 kg/d, respectively. Feeding deviation did not differ between feeders. Milk production was negatively associated with kg total deviation and kg CP deviation, but positively related to P deviation. Whole farm nutrient balance did not differ between treatment and control farms. All producers indicated TMR Tracker met expectations. Change made to the feeding program due to TMR Tracker was correlated (r=0.80) with perceived improvement in ration consistency. In conclusion, producers perceived feed management software as beneficial, but WFNB was not reduced after 3 to 6 mo of using feed management software; however, the large variation in daily over or under feeding indicates potential for future reductions in WFNB through reduced feeding variability.



Phosphorus, whole farm nutrient balance, precision feeding, Nitrogen