ERRORS in mixing dairy cows' TMR rations could be costing the industry dear in terms of lost production, it has been claimed.

A failure to ensure the ration cows consume consistently matches formulation will undermine feed conversion efficiency (FCE), increase feed costs per litre and substantially reduce herd profitability, warns feed specialist, KW's nutritionist Dr Anna Sutcliffe. She added that the industry reckons that mistakes are made in 5% of dairy farm rations.

“Any day-to-day variation in ration makeup or nutrient supply can massively disrupt rumen efficiency,” she explainED. “And given that even a 5% reduction in FCE will add as much as 0.65ppl to total feed costs on most farms, the financial impact can be considerable.”

That's based on typically total feed costs of between 10-13ppl, but the impact isn’t limited to FCE, she argued. Ration inconsistency can also reduce milk yield and quality, directly affecting income, plus undermine fertility.

“Forage is one of the main challenges, with feed value shown to vary by up to 10% across a single clamp face. Feed spoilage, overcrowded feeding areas and ration sorting will also alter nutrient intake and staff can have a huge impact on ration mixing accuracy.

“Anecdotal reports suggest that TMR mixing errors of 5% per ingredient are common, which is why we’re seeing many farms replacing straights with a single custom blend,” Dr Sutcliffe continues.

“It might seem counter-intuitive, but the improvements in accuracy and consistency, plus reduced storage losses, mean overall feed costs per litre can actually be lower.”