Some of the paint on Dave Retzlaff's TMR mixer is faded and peeling. The self-propelled machine isn't much to look at, but it mixes and delivers rations without help from a tractor, and was less expensive than a commercial mixer.

Retzlaff, of Elroy, WI, built it himself, starting with a cement mixer and a New Holland TR70 combine. From the combine, he salvaged both axles, the engine, cab, hydraulic system and electronics.

First he built a main frame out of steel tubing and reinforced it with 12" I-beams. Then he mounted the combine drive axle and engine on the rear end. The cement mixer was lifted intact from its original truck bed and set in front of the engine, and the cab was placed on the front left corner.

To make the machine self-loading, Retzlaff designed and built an elevator with a silage facer on one end. The elevator is an apron chain housed in a 12 × 12"-square steel tube. The facer has a homemade beater reel that pulls silage onto a short auger, which throws it into the elevator.

The loading elevator and unloading auger are both run by a hydraulic motor powered by the combine engine.

To mix a ration, Retzlaff first augers corn, soybean meal and other concentrates into the top of the mixer. Then he drives to an open haylage bag and raises the loading elevator against the silage.

A half an hour later, the mixer is filled with enough TMR to feed his 50-cow herd twice.

It took him about 2½ years to build the machine. Total cost, not including his labor: about $10,000.

“It works great,” says Retzlaff. “The only drawback with the cement mixer is that it's slow to unload.”