dairy cows eating

What is a TMR?

by Erin Williams

Clover and other types of hays and grasses are an important part of a dairy cow’s carefully balanced diet. But that’s not all they eat – hay is mixed with grain, corn silage, and other feeds to create what farmers and nutritionists call a total mixed ration, or TMR. This TMR is important because it ensures the cows get proper nutrition.

Cows, just like kids, have a tendency to sort through their meal to pick out their favorite foods (like the grain), so mixing and grinding the feed together makes them eat everything. Each cow has a different taste buds and every farmer feeds a different combination of ingredients in their total mixed ration depending on what is available to them. Some interesting foods that cows can eat are:

  • Almond hulls
  • Brewer’s and distillers grains (by-product of alcohol breweries and distillers)
  • Cottonseeds
  • Citrus pulp (by-product of making orange juice and grapefruit juice)
  • Beets
  • Molasses (cows love sweet things)

Cows spend about 5 hours a day eating, and they consume about 100 pounds of feed and drink about a bathtub full of water (25-50 gallons) of water day! All of this feed and water travel through the four compartments of a cow’s stomach and ultimately create the safe, nutritious milk we drink. Most people think that cows have four individual stomachs, but they actually have one big stomach with four small compartments inside of it! The four compartments are called the reticulum, rumen, omasum and abomasum.

I know I wish I was lucky enough to have four compartments in my stomach so I could eat lots of treats!

Erin Williams

Erin is the Communication Manager for the American Dairy Association Mideast. A recent graduate from The Ohio State University, Erin enjoys spending her free time at home helping out on her family’s dairy farm. She also enjoys exhibiting her Jersey cows at state and national levels.

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