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Total Mixed Ration
Distributing TMR to a group of dairy cows
Total mixed ration (TMR) is a method of feeding dairy cattle.
The term total mixed ration may be defined as, "the practice of weighing and blending all feedstuffs into a complete ration which provides adequate nourishment to meet the needs of dairy cows." Each bite consumed contains the required level of nutrients (energy, protein, minerals and vitamins) needed by the cow.
The dairy farmer has more control over the feeding program.
- All forages, grains, protein supplements, minerals and vitamins are thoroughly mixed. Therefore, the cow can do very little sorting for individual ration ingredients.
- Completely blended feeds, coupled with grouping the cows, permits greater flexibility in feeding exact amounts of nutrients (energy, protein, etc.) to more accurately feed cows for their particular stage of lactation and level of milk yield.
- Grain mixtures can be liberally fed to grouped high producers without overfeeding the late-lactation or lower-producing cows, resulting in more efficient use of feeds.
Cows should be grouped by production levels.
- Grouping cows is not feasible in small herds (less than 50 cows).
- Grouping cows is not easy if the cowshed cannot handle various numbers of cows in each group
- If not grouped according to production, cows in late lactation are likely to get too fat.
Special equipment is needed.
- The equipment must have the capability to thoroughly blend the feed ingredients.
- The mixer-wagon, preferably mobile, must be capable of accurately weighing each ingredient.
- Complete rations feature the blended approach; all forages, concentrates, protein supplements, minerals and vitamins are mixed and offered as a single feed.
- Complete ration systems can save labour and reduce overall feeding costs.
- It is extremely important to keep the mixture exactly the same day after day and to make big changes gradually.
- Early detection of problems with the ration system is possible by observing the bulk tank milk level after each milking.
- Forage analysis is necessary and should include dry matter, crude protein, acid detergent fiber, neutral detergent fiber, calcium and phosphorus.
- TMR can be used effectively by many dairy farmers, but it is not a substitute for good management. In fact, the intensity of management may be increased. Most of all, management skills and competency of the dairy farmer is critical to make this system work effectively.