Four Tips to Reduce the Variation in the Ration

Cow : Lactating Cow Nutrition

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Purina Animal Nutrition

The equipment that mixes the cows’ ration plays an integral role in the day-to-day operation of the farm - contributing significantly to a farms’ profitability.

If the equipment is not managed and maintained on a regular basis, variation in the daily ration presented to the cows may occur.

This potential for variation in the ration, caused by the mixing equipment, can impact cow performance. Paying closer attention to the equipment doing the mixing and what’s happening during the mixing process can help dairy producers maximize their feeding programs.

Following are four tips to help mix and feed a consistent dairy ration:

  1. Evaluate uniformity of mix

Evaluating particle size distribution per animal group using the Penn State Shaker box is one way to assure mixing uniformity. Take samples at several points across the width of the feed bunk during load out or feed out. Do the results match the guidelines for the animal group approaching the feed bunk?

It may also be helpful to evaluate the feed at the feed bunk multiple times between feedings to determine the degree of particle or ingredient sorting by the animals. Consider testing a sample at load-out and again every two to three hours until the next load is delivered. The visual appraisal of these sequential samples may tell the story of sorting, faulty equipment, improper mixing time or inappropriate moisture level.
The goal should be to mix the same ingredients in an alike manner for each animal group, each feeding. Information gathering is necessary to determine the success of this goal.
  1. Look for dead spots

Areas inside the mixer where feed doesn’t get mixed are considered dead spots and can be a problem because they prevent ingredients from mixing properly.

Safely observe the mixer, while it’s mixing, to help determine if there are dead spots within the mixer. Dead spots can occur when the mixer is not on a level surface or if the door on the mixer is worn out.
  1. Monitor feed volume and mixing time

Improper mixing occurs when too much feed is added to the load or if the feeding equipment isn’t sized for the operation. In addition to the resulting inconsistent mix of feed presented to the cow, ingredients will likely be lost over the top of the equipment while it’s mixing.
If the length of time a load is mixed is an issue, consider adding a timer in the mixing unit so all operators mix the same per load by animal group.
  1. Establish a maintenance plan

A maintenance plan should be established to check the mixing unit for wear and tear on the blades, knives, kicker plates, discharger, doors, and load cells. If you do not know the date your mixer’s knives were last inspected it might be time to replace them.

Now is a good time to evaluate your feeding system – before inclement weather arrives. Besides, having the necessary parts and equipment ready for a scheduled mixing, routine maintenance can help avoid delays in feeding and keep rations consistent.

Learn more about how to keep dairy cow feed rations in tip top shape.

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