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Danish compact feeding approach turns TMR approach on head

The Danish method of compact TMR feeding, which soaks dry components in water and mixes the TMR for more than half-an-hour, has the potential to improve efficiencies and redefine feeding in the UK, according to its founder Prof Niels Kristensen. Farmers Guardian reports.

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Whereas traditional TMR feeding advice has focused on avoiding over-mixing to maintain plenty of structural fibre, a new Danish approach turns the concept on its head.


Instead, emphasis is on providing cows with a consistent, well-processed ration, which they are unable to sort.


Speaking at a recent Mole Valley Farmers team training day in Buxton, Derbyshire, the method’s founder Prof Niels Kristensen, University of Copenhagen, said: “This is not about changing components of the ration, it is about feed mixing and feed bunk management. By changing the way you handle forage and the ration, you can feed the same ration and boost yields.”

YIELD INCREASE

Benefits have already been seen in Denmark, where an estimated 50 per cent of farms have taken up some or all of the concept. Yield increases of between 1,500-2,000kg/cow/year were seen on farms which fully embraced the concept between 2012 and 2015. Partial adopters also saw an uplift of 500kg during the same time.

 

Prof Kristensen said soaking dry components of the ration in water was one of the key attributes of the compact TMR approach. This helped commodities ‘stick’ to fibre in the mix.

 

Any grass, fibrous materials and minerals were then added and processed for 15-20 minutes. Maize silage was then added and mixed for a further 15-20 minutes.

 

With the compact TMR approach, the fact the forage is part-processed means the cow does not have to work as hard to process it herself, which aids feed efficiencies and yields.

 

However, Prof Kristensen said the main benefits of compact TMR were less sorting and competition at the feed fence. This meant cows were under less stress and laid down longer, which helped foot health.

Emphasis

To ensure the benefits of compact TMR were seen on-farm, Prof Kristensen emphasised the importance of:

 

  • Never letting the feed bunk/trough go empty
  • Adding enough water to the diet, as too little could result in ‘balls’ of concentrate forming, leading to sorting and acidosis
  • Cutting forages shorter; cutting grass silage at about 8mm is recommended, but only if it is possible to cut at about 30 per cent DM to avoid clamp slippage
  • Monitoring ration mixing in the wagon; many mixers need modifications to mix a compact TMR
  • Maintaining the mixer and mixer blades
  • Aiming for a total ration dry matter of 36-38 per cent in vertical mixer wagons, 40 per cent in horizontal mixers and 36 per cent in paddle mixers

CASE STUDY: John Cartledge, Peaslow Farm, Buxton

CASE STUDY: John Cartledge, Peaslow Farm, Buxton

John Cartledge believes compact feeding could help reduce sorting, drive yields and get more from the same ration at his family farm near Buxton.

 

Ration sorting has been an ongoing challenge in the 200-cow herd, which yields 11,000 litres at 4 per cent fat and 3.3 per cent protein, and is fed 55 per cent concentrate in the ration mix.

 

Subsequent acidosis issues have meant buffers have had to be included in the ration, along with 2kg/head of straw.

 

After hearing about compact feeding, and with a thirst to try something different, last December, Mr Cartledge decided to adopt some of its concepts.

 

With the help of Mole Valley Feed Solutions’ Carl Ellis, 7kg/head of water was added to the diet, which included grass silage at 32 per cent dry matter.

 

Mixing time was then increased from eight to nine minutes to 15 minutes. Yields went up about a litre/cow/day almost immediately.

 

Mr Cartledge said: “We saw less sorting straight away and less cows at the trough. This was due to the speed they ate. They were eating quicker and lying down quicker.”

 

As a result, straw inclusion rates were reduced to 0.4kg/head and the team are now considering removing buffers.

 

More recently, water levels have been increased to 10kg to try and take the total ration dry matter levels to 36 per cent.

 

However, when this was combined with wetter, 29 per cent dry matter grass silage, dry matter intakes were reduced. The subsequent decision to reduce water to 8kg immediately resulted in sorting at the feed fence as the ration was not mixed effectively.

 

A visit from compact TMR founder Prof Niels Kristensen highlighted the importance of adhering to all the rules of compact TMR.

 

Prof Kristensen recommended increasing mixing time to half-an-hour. He also advised using wetter silage to soak concentrates. This would help achieve the target 36 per cent total ration dry matter.

 

The method of compact feeding is developing on John’s farm. Although he has not embraced the full principles yet, with Prof Kristensen’s advice and the ongoing help of Mr Ellis, he hopes to in future.

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