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Total mixed rationing (TMR) using Keenan feeder wagons

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article image Total mixed rationing (TMR) using Keenan feeder wagons

Drought has resulted in dramatic changes to production systems on many Australian dairy farms. For Pat and Michelle Quinn, who milk 500 Friesian/Jersey cows at Cohuna in the Murray River basin, a 40% drop in water supply forced a complete step change in their cropping and feeding regime.

Pat says that in response to the crisis local livestock producers took one of three routes: “…some quit, some grazed as much as they could by buying in water and expensive supplements. We fell into the third group and opted for total mixed rationing (TMR) to give more flexibility and control of what we could feed.”

Prior to the drought years the Quinns followed a perennial, all year round grazing system reliant on irrigation. Three years ago they switched to an annual grass regime and TMR using a Keenan feeder wagon which they use in combination with the advice of Keenan nutritionist, Graeme Norris.

Commenting on the wagon’s design Graeme says: “Put simply, Keenan wagons produce a unique ration presentation which is called ‘Mech-fiber. This open fluffy mix is produced exclusively in Keenan wagons. The core principle of the Keenan Mech-fiber ration is that it ensures good and healthy rumen function and high feed conversion efficiencies (FCE) which is what provides the real opportunity to control costs and maximise production.”

So now that the drought is over, has Pat Quinn gone back to his old non-TMR system? He states an emphatic “no” adding that “out of adversity there have been lots of benefits in the changes we have adopted.”

The Quinns have since added Keenan ’s PACE system (Performance Acceleration and Control Enhancement) to their Mech-fiber 400 wagon. PACE is a unique wagon loading and mixing control system.

The Quinns now operate a 50:50 grass: TMR system and Pat explains that the shift has moved them from a “virtually uncontrolled feeding program to the 100% consistency we have now. Our feed costs are now averaging $120/t compared with $200/t pre-PACE.”

The switch they have made from perennial to annual grasses has also boosted performance. Pat blends his own seed mix and his variety choices depend on the variables of milk price, rainfall and budget, ranging in price from $5/kg up to $25/kg.

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