Mixing It Up

This week we bought a new-to-us TMR wagon. The TMR wagon is what we use to mix feed (TMR) for our cows. I’ve written before about some of the different components of our cows feed, and since we stopped feeding grain in the barn, the cows have been exclusively eating a TMR ration.

The new TMR wagon made it home!

This purchase is more than a change in equipment, though; it’s also a change in the way we feed our cows. Our old mixer didn’t have a conveyor for unloading feed into bunks or tires that would work off of concrete. This meant that we had to unload the feed where we mixed it, and then use other means to put it in the feed bunk. We had a bunk right next to our silo (where we mix) that we would scoop the feed into using a skid loader. The main problem with this was that the silo isn’t close to the free stall or lean-to that our cows like to hang out in, so they were eating and then going to lay down, with too much travel in between. It’s better for them to be able to eat and lay down as they wish throughout the day. The long walk meant they did one and then the other instead of eating a little, letting it digest, then eating a little more.

For a couple of months we did try loading the feed into a different wagon that did have a conveyor and adequate tires (but that couldn’t do the mixing) to be able to feed closer to the free stall and lean-to. It should have been better for the cows, but the process took a significant amount of extra time, required an additional tractor, and we saw no change in milk production to justify the extra effort. It became clear that if we were going to feed near the barns, we needed a wagon that could both mix and unload the feed.

The conveyor unloading the TMR into the fence line bunk.

We spent some time looking for such a wagon, but every one we found was out of our price-range. We really had quit looking; we were getting by with what we had. Then last week David’s dad was at an auction and noticed they had a wagon just like what we had been looking for. Knowing we had stopped looking, he didn’t bid. The wagon was auctioned and “sold”, but we have enough experience with auctions to know that “sold” doesn’t always mean a piece of equipment has gone to a buyer. The price they stopped at seemed reasonable, so the next day they called the auction company to see if the wagon was still available and it was.

On Friday, David and his dad went down to take a look at the wagon, and for the same price the auctioneer pronounced the wagon “sold” for, they pulled it home that afternoon. David mixed with it that evening and fed the cows in two big steel tubs and a concrete bunk along the fence line, right next to the freestall and lean-to. The cows were a little confused at first, as they stood by the gate to the silo while their feed was unloaded back by their beds, but they’ve caught on now. Our cows aren’t the type to miss a meal.

Some cows enjoying their dinner at the fence line bunk.

We hope this time around the cows’ production will increase, but if not the wagon is a good investment for the time it saves. The old process used to take an hour and 20 minutes twice day, but today mixing and feeding took a total of about 45 minutes. The new wagon has two augers to mix instead of one, so it mixes a bit faster, and the old process to unload and scoop the feed was cumbersome and time consuming. By giving David an extra hour every day, the new-to-us TMR wagon should help our overall dairy operation run a lot more smoothly!

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