Premier Molasses News Spring 2010

Home mixing? – Importance of mineral supplementation in the TMR tractor1Increasing pressure to reduce costs, declining cost of feed ingredients, farm-to-farm trading, availability of alternative feeds, technological advancements in the treatment of grain on farm and a depleted supply of labour, have led to a lot of farmers to consider home mixing as a strategy to reduce feed costs, improve feeding management and animal performance, and consequently farm profitability. In recent times, there has been a marked increase in the use of alternative feeds (fodder beet, maize, whole crop) and straights in home mixed diets.

This increase has been facilitated by the growth in the use of diet feeders on many larger farms. However, many of these alternative feeds or forages are often unbalanced in terms of mineral supplementation. Barley is the cereal most widely used for feeding in Ireland, but like many cereals is deficient in calcium. Many of the fibrous by-products such as beet pulp, citrus pulp and soya hulls are low in phosphorus. Macro elements such as calcium, phosphorus, sodium and magnesium are required in large amounts relative to the trace elements such as iodine, copper, zinc, cobalt and selenium.

Diets consisting of grass silage and concentrates are relatively easy to balance, however where high proportions of alternative forages or cereals are fed, a much higher level of mineral supplementation is required. Recommended levels of supplementation in the dry matter: 0.65% Calcium 0.40% Phosphorus 0.30% Sodium Typical mineral feeding rates in TMR diet (grams/head/day): Grass silage 200-250g Grass/maize silage or whole crop 270g If using a high proportion of alternative forages a higher level may be required.

The wide range of ingredients used in TMR diets ensures that balancing such diets is not an easy task. If a high level of productivity is to be achieved, proper mineral supplementation is essential. Liquid feeds such as molasses blends are ideal carriers for minerals and are the most effective method of incorporating minerals consistently throughout the ration. As well as supplying energy to the diet itself, liquid feeds unique physical characteristics facilitate in binding the TMR and distributing nutrients evenly to ensure safe and uniform intake by animals.