Nutrition - TMR Corner

It is often said that the introduction of the TMR (Total Mixed Ration) mixer has played a pivotal role in improving animal performance, and at the same decreasing feed cost. Yet little authoritative information has been written, nor public research conducted, regarding this important tool for cattle feeding since its inception more than 40 years ago. Thus, today we are launching a new, regular column called TMR Corner. Here you’ll find information regarding how TMR mixers function, how to optimize the TMR and mixer operation on your farm, TMR mixer tips, industry developments, and other related items. In this issue, we will introduce our regular columnist, Dr. Alan S. Vaage, and provide some insight why we feel such a column is warranted, and how you, our readers, can participate.

Who is Dr. Alan Vaage?
The author, Dr. Alan Vaage, earned a Ph.D. from the University of Guelph with specializations in ruminant digestive physiology, rumen function, and forage utilization, and has over 30 years of field experience working with both dairy and beef producers. He is recognized as an expert in both dairy and beef nutrition, especially with regard to chewing behavior and rumen function.
Dr. Vaage’s previous experience includes working fifteen years in the Commercial Feed Industry as Senior Ruminant Nutritionist for two of North America’s larger Feed Companies, where he was responsible for developing ruminant feed products and programs, as well as providing consulting services for key customers. Prior to that Dr. Vaage worked as a Contract Research Scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at the Melfort Research Station in Saskatchewan. Throughout his career, Dr. Vaage has contributed to a number of scientific and industry based committees and organizational groups that are devoted to enhancing the transfer of technical and scientific information and services to the agri-food industry.

The Industry Gap
TMR mixers are generally sold by agricultural machinery vendors who often have limited expertise in dairy or beef nutrition. In some cases, they may be more likely to have experience in crop production. On the other hand, the people who generally provide nutritional advice on the farm (e.g. feed company representatives and nutritionists, independent consulting nutritionists, veterinarians), while understanding animal nutrition and production, are likely to have little formal training in how TMR mixers are designed and intended to work to achieve nutritional objectives.
Consequently, when a problem is identified on the farm that may be related to mixer performance (e.g. poor performance associated with weighing errors, mix uniformity, or particle size issues, or displaced abomasums resulting from particle size distribution and subsequent sorting problems), the on-farm nutritionist generally recommends contacting the TMR vendor for assistance in evaluating and improving the performance of the TMR mixer. In turn, the TMR supplier more often than not replies that the nutritionist should be the person to help the producer solve the problem. And around it goes, and thus the gap! In cases where on-farm nutritional advice is not being used, for example on some beef cow-calf and backgrounding operations, producers often need assistance in getting started converting from component feeding to combining their current feeds into a TMR mix.

Ask Us!
Here’s where you come in — a significant 
portion of this article will address your feedback. Puzzled by a sudden rise of disease? Is the ration being sorted? Does it take 30 minutes to mix a load of feed? Is there an idea that you aren’t sure has been tried before? Ask Us! The team will research it and get back to you directly and if it’s a topic others may be interested in it will be covered in a later issue — Because Nutrition Matters.
Dr. Vaage can be contacted directly on his cell: 226-971-1778 or by email: nutrition@jaylor.com. Dr. Alan Vaage is a Ruminant Nutritionist for Jaylor in Orton, Ontario.