Feed Mixer Scales Have an Impact on Profitability
On-farm mixer mills are used to mix and deliver feed to livestock rather than relying on a local feed mill. They can save money but only if they work properly. One of the most important parts of the mixer is the scale. When we review mixing procedures for customers it isn’t uncommon to find these mixers either without scales or with scales that aren’t working. This results in mixing by volume rather than by ingredient weights.
Volume mixing leads to the possibility of overfeeding or underfeeding which is costly with the current costs of feeds.
Variables that can cause the mix to be off when mixing by volume include the test weight of the corn as well as the variability of different people doing the mixing.
The daily performance between healthy animals in a feedlot will vary by about 15%. There isn’t the need to overformulate the diet for the sake of the higher producers. There is no wiggle room in the diet.
What does it cost to over or underfeed?
The Tend-R-Leen 536 program calls for a pellet rate of 8% or 160# per ton. Let’s say the mix is actually 7% rather than the target of 8%. The Crude Protein of the corn pellet mixture is 2.5% less than the goal because the 536 pellets are included at 12% less than the target (140#/T vs. 160#/T).
According to the NRC, This difference could mean a decrease of ADG by .2# day. Equally important is that we will be short on mineral, vitamins and medication that will also reduce performance.
When we run these changes in a budgeting program, the .2# ADG loss costs (-$26.00) more per steer in feed costs and could be as high as a (-$56.00) loss per steer if performance is dropped by .3# per day. These calculations only address feed cost and not the other costs from more days on feed.
If the mix is 9% pellets vs the target of 8%, the cost of overfeeding is ($-18.50) per head from 650#-1400# at todays feed prices.
Over the years, none of the customers that had been adding pellets at too high of a rate and then corrected the mix, came back and said the cattle performed better when they were being overfed.
If the scale is not working properly, getting it fixed sooner than later can make a difference on your bottom line profitability. Over and underfeeding Tend-R-Leen supplements by 12% will reduce your return by $18-$26 per steer.
Mary Newcomb, Senior Service Technician with Digi Star provided some insight into what can go wrong with scales along with estimated costs of repairs.
General Scale Problems:
- Bad J-box cable or Load cell cable
- Moisture in a connection
- Bad load cell. Hitch load cell on mobile mixers are first to go bad.
- Corrosion on power cord, bad power connections
- Keypad problems, keypad buttons worn out, or damaged, key detected messages.
- Broken LCD, cracked window, and/or broken housing from dropping, run over, smashed.
- Won’t turn – blown fuse, diode or resistor on power input from not disconnecting when charging battery or jump starting.
- Moisture getting inside causing issues, could be from power washing, or cracks in housing or bad seal around window.
- Works but USB ports not working, radio not working, remote connector problems.
Range of repair costs- dependent on the model:
Minor repair – check out, change fuse, resistor, update software – $100.00- $125.00
Change out overlays, housings, LCDs – $195-$285.00 (our most common charge)
Full rebuild – $375.00- $600.00 if we have to change out board
A new scale can run in the $2,500 range and scales are generally universal so they can fit on most brands of mixer mills.
As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” but if it is broke you best fix it…
If you would like a review of your mixing procedures and finished mixes, you can contact the Form-A-Feed team with any questions you may have.