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Mixer Wagons for the Cow/Calf Operation

April 7, 2015

We have long known the value of feeding a total mixed ration to feedlot cattle and to dairy cows.  In research done at South Dakota State University feeding a TMR to backgrounding heifers resulted in 10.3% better average daily gain, and 12.1% better feed efficiency than heifers fed the same ration layered into the bunk.

When feeding a TMR to beef cows, it is more difficult to quantify the improvements since we are not directly measuring gain or milk production.  In fact, the advantage to a TMR in a Cow/Calf operation revolves around feed cost savings.  Experience has now shown us that cow/calf operations use about 1/3 less feed overwinter when fed with a TMR.  This should be no surprise as the mixer wagon allows us to control the amounts fed and the ingredient ratios and feed deliveries are consistent.  At a TMR feed cost of $1.35 per cow per day, 1/3 more feed use would equal $2 per cow per day.  That difference of 65¢ per cow per day for 150 days would be $97.50/cow; for 80 cows that would be a savings of $7800 per year.  Annual ownership costs on smaller mixer wagon is about $2500 per year, so there is still more than enough cost savings available to pay for bunks and additional fuel & labor needs.

Feeding a TMR brings several advantages to the cow/calf operation:

  • More accurate nutrition, leads to better performance from less underfeeding of nutrients and/or feed savings from less overfeeding.
  • Feeding a blended ration, instead of letting cows choose from separate feeds, results in a more consistent rumen population and improved feed efficiency.
  • The ability to make better use of by-product feeds if they are a good buy.
  • The ability to blend lower quality feedstuffs into the ration to reduce costs and to reduce sorting or feed refusal.
  • The ability to limit feed a more nutrient dense diet that meets all of the nutritional needs at a lower cost.
  • A TMR can be fed as a very low cost supplement to stretch pasture – it can also act as a creep feed for the calves when fed on pasture.
  • If you background your calves, you will also realize the performance and cost advantages of feeding a TMR to the calves

A QLF complete liquid is an excellent addition to a cow/calf TMR.  This will meet all of your mineral, trace mineral and vitamin needs and will mix into your ration better than a dry mineral.  It can also more cost effectively bring additional protein into the diet when needed.  Additives can be easily added to the ration through a QLF liquid supplement or balancer.  Additive options would include:

  • Rumensin for improved body condition and reproductive performance
  • ClariFly or Altosid for fly control in dry lots or on pasture.
  • Fescue Enhancer to offset the effects of fescue endophyte toxicity.
  • Celmanax yeast culture for improved rumen function and for MOS activity to bind toxins & pathogens.
  • Organic trace minerals if needed to help overcome health or reproductive challenges.

If you would like help implementing a TMR in your cow/calf operation, please contact your local QLF Representative or Beef Consultant.

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