Total or partial mixed ration?

Pros and cons of TMR and PMR

TMR feeding (Total Mixed Ration) is on the rise – a single well-mixed basic ration with as little variation in composition as possible. That is what the TMR feeding strategy is all about. The goal is to prevent selection at the feeding rack and provide all the cattle with a balanced ration of roughage, concentrates, vitamins and minerals. Because each bite contains the same composition, the cattle all receive the same nutritional value. A constant, high-quality ration leads to less fluctuation in the rumen pH, which is good for the health of the animals. And as a farmer, you have the convenience of a single ration in the mixer feeder. In order to reap the rewards of a good TMR strategy, however, a number of conditions must be met. The desired result can only be achieved when all aspects of the feeding process are precisely coordinated. 

A constant, high-quality ration leads to less fluctuation in the rumen pH

Milk production can increase by 1 litre per cow, per day

With TMR, the idea is to provide a single, invariable ration which is matched to the group's average production level. This means putting all the components in a single basic ration, instead of using concentrate boxes. Studies have shown that with TMR feeding, increased dry matter uptake (>20 kg concentrate/day) is achieved and milk production can rise by one litre per cow, per day. However, with a single TMR ration the low-yield cows receive the same high-quality and relatively expensive ration as the high-yield cows. This is why some farmers opt to feed cattle in groups, depending on the animal's lactation stage. In that case, the rations consist of the same ingredients but with different compositions. However, the advantage of a single, easily understood ration is no longer present. Opinions are divided as to whether or not TMR feeding is suitable in combination with a milking system that uses bait pellets. Your feed consultant can possibly provide specific advice on this.

Separate feed components reduce costs

A continuous supply of feed with an unchanging composition requires discipline and consistency from the farmer, otherwise it is not profitable. In order to feed the exactly the same ration composition every day, a proper mixer feeder is required. A mixer facilitates feeding with separate components instead of premixed feeds. That significantly reduces costs, but you need to be familiar with the commodity market. In addition, you need to have sufficient storage space in the farmyard and be careful to avoid roughage spoilage. In the end, the quality of the ration is determined by the quality of the feed. In order to properly preserve stored silage, it is advisable to use silage extractors with knives. That way the silage face remains virtually sealed, preventing heating of the silage and thus retaining the full nutritional value.

Concentrate from concentrate stations 

Another feeding strategy is partial mixed ration (PMR). This means mixed feeding combined with individual feeding of concentrates. The mixer feeder mixes roughage with a portion of concentrate. The composition is based on the cows with low milk yield. High-yield cattle receive extra concentrate from the concentrate stations, in the milking parlour or the milking robot. With PMR you can therefore feed each cow differently and adjust the rations individually. 

Both TMR and PMR rations must be composed with the utmost precision. A mixer feeder is necessary in both cases. The mixer feeder is not only a way to transport feed to the stable, but also an important tool for accurate feeding. With the help of a weighing system, the various roughage components can be accurately matched with the concentrate components. In addition, it is important that the ration is well mixed. Among other things, the correct loading sequence of the mixer feeder is important, as well as correct use of the mixer feeder. Small adjustments to the use of auger knives, rotation speed and mixing time can have major consequences on the mix quality. View the instructional video on the correct use of a mixer feeder here.

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