Dairy Channel: Software for decision-making on feeds

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Recently I attended a training session on a new software package developed by Normand St. Pierre, Ohio State University Extension specialist in dairy management, with financial support from Church and Dwight Co.

Dubbed “Sesame,” the package is designed to help producers, nutritionists, extension agents and consultants figure out which feeds are the best buys relative to nutrient composition. Sesame determines feed or nutrient prices compared to other feeds the producer is using and other available feeds.

What Sesame will do. The program will evaluate feedstuffs on the basis of all listed nutrient levels, not just protein and energy. So feeds that are used primarily for fiber, bypass protein or any other nutrient can be compared to determine the best buy, which feeds are overpriced, which are underpriced.

Sesame will use National Research Council nutrient values on feeds or you can use laboratory analysis values. Prices can be Ohio feed prices, West Coast prices or your own list of local prices. The program will tell you at what price a particular feed is worth buying, relative to the other feeds you are feeding.

What Sesame will not do. Sesame will not balance rations. Sesame will not figure least-cost rations. Sesame does not determine amounts to be fed. Sesame does not value non-nutritional characteristics of feeds such as the dust containment and mix integrity characteristics of molasses or the mold retardant characteristics of sodium propionate.

Sesame does not use “indicator” feeds (such as corn and soybean meal) to calculate unit costs of nutrients, because these feeds may not always be correctly priced, based on nutrient values.

Instead, Sesame calculates a weighted average cost of each nutrient in the entire list of feeds you use and/or have available. Based on these averages, the software calculates a neutral or predicted price for each feed.

This is the break-even price for that particular feed at the analysis values entered. If the feed is available at a lower price, it is a good buy. If it is priced higher than the predicted price, you should choose another feed or refigure the ration without it.

Sesame can also figure the break-even price of feeds you are not currently feeding. You put these into an “Appraisal Set,” and have the program figure a break-even value for them.

Sesame estimates costs of nutrients. According to the software documentation, Sesame provides answers to a variety of marketing, production, and nutritional questions. For example:

1. What is the break-even price of a new bypass lysine product?

2. What is the break-even price of wet brewers grains?

3. A feed manufacturer has 12 feed bins at its manufacturing plant. What ingredients should be on hand and stored in these 12 bins?

4. A dairy producer is being offered three types of almond hulls, each with a different nutrient profile. Which one should he buy?

5. In October a dairy producer can lock in a price for March delivery of whole cottonseed. Should he buy?

I found the software to be a powerful tool for answering the elusive question repeatedly asked of me over the last 25 years by many producers: “Is this feed worth the money?”

It will take some time to learn to use Sesame and you will need to use it every month or two in order to keep the expertise you have developed (like any records or accounting software).

Sesame runs in the Windows 95 or 98 environment and requires 30 MB of hard drive space to install. Once installed it will occupy about 12 MB or hard drive memory.

For more information about Sesame, contact: Normand St. Pierre, Ohio State University Department of Animal Sciences, 221-A Animal Sciences Building, 2029 Fyffe Rd. Columbus, OH 43210; 614-292-6507.

Additional contacts for information about Sesame include your local extension office or your Church and Dwight sales representative.

(The author is an agricultural extension agent in Columbiana County. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)

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