The following case study was handled by Kurt Breunig, dairy production consultant at Land O’ Lakes.

The cows at a Wisconsin dairy were sorting through the feed aggressively enough that you could see obvious “holes” along the feed bunk.

So, the farm added a molasses product to the ration ― the last product added to the TMR mixer ― to try to wet the feed and have it stick together more.  

The sorting problem did abate and eventually butterfat and milk production went up, as well.

When the cows aren’t sorting as much, they get a more balanced diet, which has a positive impact on their health and production, especially the fresh cows.

In the past, people could look at the feed bunk and say there are fewer “holes” showing up there, so it must be working. The butterfat and milk production confirmations would take a few more weeks.

In this case, the producers noticed immediately that there was an increase in rumination activity. (The cows wear rumination tags around their necks with an embedded microphone that records how many minutes a day they are ruminating.)

After the molasses was added and sorting diminished, the cows at this particular farm ruminated 45 to 50 minutes more each day. Generally speaking, if rumination activity goes up, it is a good sign.

This is a tremendous tool for dairy production consultant Kurt Breunig to use when fine-tuning rations.

“You can really fine-tune the rations and watch the response from the cows,” he says.

For more information, see “Listen to what the cows are saying.”