Grouping offers the opportunity of ‘spoiling’ the right cows
Taking a look back in history, we can see that the innovative approach expressed by the launch of TMR feeding proved to not only be rational and effective, but also a stroke of genius for the cow, leading to higher production. Given the feed level at that time and successful reproduction, the system has worked well for many years.
But we now see problems related to TMR feeding in the high-producing herds with a feed level of 25 – 27 kg TS, in which a number of the late-lactating cows will eat more feed than their production justifies, and thus become dry with fat above the recommended level, which increases the risk of problems when calving and during the mobilisation phase.
Fat must be controlled in lactation. It cannot and should not be significantly changed during the dry period, when the cow must never lose weight, as that would increase the risk of fatty liver considerably.
TMR feeding has mean an inclination to provide the same ration throughout lactation. Given the large herd expansions in recent years, which are correct and necessary, we’ve seen mixer wagons grow correspondingly.
Maybe it’s time for a new approach? Perhaps the next time the mixer wagon needs to be replaced with a smaller model, providing the opportunity to do what makes the difference, as stated in connection with the cow's cycle: to meet the needs of the cow, and to change feeding to two rations with a difference of around 3 kg TS.
The high-energy ration should be added for new-calvers and 1st calves – the rest to the lower feed level.
Success with grouping is contingent on the cows being in groups with around the same feed intake capacity, i.e. smaller cows spend more time on the high-energy ration, larger cows are moved earlier to the group with lower feed level. Correspondingly, two rations are needed for dry cows. But it will be possible to cater for the close-up group without necessarily having to make a separate mix.
Grouping also makes better and more economical addition of minerals possible, as the cows with the greatest need can be prioritised highest, and those with less need can manage with a lower addition. Cows in the mobilisation phase can be catered for with the addition of e.g. an extra natural vitamin E, organic microminerals, plus, perhaps, active yeast and rumen-protected cholin to boost liver function, which is a limiting factor when switching metabolism from dry to high milk production.