ES Burroughs and Son, Oaklands Farm, Aldeby, Beccles, Suffolk

High input costs makes Powermix Pro even more valuable

As a family-run business with limited resources and staff, David Burroughs is always looking to fine tune his 1,000-acre dairy and arable enterprise at Aldeby, near Beccles, Suffolk. Run in partnership with his son Jamie and sister Margaret, the farm has spent the past few years considering how best to manage rising input costs.Burroughs 2

“The cost of raw materials has become a real issue, with feed costs up 68% in the last year alone,” says Mr Burroughs, “and so we have decided to go to a full TMR system to help keep these costs under control as we look to expand our 150-head pedigree British Friesian Oakalby herd to 200 in the next couple of years.”

With straw prices up, the farm is also moving to a full cubicle system to accommodate the extra animals and improve output per man. September 2011 will see the herd to 180 head, and up to 200 in early 2012. Grazing on the farm’s marshes will support the new herd size over the summer, and the unit uses more grass silage than maize, both of which are cut and clamped by a contractor.

As part of the business’ development plans, ways to improve margins were looked at. “We were considering how to do this by feeding as cheaply as possible,” he comments, “and one area we considered was improving the mixing of rations. This led to our Shelbourne Powermix Pro 16 Express twin axle, twin auger mixer wagon arriving on farm in late 2009.” The Burroughs had previously been using a single rotor K&K tub mixer for their feeding at the dairy unit, which lies some three miles from the main farm.

However, parts were becoming scarce and the reliability was down so it was felt that investment into a new machine would be required. Although the family considered Shelbourne and another European make, they liked the build quality of the British-built machine and the lifting, bi-directional cross conveyor, controlled by a simple three switch joystick. Being local to the farm for future parts and service backup also helped sway the vote.Burroughs 1

Although badged as 16 cubic metres, the mixer is in fact a 19 cubic capacity version as before the first day of use was out, dry material was found to be spilling out of from the top during mixing. A call to Shelbourne led to a straw retaining ring extension arriving the next day to boost capacity up by 3 cubic metres, but it is still easy to load, even in sheds, says Mr Burroughs.

Other features which impress the Burroughs are the strong build of the machine, long lasting rotor knives (which in 18 months have yet to be sharpened) and the tandem axle, which was specified with springs to improve the road ride to and from the dairy unit. The feed out conveyor, which can be lifted to over four feet each side, is also singled out for praise as it aids in working both sides and into many different pens or troughs.

While the high and low cows are out on grass, the mixer is generally employed on buffer feeding duties, with the same ration mixed but distributed over different cow numbers - highs are classed in the 28-30 litre category, while lows are the 20 litre beasts. Stock Friesian bulls are employed on the bulling heifers and cows which are difficult to get in calf, with AI employed to deliver beef breeding to cows not required for breeding. The farm handling around 200 calves per year, with Pedigree British Friesian heifers reared for dairy replacements and beef crosses sold for sucker replacements.

“We aim to feed a ration which gives around 5% remaining in troughs,” says Mr Burroughs. “We do this as we then know we are not under-feeding, and all the remainder goes to heifers. If we had none left then we know we are under the right ration.”

To ensure this is achievable, the mixer is fitted with a Digi Star EZ3600V scale system, which is said to work to a very high accuracy. Weigh cell positioning is cited as excellent, each one situated in an easy to reach location rather than being tucked underneath the body. As part of the package when the machine came home, the Burroughs specified Digi Star’s TMR interactive tracker software too.Burroughs 5

This was an integral part of a plan put in place to reduce costs, working with the farm’s nutritionist Rodney Allen to bring greater savings. It is aimed at retaining or improve the farm’s 8,000-litre yield, 4% butterfat and 3.2% protein averages, with all milk heading to the independent Marybelle dairy in Rendham, Suffolk.

The Digi Star system allows a farmer to manage stocks of inputs, such as compounds, minerals and silage, allocate a mix to a certain category of animal and provide analysis of what is fed and wasted. “This removes errors in feeding,” says Mr Burroughs, “and to ensure we optimise yields per cow, this has to be exact and the mixer is only as good as what is put in it.

“The system uses individual operator codes to ensure all load the same amounts, and it then tells them what to feed and at what quantity.” All of this data is programmed on to a key, which only one person has access to. This facilitates uploading and downloading between the farm office compute, and also ensures that no changes in feeding rations can be made, only the number of cows receiving it.

The data from this is used to analyse peaks and troughs in milk yield, health issues and identify where any tweak can be made, taking the guess work out so to speak. All of this data, along with the reliability and accuracy of mix found with their Shelbourne mixer is leading the Oakalby Herd to further yield average improvements and better returns in what is a massively tight margin business.

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