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Connecting Farmers Feed Mills

Connecting Farmers Feed Mills
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Connecting Farmers Feed Mills

Feed mills and farms often experience tension when it comes to feed management. While they share a common goal of producing and delivering quality products, inventory management, and delivery schedules sometimes falter due to communication gaps.

Weekend deliveries feed outages, and last-minute orders frustrate feed mills and run up costs for farmers. Technology innovation from BinMaster bridges this gap, allowing feed mills and farmers to work in harmony. FeedView®, an inventory management solution, combines sensors and software to create a dynamic system that supports both entities in their goals

Frustration on the farm
Historically, farmers have faced climbing bins to measure silos. Manual measurement of silos results in guesswork, massive spreadsheets, and piles of paperwork. The result: unreliable inventory data leading to running low or out of feed at the most inopportune times.

BinMaster FeedView inventory management app is a comprehensive feed management solution that combines wireless, battery-powered level sensors with cloud-based, simple-to-use software. It automatically measures bin levels and project consumption using historical consumption rates to help farmers project outages and know when to schedule deliveries.

Feed mills flustered
From the perspective of a mill manager, unscheduled, emergency orders create chaos. When a farm runs out of feed, mill staff must work overtime to make an unscheduled delivery. In a rush, the amount of feed in a truck may not fit the silo resulting in spills or wasted feed. All this is a waste. Mills lose money and charge farmers, creating tension in the relationship.

Feed mills benefit from FeedView. Farmers are better informed about bulk inventory and can be proactive in order. Farmers also know how much space remains in silos to prevent ordering too much feed. Orders can be placed ahead of time or sent to the mill automatically using a feature in the FeedView software. Farmers also have the option of allowing the mill to remotely monitor feed silos on the farm and project what feed needs will be based on historical use.

Thanks to BinMaster’s wireless monitoring system, one ag operation experienced a reduction in labor from two hours to just 15 minutes per day.
While farms focus on finishing livestock, operations are lean with just two or three people. In the case of a major hog producer in the Midwest, just two employees managed four barns and eight feed bins, readying more than 5,000 head for market. During this operation, each barn included two silos used in tandem. One silo empties and then pulls material from the second silo. At that point, the empty silo is scheduled for a refill.

Before installing sensors and software, each silo had to be climbed and a tape measure dropped to estimate how much feed was in each silo. Climbing silos, dropping a tape, and recording measurements back in the office could take up to 15 minutes per silo—or about two hours a day. This process had to be done almost every day—rain, snow, or shine.

Measurements were handwritten and manually recorded in a spreadsheet. The amount of feed on hand was then calculated by entering an estimate of the amount of feed remaining in each bin. Some days there just wasn’t enough time to get feed inventory done, which lead to a disconnect between the farm and the mill.

Goodbye tape measures, hello sensors
The biggest roadblock to automating silo measurements for this producer was that of many other hog farms: no power was available at the feed bins. The solution? A battery-operated sensor from BinMaster eliminates the need for wiring. Low-power level sensors are mounted on top of the bin through a hole cut in the roof. The sensor is pointed at the feed near the outlet of the bin, automatically measuring feed levels once an hour. Level data is sent through a wireless gateway to FeedView.

FeedView converts the sensor data into tonnage and allows for user-friendly tracking and reporting of feed intake, medicated supplements, headcount adjustments, and feed orders. The farm’s goal was to save time and streamline the ordering process. They found the integration of level sensors and software made their operation more efficient.

“With FeedView, I can reorder feed with confidence. We’ve eliminated most delivery emergencies and overfills, all without climbing feed bins… thanks to the wireless level sensors,” said the operations manager. “Using sensors to measure feed levels in bins saves a lot of time and is far safer than climbing ladders. Plus, the laser sensors are more accurate than a tape measure because they are aimed at a fixed point in the silo.”

Customer-focused features
Many of the features built into FeedView were developed based on customer recommendations. “Some of the great feedback we got from our first customers was to add a feature that allowed them to place a feed order directly with the mill using the software,” stated Scott Hudson, Executive Vice President at BinMaster. “Now farms can view their recent feed orders without having to track them separately. It also allows them to see their order history and plan in advance when the next order needs to be placed.”

FeedView is feed mill friendly
“Customers hate surprises when it comes to their feed inventory,” said Nathan Grube, Regional Vice President for BinMaster. “Now, alerts are sent in advance before feed bin levels get low. They can also look at feed levels anytime and avoid the hassle and extra cost of an emergency or weekend delivery.” With automation, staff can plan ahead and be notified when it is time to order. Additionally, employees can check feed levels any time of day—even on weekends—from their computer or phone. With FeedView, farms are ordering the right amount of feed and eliminating the hassle of overages.

A fast return-on-investment
The producer found FeedView provides a quick return on a long-lasting investment by eliminating common pain points. Not running out of feed ensures animals reach their target weight on schedule. Avoiding extra delivery charges when feed is needed right away increases the bottom line. Closing out with less than a half-ton of feed when animals are sent for processing reduces waste and costs.

Feed Mills Farmers Collaborate, Communicate Better

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