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Manage the harvesting process of silage as a project

Balanced feed for cows is a recipe for animal health and productivity, as well as the economic efficiency of dairy farms. Our company is engaged in the development of rations, and also consultations on harvesting, exploitation and evaluation of feed, and proper grass silage harvesting.

Let’s start with the stages, the systematization of which will play a key role in obtaining a quality final product – the provision of transport, the provision of technical means, field work and work in the trench silo.

In our work we use the following quality indicators of grass silage:

  • crude protein <17 %;
  • dry matter at the level of 35-45 %;
  • ash <10 %;
  • ADF protein <10 %;
  • рН <4,5;
  • lactic acid should be more than 5 %;
  • acetic acid up to 2,5 %;
  • butyric acid content should not exceed 0,3 % ;
  • ammonia in the protein is not more than 10 %.

Of course, each company can adapt these indicators to suit the features of the region, but these parameters must be respected if we strive for high feed efficiency. According to the indicators developed by Dr. Mike Hutjens from the University of Illinois, the average feed conversion rate per herd is 1,4 – 1,6. Including for the first lactation cows to the 90th day 1,5 – 1,7; after the 200th day of lactation – 1,2 – 1,4; the second lactation cows to the 90th day of milking should reach a conversion of 1,6 – 1,8, and after the 200th day of lactation 1,3 – 1,6; freshly calved cows up to the 21st day of lactation on average should have a conversion rate of 1,3 – 1,6, and problem groups for culling with milking days of more than 150 days should give a conversion of at least 1,3.

To achieve the maximum result in managing the process of grass silage harvesting, it is necessary to understand that in modern organizational structures there are 4 main centers of responsibility: marketing, finance, personnel management and operational management. Production is a part of operational management, which should be headed by the center of responsibility for the correctness of all processes and projects. Silage harvesting is a part of operational management called a project.

The project has a clear deadline and a clear expected result. The project consists of tasks, each of which has a clear expected result of work. In building and IT, they are displayed in a Gantt chart. There are already other approaches to project management, such as scrums, etc., but the Gantt chart is a classic. The point of the Gantt chart is that each task in a project must be completed on time, otherwise the project deadline is moved and as a result we have poor quality feed.

The “Grass Silage Harvesting” project must have a project manager who is accountable to the owner or director of the company for the aforementioned result, namely the quality indicators of the finished product – silage, which must meet these requirements.

We also want to add that the successful implementation of the project “Grass silage harvesting” is impossible without respect for the principle of “internal customer”. This is an important principle in that the company has not only external customers, such as processing plants, but also internal ones that are in an “internal customer – internal contractor” relationship with each other, for example in the project “Grass silage harvesting” assistants in the field, transport and trench silo are internal contractors of the farm manager responsible for the final result. Therefore, the quality of the project result directly depends on the quality of prescribing the process itself of the quality of work of internal contractors.

A very important component of the project is the binding of all project participants to the financial result. It can be a percentage of the planned milk yield that the company can get from the fact that the cows will consume quality feed, the energy and protein of which are the cheapest on the market. We are in favor of the award being given based on the results of laboratory tests after the end of the harvest season.

Potentially, about 2 liters of milk can be obtained from 1 kg of such feed at the average annual selling price. Based on this, the award is accrued to all project participants in certain parts, which are determined before the start of work. The last integral part of the “Grass silage harvesting” project is the approved checklist, which is signed by all project participants, according to which all project participants will act for the period of work in the project.

Consider a checklist for the harvesting grass silage, which should be supplemented by all the nuances that may affect the quality of the project.

Standard checklist items include:

  • preparation of a trench silo;
  • images of transport routes;
  • trench silo cover scheme;
  • preparation and packaging of transport;
  • mowing time and conditions;
  • measurement of dry matter, structure and temperature of the mass;
  • conditions and rules of ramming and sealing feed in the trench.

All this checklist is distributed to the responsible contractors and each of them is responsible for their own land, their tasks, realizing that failure to follow the checklist items will fail the entire project and this will properly affect the result. We recommend having 4 types of checklists: one for the manager and one for each assistant, and in the checklist itself, columns should be provided with the percentage of completion of a particular item and the total percentage of completion.

For example, a checklist for which there may be a responsible field assistant, may have sections such as vegetation, cutting height, cutting length, inoculant treatment, and so on. Each of these sections can contain subtasks, where all the conditions will be described in detail.

The same applied to the checklist of an assistant in transport. The sections of its checklist can be the serviceability of all technical means, the presence of all necessary additional fences and metal gates on vehicles, drawing up a map of routes and the movement of vehicles on it, the uninterrupted process of ensiling.

And then there are the sections of the assistant’s checklist in the trench. These are dry matter control and cutting length adjustment, mass temperature control, mass unloading correctness control, mass ramming quality, film integrity control, timely film covering, etc.

The profitability of livestock starts with the quality of silage and all mistakes made during the harvesting process are almost impossible to correct in the future and they will affect the average daily gain, milk production and animal health throughout the next year.

We would like to wish everyone a successful harvesting and to say: if you want to ensure the quality of the result – ensure the quality of the process!

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