It is essential to provide proper nutrition to dairy cows for good health and high milk production. Dairy cow rations must contain high quality forages, grains, proteins, minerals and vitamins. Rations have to be formulated and balanced correctly to meet the cow's nutrient requirements to optimise feed digestion and utilisation. Feeding total mixed ration (TMR) that contains all the feeds and nutrients required by the cow is an efficient and profitable way to feed dairy cows.
What is total mixed ration (TMR)?
Total mixed ration (TMR) is a method of feeding cows that combines all forages, grains, protein, minerals, vitamins and feed additives formulated to a specified nutrient concentration into a single-feed mix
Advantages of feeding a TMR
By feeding TMR, a cow eats a well balanced ration in every bite she consumes.
Cows will eat a predetermined amount of forages and concentrates without being selective.
Risk of digestive upsets is reduced, rumen pH stabilised and rumen digestion of feed is optimised due to consuming a mixture of feeds and nutrients.
TMR mixers will help to reduce the labour cost of feeding cows.
TMR will provide more accurate feed amounts than when fed as separate ingredients.
Milk fat and other components will increase as well due to better rumen fermentation and balance of nutrients being consumed.
By using TMR mixers, daily feed intake of cows can be easily measured.
Disadvantages of feeding a TMR
With TMR, all cows in the group get the same ration. Customised feeding for individual cow is not possible.
Mixers is required which may be expensive.
Dry forages such as hay or straw dos not mixed well in TMR mixers. Additional equipment is needed to chop them before being added into the mixer.
Farmers need to group the cows effectively to utilise TMR. A minimum of 3 lactating cow groups is recommended for cost-effective TMR feeding.
Grouping guidelines for TMR feeding
It is recommended to have a minimum of milk production groups and 2 dry cow groups.
Pre-fresh cows (2 - 3 weeks before calving)
These cows of low dry matter intake (around 10kg/day)
Ration needs to be high in fibre and contains all the essential nutrients to prepare for impending birth of calf.
Ration should contain about 3kg of grain, 2-3kg of high quality hay, forages such as corn silage, proteins, minerals and feed additives.
Fresh cow group (1 - 21 days after calving)
These cows will have low dry matter intake but they require high nutrient as they begin lactation.
Ration should contain 2 - 3 kg of high quality hay to help promote good rumen function as well as other forages and concentrates to get the cow off to a good start towards high milk production.
High producing cow (2nd lactation or greater - 21 to 180 days in milk)
This is when the cows are in peak milk production and peak dry intake matter.
Goal of feeding this group is to maintain high milk production to get cows bred back for next lactation cycle.
First lactation or first calf heifer group
These cows normally do better if they stay in a group rather than their own.
This is due to social as well as nutrition reasons.
They are slower to reach peak dry matter intake and milk production as compared to older cows but they are more persistent in maintaining milk production than older cows.
Mid-lactation cows (180 - 250 days in milk)
Cows in this group should be pregnant and the milk production will decrease to about 75 - 85% of the high group.
Ration fed to this group of cows should be higher in forages and slightly less nutrient-dense than the high group.
Late-lactation pregnant cow group (250 days in milk to dry off)
This group is where first-lactation cows, over 250 days in milk, can be mixed with older cows if there is not enough barn space to keep first lacation cows in their own pens throughout the entire lactation.
The ration will be high in forage and the goal is to maintain milk production and avoid fattening of cows.
Far-off dry cows (220 to 260 days pregnant)
Goal of the dry period is to prepare the cow for next lactation.
TMR should consist of good to medium quality forage to promote maximum rumen fill and rumination.
Sufficient protein and proper mineral balance in the ration is crucial.