26 November 1999

TMR approach can lift yields efficiently

THERE is only one way to reach a 10,000-litre a cow yield efficiently – that is to feed a total mixed ration to all cattle from a few days old.

So Danish milk producer Aage Villumsen told the conference. In less than two years, since he bought his uncles farm, he has increased yields from 8900 to 11,300 litres a cow on twice-a-day milking.

But his farm is restricted, with only 40ha (100 acres) and 40 cows. "Many producers think keeping more cows will make them more money, but often profit goes down. Why not go from 100 cows to 80 cows and learn to get things right? That will give you more profit.

"Producing high yields is no problem, but you need to clean up your act. For a small farm to be a big business you need to be better than others."

Take care of every detail, such as giving cows some milking ration before calving, he advised. Despite focusing on detail, his ration is still simple. It includes maize silage, molasses, rape, soya, fishmeal, hay and minerals.

Besides being fed to milkers, the ration is fed to cows in the last three weeks of the dry period. They receive three hand shovelfuls each, with ad-lib straw and dry cow minerals. It is also fed to calves from two days to seven-months-old and then restricted and fed with rough hay for older heifers. "Small, fat heifers dont milk well. I cant get enough into them to produce high yields unless they are fed rough hay to fill them out."

One of Mr Villumsens key objectives is that the cow ration is used to produce milk efficiently. He believes feed conversion efficiency is more important than dry matter intake – currently averaging 20.8kg DM a cow – as a measure of successful rationing.

Feed conversion efficiency has increased from 1.6 litres milk/1kg feed to 1.8 in the past year, he said. To achieve this, he believes it is best to feed maize or whole-crop and have the correct energy and protein level in feed. Then, the ration must be the same every day, any changes must be carefully planned and good quality feed bought in.

UK producers should aim to produce 1.5 litres/kg of feed, and should bear in mind that an increase of 0.1 litres/kg feed produces an extra two litres of milk a cow, he added.