Free choice feeding for Beef herds has been a standard practice for a long time. But is it the best choice? Free choice offers limited dry matter intakes and unlimited food waste. Free choice round bale waste is often estimated at 25% with seasonal highs at >30% when manure and matted feed spawn mold.
Long hay stored in round bales—dry or baleage—provide affordable, effective fiber for maximum rumen health. Effective fiber forms the rumen mat and stimulates cud-chewing, providing a natural buffer to manage hourly rumen pH.
Round balers are now equipped with knives to pre-cut hay at 3” to 8” lengths to increase bale density. This is optimal for maximizing vertical Total Mixed Ration (TMR) mixer capacity. Ideally, dry and wet round bales should be pre-processed to save fuel, time, wear, and waste in TMR feeding.
Following management objectives, beef producers want to make sure their cattle have a healthy body condition at calving for effective calf Rate of Gain. Feeding your beef herd a consistent TMR will improve cow condition for re-breeding, increase weaning weights, and increase Average Daily Gain (ADG). Getting a consistent meal of the proper nutrients as recommended by a nutritionist throughout the growth process will allow your herd to make continuous gains. Weaners will transition into feeders quicker when fed a balanced TMR.
With a mixed ration, the producer can control ingredients going into the mixer (sometimes at a cost savings) while maintaining a proper nutrient and feed intake. The ability to use alternative ingredients that will get mixed into a ration helps eliminate feed waste because animals won’t be sorting their feed.
The average US beef cow weighs 1,390 lbs. and consumes 19 lbs. of dry matter (DM) to produce 1 lb. of calf. Increasing DM intakes 10% in adult cows with TMR feeding could increase weaning weights up to 50 lbs. per calf while saving feed!