Feed and nutrition management have influential impacts on the health of your herd. Diet consistency can play a large role in whether a farm is profitable, or even if a cow is productive and healthy. It’s imperative to build immunity through the right nutrition. A ration balanced to support immune function, mixed and delivered consistently, can help prevent adverse health events and provide financial returns to producers.
Here’s how to build a ration to improve immune function:
Conduct a TMR audit
The ability to deliver a consistent diet day after day, week after week, and month after month is an important goal for nutritionists and producers because ration consistency directly affects the operation’s bottom line. Consistent diets support a healthy rumen, which allows other body processes to function well so the cow experiences optimal health, reproduction, and milk production.
A TMR Audit is all about consistency, safety, accuracy, and communication. The goal is to make sure the ration on paper is as close as possible to what the cows eat. TMR audits evaluate forage quality, silage management, shrink, load preparation, refusals, feed delivery times, and ration consistency.
A key goal of the TMR Audit is to help reduce variation of the major ingredients. How feed is mixed impacts variation, and minimal variation is very important in keeping cows healthy and maintaining high milk production. The Mixing Factors Scorecard is an essential part of the TMR audit. Here is what it scores:
TMR Mixing Factors Score Card:
- Auger, kicker plate, knife wear
- Auger timing
- Level mixer box
- Hay/straw processing
- Loading position on box (need to be in the center)
- Mix time after last ingredient
- Ingredient mix order
- Liquid distribution (needs to go in the center)
- Load sizes (above/below augers)
- Auger speed: brand/model specific
- Forage restrictor setting
How to share results of the audit with your teams to improve feeding management
Following an audit evaluation, the farm manager should ask all employees involved with the feeding operation to go over any findings, working together toward manageable solutions. In a meeting such as this, it’s critical to have everyone involved in the feeding process present. This means all the feeders, the feed department manager, dairy managers, calf and heifer managers, maintenance department manager, farm manager, nutritionist and farm veterinarian. Once everyone sees the issues, they can contribute to solutions. Make this a meeting where everyone can share their opinions, ask questions, and join in the discussion.
Ultimately, as cow caretakers, your goal is to keep fresh, properly mixed TMR in front of them at all times. Consistency is key when it comes to feeding. You want cows to consistently consume a balanced ration. This has an important impact on both their health and performance. Cows, just like humans, are creatures of habit. When you mess up their routines, they’re not going to function as well. In order to combat any variations, here are some vital rules to follow:
- Do regular feed testing, especially dry matter. Discuss with your nutritionist how often you should do it.
- Feed ingredients that are mold-free and avoid feeds that are excessively wet or warm.
- Do NOT over-fill a mixer as this will lead to inconsistent and inaccurate mixing.
- Provide feed in all available bunk space.
- Keep the feed pushed up at all times and redistribute as needed so that all cows in the pen have access 24/7.
- Record refusals daily to get accurate Dry Matter Intakes
Any time feeding parameters change we create change inside the rumen. Watching your feeder deviations is incredibly important. The lower the deviations the more consistent the ration. If you see an overload or underload of a certain ingredient, this will help you dial in where you’re having variations in your diet. Cows crave consistent feed. It’s essential to health, production, and profitability.
The TMR Audit is Diamond V’s proven system to measure feeding efficiency – and has helped producers get the most out of their feeding systems for more than a decade. Enhancing the consistency of total mixed rations improves cow health and performance – and boosts dairy profitability. Since January of 2008, Diamond V has conducted roughly 10,000 audits on farms around the world, helping producers increase dairy efficiency. Today’s TMR audits can detect inconsistencies in the ration and help identify other feed-related management opportunities. As a result, herd performance and the bottom-line advance, along with overall dairy performance and safety.
How a dairy benefited from an audit:
A TMR Audit for a 400-cow dairy in the Upper Midwest revealed that alfalfa hay was not adequately processed causing significant sorting. We convinced the dairyman to change the TMR loading sequence slightly by processing the hay more so that the cows could not sort it. We tracked the bulk tank milk production and milk components 28 days before and 28 days after the audit. The TMR was well balanced for nutrition and health even before the audit, with exception of the poorly processed hay.
What the dairy saw after the audit was amazing! We saw two major events, 1) more milk production and better milk components over the next 28 days after the audit and 2) less variation in the bulk tank milk weights and milk components. This told us that when every bite, every day for every cow is consistent we get better rumen health and feed digestion resulting in more consistent production. This story has been repeated countless times by Diamond V reps conducting TMR Audits around the world.
This past year, we did a TMR Audit for a 5,000-cow dairy in the Upper Midwest that was not satisfied with the quality of his feed being delivered in the bunk. In this situation, the Audit revealed a worn mixer wagon was contributing to the TMR inconsistency. This worn mixer wagon was negatively impacting milk production and required additional labor in the barn to pull 20-30 cows a day out of the pens to treat. After discussion with the owner and his nutritionists, they decided to upgrade to a new mixer wagon which reduced the number of off feed cows to 2-3 cows per day in the entire barn. After an additional TMR Audit on the new wagon, we were able to tighten up his feed costs and increase milk production thanks to the ability to deliver a consistent ration to every cow every day.
Editor’s Note:Tom Oelberg is Ruminant Field Tech Specialist with Diamond V. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org