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How Precision Feeding Promotes Sustainable Livestock Production

by Bea Van Deynse
26 Jun 2018

With Earth's population rapidly building towards eight billion within the next decade, every resource we produce is being stretched thin. Sustainability is becoming more than a simple buzzword of the environmental movement, it's now the prime focus of progress in our world. Though precision agriculture is a concept that has been around for decades, precision feeding is a newer concept. Here's a look at how it can help sustainable livestock production become a reality.

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What is precision feeding?

Precision feeding involves reducing feed and nutrient waste by only feeding the precise amount needed to reach optimum production. It's already being used extensively in the dairy industry, being given strong consideration during and following the 2012 drought that caused feeding problems for so many producers. However, it also has applications across a wide range of species of livestock and poultry. The process uses quality data management and recipe management to ensure that each animal is getting exactly what they need without wasting precious resources that could be used elsewhere.

How does precision feeding optimize efficiency and profitability?

Generally speaking, precision feeding reduces the inputs required on the farm, which lowers farm overhead and improves profitability. A University of Florida study found that cows fed a precision diet produced greater milk yields than those fed a standardized diet. A University of Minnesota study found that taking steps to reduce milk urea nitrogen to 10 milligrams per deciliter through dietary changes reduced the nitrogen lost in urine by between 1-5 pounds per month as well as a reduction in feed costs between $3-$7 per cow per month. U of MN also recommended regular careful management of recipe management and quality data management for successful precision feeding operations.

How is it vital to sustainable livestock production?

When you use precision feeding in your farm operation, the amount of methane, a greenhouse gas linked to climate change, and nitrogen, the runoff of which can cause algae blooms in waterways, that is lost in production is drastically reduced. The reduction of the loss of these two compounds helps to directly reduce the impact of farming operations on the environment. Instead of slightly overfeeding animals to ensure good growth or production, either in terms of amount or quality of feed, you can focus on providing your livestock with exactly what they need. This helps reduce the demand for feed and feeding waste, which in turn allows those assets to be used to meet other needs, such as biofuel production or human food.

How does precision animal feed play a role in animal health?

Precision feeding can actually lead to a number of improvements in animal health that will directly improve the producer's profitability and efficiency. By balancing feed rations to precise levels needed for precision feeding, many issues in animal health actually improve. Imbalanced nutrition is often at the root of a number of animal health issues, such as lower livestock productivity and lower reproductive efficiency. The need for quality data management and recipe management in precision animal feed operations can also prevent malnutrition due to the lack of a wide range of nutrients.

Precision feeding has a long future ahead for producers large and small while providing sustainable options that will have far-reaching benefits to all mankind.