Animal nutrition - putting the ‘M’ into TMR

With milk prices under constant pressure, dairy farmers must aim to maximise milk yield per cow. Providing the right nutrition is critical to achieve optimal milk production. Most modern dairy farmers feed their cows a ‘Total Mixed Ration’ (TMR), a complete mix of feed such that every mouthful provides the right nutrient balance. While TMRs typically contain many ingredients, liquid molasses blends are the super ingredient that is central to the mix. 

Cows are ruminants with four-compartment stomachs that can digest grass and other coarse vegetation that animals with one stomach, including humans, cannot digest. The rumen is the largest compartment of the cow’s stomach, where large numbers of microscopic organisms break down and ferment the ingested feed. To maximise fermentation, cows need around 7% sugar in their overall diet and a starch to sugar ratio of 2:1 to 3:1.  

Molasses blends – based on the sticky, dark brown by-product from the sugar refining process - are the perfect solution. They provide an ideal source of sugar that stimulates fibre digestion and helps convert feed into energy. They also contain a range of vital minerals, including calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, sulphur, copper, zinc, iron and manganese. Feeding molasses to dairy cattle increases milk production and helps maintain good health and body condition.

ED&F Man Liquid Products produces a range of high quality molasses blends with different nutritional specifications designed to suit customers’ different feeding regimes. Our products are manufactured to the highest standards and we have our own laboratory and quality control programme to ensure product performance and customer satisfaction.  

Dr. Phil Holder, Managing Director of ED&F Man Liquid Products in the UK, says; “Many of us remember the old UK Milk Marketing Board slogan, ‘Milk’s gotta lotta bottle’.  For cows to yield a consistent supply of nourishing milk, they need to be fed a carefully controlled TMR. While the ideal mix has multiple ingredients, it is the magic of molasses blends that brings them all together and acts as a catalyst.”   

Encouraging cows to eat more – as well as to consume a consistent balanced ration - is the key driver in milk production. Molasses blends are highly palatable, which serves to increase appetite. “Cows can be picky eaters”, adds Dr. Holder. “The sweet taste of the molasses coats all the TMR ingredients and prevents what we call ‘sorting’, when the animals select the tastier elements of the ration and leave the less palatable components behind. Reducing sorting means the cows receive the intended balanced diet, with a higher dry matter intake and, crucially, produce more milk.”

By masking the less desirable tastes, the molasses not only enhance milk production but also reduce food wastage, important in today’s environmentally conscious society.  Molasses blends encourage forage intake too, meaning farmers can further reduce feed costs by getting the most from available forage such as silage or grazing land. 

Dairy farmers must extract maximum value from their TMR if they are to amplify milk yield. The more litres that are produced, the lower the ultimate cost per litre. Producing a well balanced, high performing diet using high quality ingredients may not be the cheapest way to feed a herd, but it may well be the most profitable. 

"With molasses as a central TMR ingredient”, concludes Dr. Holder, “farmers have a low cost source of sugar that works hard to boost milk output. Molasses also help to keep the herd healthy, with reduced incidences of ruminal acidosis, ketosis, milk fever and lameness. We can add extra nutrients  to the formula too, such as magnesium to reduce the likelihood of grass staggers.  But it all revolves around the molasses.  What has more bottle than a milkman? Molasses!”