Choosing the Right TMR for your Operation

Published on Mon, 08/12/2019 - 3:40pm

 Choosing the Right TMR for your Operation.

 By Bruce Derksen.

 Total mixed rations or TMR’s have been around for a long time, although not in their present-day incarnations.  While equipment from decades past began the process, they were basic tip of the iceberg type machines.  Today’s TMR mixers are designed to be much more multi-dimensional and functional, able to mix and deliver a consistent and palatable feed the full length of any bunk.  These total mixed rations are nutritionally balanced and allow cows to consume as close to their actual energy, protein and mineral requirements as possible to ensure proper rumen function.

Ease of operation, exacting product measurement, optimal mixing and convenient delivery top the list of TMR equipment benefits.  Research points to a 4% increase in feed utilization when used in comparison to a conventional ration of forage and grain fed separately.  Each ounce of feed consumed can be accurately mixed to contain the ideal amount of ingredients.  Quantities can be closely controlled and when properly mixed, an animal is unable to consume significantly more or less of a feed than is planned.  Less palatable ingredients like protein urea, fats and limestone, added in reasonable amounts can be blended together to help mask their undesired flavors.  Feeds with various rates of breakdown can be utilized enabling increased use of nutrients.  Metabolic and digestive problems often decrease when a TMR is fed, with milk production shown to be as much as 5% higher in comparison to conventional rations.
When upgrading or purchasing a TMR for the first time, there are numerous types to choose from including reel, horizontal and vertical augers.  Most can be truck mounted, pulled behind tractors or employed as stationary units.
Reel mixers use slow turning reels to gently lift product into mixing bars that help break up material.  Feed then moves onto machine length augers turning in opposite directions, helping provide end to end consistency.
Horizontal auger mixers use different heights of augers to compress ration ingredients, moving the feed forward and rearward at the same time.  Material converging at the front of the mixer is forced into the higher augers and moved toward the rear, creating a front to back and up and down cycle.
Vertical auger mixers elevate material vertically, creating a vertical feed mixing cycle that blends ingredients.  Augers also deliver a front to back cycle while sidewall baffles help transfer feed from chamber to chamber.
Choosing the right TMR mixer will depend greatly on whether the type of feed required is round bales, silage, hay, straw, grain and mineral mixtures or something completely different.  Using a ration with pre-processed hay, short cut forages and low percentages of dry hay will likely require a different style of machine than a long-stemmed hay bale ration.  
A high quality total mixed ration can provide many benefits to livestock producers but only if high quality ingredients are used and proper mixing takes place.  Good feeding management practices must be followed to achieve maximum performance.  Ration formulations should be constantly updated based on body weights, condition scores, milk production, fat and protein content along with moisture changes in forages and ingredients.  Feed prices can also come into play.
Today’s machines come with a variety of options to facilitate advanced operations.  Door locations, discharge systems, stainless steel liners, tub extensions, auger or front discharge knives, unloading conveyors and numerous designs of scale systems can all be added by preference.
Facilities also dictate suitability of machines.  Door sizes, alley widths, bunk dimensions and overhead obstructions should all be measured before purchasing decisions are finalized.  
Separate TMR’s can be developed for different animal groups including fresh or dry cows, or early, mid or late lactation animals.  It is always recommended to keep long forage as a separate commodity before adding it to the TMR mixer and mix only for the recommended time.  Over mixing can cause serious health problems due to the pulverizing and eventual sorting of feed.
While there is no standard choice of TMR equipment for every farm due to different facilities and goals, there will be a selection to fit every need.  Each operation must analyze the choices to discover the most profitable system that will deliver improved feeding efficiency and profitability in the long term.