With a nod to the popularity of David Letterman's nightly Top 10 List, Normand St-Pierre developed one of his own, but with a dairy nutrition twist.

St-Pierre, an Ohio State University extension dairy nutritionist, coined his list “The 10 Best Ways To Mess Up a Good Ration.” He presented it at a series of profit seminars sponsored by the Dairy Calf & Heifer Association.

Here is his list:

No. 10: Anybody can feed dairy cattle.

“How hard can it be to weigh, mix and feed a total mixed ration (TMR)?” St-Pierre asked his audiences. “But is an employee going to do a good job of feeding cattle on a freezing Sunday afternoon while his favorite football team is on TV? Does a high school kid have the skills and dedication to do the job right the first time and all the time?”

Proper instruction and practice can prevent this mistake.

No. 9: What's a little moisture?

“Changes in the moisture levels of fermented forages, high-moisture grains and wet byproducts can have a significant effect on the TMR composition,” he warned.

“If there have been significant weather changes and/or a new feed delivery, consider moisture testing. Rations need to be adjusted if the moisture level in the feed has changed by 2% or more.”

No. 8: If mixing for five minutes is good, then 10 is even better.

All TMR mixers damage fiber — some worse than others — and the extent of the damage grows with mixing time, he said. To help prevent overmixing, follow the manufacturer's recommendations and verify periodically by testing a sample with a Penn State Forage Particle Separator.

No. 7: We only grow and feed “good stuff.”

“All the stuff we put in the silo is fed. There's not much mold. We save a lot of labor by feeding every two days. I don't want to grow finicky heifers — they'll clean the bunk eventually.”

No. 6: Fill it to the rim.

“We've kind of outgrown our mixer, but filling it to the rim saves us a trip.”

If that's what you're telling yourself, consider investing in a larger one, says St-Pierre. Run tests to see that your feedstuffs are being properly mixed.

No. 5: 100 lbs more or less — what's the difference?

“Is there too much rounding of amounts put in the feed wagon at your farm?” asked St-Pierre. “For some ingredients, plus-or-minus 20 lbs can make a big difference. Also, if you habitually round up or down by several pounds, consider the subliminal message you're sending to your feeder or other employees.”

No. 4: Our mixer scale is always exact.

“It may or may not be exact. Remember, your mixer is a relatively sensitive piece of equipment operating under demanding conditions.”

To test its accuracy, add two 50-lb bags of feed to each corner when the mixer is empty, half-full and full. Repeat this test every three months.

No. 3: We can hide it in the mix.

“Maybe, maybe not,” was St-Pierre's response to this one.

“Generally, you can't hide poor-quality feed in a TMR, especially if it's been poorly fermented and contains mold,” he explained. “However, a TMR can help hide the low palatability of some ingredients.”

No. 2: Our mixer is old, but it still works and it's paid for.

Your old mixer might not be working as well as it should.

“Realize that mixers do wear out and when they do, they can cause substantial problems, including inadequate mixing and fiber destruction. When a mixer is worn out, the clearance between the mixing screws and walls widens; components that used to be sharp may no longer be sharp and vice versa.”

No. 1: Who's on the phone?

Feeding time should be considered sacred because doing the job right requires concentration. “Shut your cell phone off and let visitors know that they're welcome to visit your farm or operation, just not during feeding time.”