The Benefits and Importance of the TMR

Published on Fri, 10/08/2021 - 2:02pm

The Benefits and Importance of the TMR.

 By Jaclyn Krymowski.

 One of the biggest make-or-break aspects to success on any dairy operation is nutrition. Making sure the herd is efficient with the feedstuffs they consume is keenly important when it comes to getting a positive conversion in terms of production.

On most of today’s modern farms, the total mixed ration (TMR) approach is preferred, even when access to pasture is provided.  If done properly, this tends to be the best way to maximize what is fed. While ration details are usually left to the capable hands of an experienced nutritionist, a deeper understanding of the significance of TMR is valuable for herdsmen and managers is advantageous to ensure quality is being maintained.

TMR Basics
The idea behind creating a TMR is simple – that is to help the dairy cow to achieve her maximum nutritional performance. A big part of this comes from feeding balanced ration at all times as opposed to single ingredients or separate rations intermittently.

When moving from a component-based diet to a TMR almost always results in a notable increase in overall feed utilization. Cows on TMR are able to still maintain the desired physical and roughage particle sizes while still getting their energy requirements in an efficient way.

From a management standpoint, TMR also erases some of the headache and guesswork of providing separate ingredients and watching consumption. When done correctly, it provides better formulation accuracy regarding nutrition and prevents a cow from eating more or less of any one particular ingredient.

While it is certainly not a custom solution to meet individual cow’s needs, TMR can and should be tailored to specific groups such as the close-up pen or high lactation vs low lactation animals.

Benefits of TMR
Part of what makes TMR successful is cows not being able to easily sort out the various components. This helps prevent acidic buildup, according to various studies, which reduces the likelihood of acidosis. Specifically, this happens due to the balance of grains and fiber which helps create a buffer due to stimulating saliva production. When particle sizes are adequate, it is usually easy for the animal to maintain a desirable rumen pH balance. Additionally, the greater frequency of grain consumption (throughout the day as opposed to just a few large meals) also helps increase overall intake with fewer gut-related health issues.

Because TMR can incorporate a lot of commodity feedstuffs that are otherwise difficult to feed – like brewer’s grains and other byproducts – it can be a cost savings by allowing farmers to use more of these affordable ingredients. It is also a great way to work in some unpalatable feed ingredients and additives that would otherwise be sorted through and not fully consumed. Likewise, helping with a more uniform daily intake can also reduce wastage.

Maintaining Quality TMR
The success of a herd’s TMR will only be as good as the quality and management aspects of the herd’s nutritional program. Proper feeding starts with grouping cows according to their needs or state in lactation. This makes it easy to have separate rations when needed, and also helps you monitor the amount of intake. Besides state in life, groups should be as close to their nutritional needs as possible – such as milk output and weight – which can help reduce the risk of some cows getting more or less than their requirements.

Forage and silage quality are at the root of a safe and effective TMR. Even with proper storage, the mix needs to be checked for moisture frequently to avoid spoilage. Things like pests, broken plastic, flooding and exposure to the elements can all harm either a complete TMR or other ingredients.

Purchased commodity feeds also need to be scrutinized for integrity and quality. The best and most practical way to manage this is through additional feed analysis done at the time of purchase and/or harvest and periodic checks throughout.

Maintaining quality and freshness with purchased ingredients begins with purchasing (or growing and harvesting) the right amount. There are many factors to this and how much is too much or not enough to purchase at one time will be specific to each dairy. Some factors include sensitivity to spoilage, level of use and available space. Remember, if it results in feed lost to spoilage or waste, bulk purchase of ingredients may not be the most cost-effective. The types of ingredients used will also impact this, sometimes more variety in ingredients can offer some more flexibility in formulation and purchase.

TMR is a powerful tool for proper dairy feeding and nutrition, making it the most ideal choice for many dairies. However, it should always be supporting the overall goal of diet formulation as outlined in the seventh edition of the Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle:

“The goal of any feeding system or method is to provide the opportunity for cows to consume the amount of feed specified in a formulated diet. Considerations in the choosing of a feeding system should include housing facilities, equipment necessities, herd size, labor availability, and cost.”