Failure to ensure the ration that cows consume consistently matches formulation will undermine feed conversion efficiency, increase feed costs per litre, and substantially reduce herd profitability. That’s the warning from KW nutritionist Anna Sutcliffe.
“Any day-to-day variation in ration makeup or nutrient supply can massively disrupt rumen efficiency,” she explains. “And given that even a 5% reduction in feed conversion efficiency will add as much as 0.65ppl to total feed costs on most farms, based on total feed costs of between 10ppl and 13ppl, the financial impact can be considerable.”
Reduce milk yield and quality
But the impact isn’t limited to feed conversion efficiency. Ration inconsistency can also reduce milk yield and quality, directly affecting income, and it can undermine fertility if cows regularly dip into body reserves due to an inconsistent energy supply.
“Forage is one of the main challenges, with feed value shown to vary by up to 10% across a single clamp face,” explains Dr Sutcliffe. “Feed spoilage, overcrowded feeding areas, and ration sorting will also alter nutrient intake. And staff can also have a significant impact on ration mixing accuracy.
TMR mixing errors
“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,” she adds.
“It may seem counter-intuitive but the improvements in accuracy and consistency, plus reduced storage losses, mean that overall feed costs per litre are actually lower.”