Diet feeder duo's different roles

There are two Shelbourne Reynolds Powermix machines on JF Temple and Son’s north Norfolk dairy unit, but only one is used for feeding the farm’s 98-head dairy herd and its followers. The other is permanently engaged in mixing materials for an anaerobic digester powering a gas engine which, in addition to supplying surplus power to the grid, generates electricity for the host farm, including the cheese-making venture it supports. With those AD materials sourced wholly from the farm’s cropping, dairy and cheese enterprises, the system provides an excellent example of self-sufficient farming.

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Founded by Stephen and Catherine Temple in the wake of the foot-and-mouth disease epidemic of 2001, when it was decided to take greater control of the end market for the business’s produce, the ‘Mrs Temple’s’ cheese business is based in converted buildings in the yard at Copy’s Green Farm, Wighton. Following the switch from a liquid milk supply contract to focus on producing the ideal milk for cheesemaking, the business began to move from Holsteins to Brown Swiss cows, and there are now just three Holsteins remaining in the 98-strong herd. Around half of the milk they produce annually is used for on-farm cheese production, with the remainder sold through Arla.

“We were running a high-yielding herd, averaging 11,750 litres, but with the new focus on cheesemaking the constituent make-up of the milk was the important factor,” says Stephen Temple.

“As well as being more robust than Holsteins, Brown Swiss cows produce milk with higher levels of beta kappa casein, which is an essential element in cheesemaking.

“Our herd was founded from cows bred from the Brundish herd of Brown Swiss, supplemented with new blood from other sources – in 2013 we imported 66 in-calf heifers from Bavaria. The milkers are out grazing for as much of the year as possible, which has been made possible partly because of the paddock and track system we created two years ago. We provide some buffer feed to the milkers throughout the year, while dry cows are kept in and buffer-fed to ensure the correct mineral balance.”

Stephen Temple

While the dry cow ration consists of grass and maize silage, chopped straw and a protein nut, twice daily the milkers receive a blend of maize and grass silages plus a pre-mix containing rolled barley, oilseed rape meal, soya, molasses and limestone flour. The TMR is processed and blended by an 11 cu m Shelbourne Reynolds Powermix, with silage loaded using a Shelbourne Parmiter Shear Bucket.

“I bought our first Shear Bucket in 2005, as I wanted to reduce silage spoilage caused by air entering the clamp, and I’ve found it to make an excellent job of sealing the silage face when cutting a block. Good experience with it meant that when our diet feeder came due for replacement two years later I looked at Shelbourne machines, and given that they appeared to have the same sort of build quality I decided to purchase a Powermix 11. It produces a good mix, and having the manufacturer nearby is reassuring, as is the fact they are responsive to feedback and have always been willing to help with any issues, coming out to the farm where required.”

In 2012, the business purchased a second diet feeder, but this time destined for a different job.

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“We decided to make use of the opportunities for anaerobic digestion provided by our waste products, including whey from the cheesemaking, strawy slurry, and any spoiled silage, plus fodder beet,” explains Stephen.

“To do this we installed a 170 kW gas engine and an anaerobic digester to power it. In order to supply a blend of those raw materials for maximum methane production, we also installed a diet feeder, fixed into position, to mix the materials and feed the digester. The feeder is electrically-powered, and mixes 18 hours a day.”

The feeder is fully loaded with a telehandler two or three times a day, and topped up as required, with a last fill made at night. Since 2011 the gas engine has produced 4.5 gigawatt hours of electricity, with three-quarters of that exported to the grid.

“But the tub of the feeder we installed, which was of another make, didn’t stand up for long to the corrosive elements of the slurry and silage, and after two years had developed some leaks, while a gearbox fault also occurred,” says Stephen.

“Due to the good experiences we’d had with the Shelbourne feeder for the cows, I decided that, rather than rebuild the existing AD plant machine, I’d replace it with a Shelbourne Powermix 15.

“It was delivered and installed quicker than our previous feeder maker could supply a new gearbox, and has been totally reliable since it began work.

 “All three of our Shelbourne machines play an essential role in the daily running of the farm, and I’ve been very pleased with their performance and the support from the factory.”  

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