So, what is a TMR audit you ask? Well, it’s an on-farm service whereby a specialist will assess the full feeding system on farm, from feed store to feed out. Its purpose is to help farmers discover which elements of their feeding regime are holding them back and how to rectify them. Inconsistent TMR can influence herd health, productivity and efficiency. TMR audits dramatically help to improve efficiencies across the farm.
The following blog looks at what a TMR audit involves, along with an explanation of the key areas. So, let’s begin with what exactly is evaluated within an audit:
- Silage face feed out
- Weigh backs
- TMR wagon inspection
- Loader mixing and order
- Daily farm routine
- Push up number
- Feeder duties
One of the first things to address is the silage face. Heat sensitive photographs are taken of the clamp face to identify hot spots, followed by an exercise in establishing why these areas are experiencing heating and how to prevent it. This can range from clamp face management or improper compaction/packing of the feed in the clamp at the time of harvest to a field cut too early/late. To maintain feed consistency one in the clamp, the face should be kept smooth and straight, spoiled silage must be removed, ensure the leading edge of the silage is properly weighed down to prevent aeration and remove adequate silage to prevent to prevent heating.
Before depositing the feed in the mixer wagon an inspection is carried out, checking to ensure whether the wagon is level, kicker plate and blades are in good condition, the innards are clean and able to mix, load cells weighing correctly and the kicker plate in. These elements can all influence the mixing process, so it’s important ensure the wagon is set up and working correctly before looking at the next steps. As the feed is being added, it’s vital not over or under fill the wagon as both lead to improper mixing. There are different guidelines for different types of wagon, but in general try fill to 70-75% for a consistent mix – do not pile it high! In terms of mixing order try to avoid adding liquids in immediately before or after fine, dry feeds. Maintaining your wagon and following loading and mixing guidelines really helps to ensure a consistent TMR.
Weigh backs are conducted of the refusals before morning feed out, along with from 10 points along the feed fence at first feed out. A Penn State Shaker Box is used to separate and weigh the samples through the top, middle and bottom sections. Variation along the feed fence is assessed, along with that of morning refusals. The closer the results, the better the TMR consistency, so the aim is to have similar scores from each weigh. Checking your TMR’s DM content a few times a week is also a great way to keep a rough idea of your herd’s DM intake and if it fluctuates.
Whilst clamp and mixer wagon management influence TMR consistency, feed bunk management effects herd performance. An assessment of the feed area and system is made, observing the space per cow, neck rail height/ease of access to feed, regularity of feeding time and the number of push ups. With feeding behaviour driven mainly by its delivery, keeping feed available to the herd throughout the day will promote higher and more consistent feed intakes, rather than feeding peaks of feed post milking. As cows want to eat x 10-15/ day, ensuring that feed is available to them through regular push (1.5-2 hrs) will increase feed and DM intakes. This has a knock-on effect for production, with every additional 1lb of DMI leading to a 2lb milk increase (Greene, 2017). Its is also imperative that bunks should not be left empty (even for a couple of ours), as this causes the herd to slug feed. If you’re finding your feed bunks empty in the morning, it’s worth looking at increasing your number of daily feed outs and push ups.
TMR Audits ultimately look at the entire farm feeding regime and management. They can help to pinpoint and rectify issues within the feeding process, increasing overall production and efficiency – one change can make a great difference.
If you would like any further information on TMR Audits or have one undertaken at your farm, please contact myself or your local Dairy Technical Specialist to arrange.
Dairy Technical Specialist Coordinator