Whether you’re feeding for optimal milk production or focusing on increasing rates of gain, a good ration is key to a healthy herd. Rations that are poorly mixed not only lead to improper nutrition and wasted feed, but can cause milk fluctuations and decreased butterfat content, poor foot health, reproductive issues, and increased stress on immune system – all of which have negative impacts on profitability.
Sampling your ration regularly can help determine how consistently your feed is being mixed. While forage analyses are great, the cost of sending samples in for evaluation may prohibit regular testing.
A cheaper alternative is to test your mixer’s performance with candy! After loading your usual ingredients, add 5 pounds of jelly beans (or other brightly colored candy) to your mixer. Finish preparing the ration as usual, watching closely as the feed is being discharged. Is the candy evenly distributed in the ration, or are they showing up in clumps? Variations in the jelly bean distribution can indicate mixing issues.
Possible mixing issues should be addressed by all staff members involved in feeding operations. Prevent inconsistent mixing by establishing and reviewing your feeding procedures. Consider order of ingredients, optimal mixing duration, and the size of your ration. For best results, regularly check equipment for wear, ensure mixing is performed on level ground, and adhere to the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule.
Massie, Steve, and David Lloyd. “Dairy Notes: The Jelly Bean Test.” Farming: The Journal of Northeast Agriculture Sept. 2014.