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Extension > Agriculture > Dairy Extension > Feed and Nutrition > Feeding total mixed rations

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Feeding total mixed rations

Dr. Jim Linn

Providing proper nutrition to dairy cows is important for health and optimal milk production. Dairy cow rations must contain good quality forages, a balance of grains and protein sources plus minerals and vitamins. These feed sources provide the nutrients needed by the dairy cow for milk production, growth and reproduction. Feeds must be fed in the right amount and combination to provide a balance of nutrients avoiding excesses or deficiencies. When rations are formulated or balanced correctly to meet the nutrient requirements of the cow, optimum feed digestion and utilization results. Feeding a total mixed ration (TMR) that contains all the feeds and nutrients required by the cow is an effective, efficient and profitable way to feed dairy cows.

What is a Total Mixed Ration (TMR)?

A TMR or Total Mixed Ration is a method of feeding cows that combines all forages, grains, protein feeds, minerals, vitamins and feed additives formulated to a specified nutrient concentration into a single feed mix. The TMR or complete ration mix is then offered free choice.

Why Feed a TMR?

Disadvantages of Feeding a TMR

Grouping Guidelines for TMR Feeding

Dairy herds feeding a TMR should have a minimum of 3 milk production groups and preferably 2 dry cow groups. Suggested groups for a TMR fed herd include the following:

Formulating TMR Rations for Groups

Rations should be balanced for slightly higher nutrient intake than what the average milk production of the group is. The dry matter (DM) intake used to formulate the ration to the desired nutrient concentrations should be the same as the actual DM intake of the group. A general guide fro lactating cow rations is to formulate them for milk productions about 20% above the average production of the group. For example, if the group averages 26 kg of milk production per day, the ration should be formulated for 31 kg of milk per day. The DM intake used to formulate the ration should be the actual amount of DM the group is consuming. By formulating rations slightly above the average milk production, cows are changed to produce more and of they do not, the extra nutrition generally can be used for growth or added body condition.

First lactation cow groups can be formulated for 30% above actual milk production of the group to allow for growth of these animals.

Moving Cows Between Groups

Day to Day TMR Feeding

The success of a TMR feeding program requires the person feeding or the dairy manger pay close attention to the following items. If these items are not closely monitored, cows will not consume the correct amount of nutrients necessary for good milk production, reproduction and health.

PARTICLE SIZE RECORDING SHEET
Sample Wt Percent Comments Sample Wt Percent Comments
PEN       PEN      
Top (a)       Top (a)      
Screen 1 (b)       Screen 1 (b)      
Screen 2 (c)       Screen 2 (c)      
Pan (d)       Pan (d)      
Total
(a+b+c+d)
      Total
(a+b+c+d)
     
Sample Wt Percent Comments Sample Wt Percent Comments
PEN       PEN      
Top (a)       Top (a)      
Screen 1 (b)       Screen 1 (b)      
Screen 2 (c)       Screen 2 (c)      
Pan (d)       Pan (d)      
Total
(a+b+c+d)
      Total
(a+b+c+d)
     
Particle size guidelines - Forages and TMR.
  Particle size separator - 4-box system1
  Top 2nd 3rd Pan

Feed

——————% on wet basis——————
Chopped hay 15 - 25 > 35 < 30 < 10
Haylage 15 - 25 30 - 40 < 30 < 10
Corn silage        
  Unprocessed – 3/8" chop < 5 50 - 60 < 30 < 10
  Processed – 3/4" chop < 10 50 - 65 < 20 < 5
TMR 6 - 10 30 - 50 30 - 50 < 20
1 For 3-box system (2 screens and pan), total 3rd and pan weights for pan weight.

 

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