Furtho Manor Farm, Milton Keynes

Having a mixer wagon capable of producing properly formulated rations which enable livestock to fully utilise the nutritional value of feed is clearly essential – particularly when the cost of feed is now so high.

undefinedA member of a family partnership, Robin Welton runs a herd of 270 cows at Furtho Manor Farm, which is near Old Stratford, Milton Keynes. The farm itself runs to 300 acres of which just over a third is used for the production of forage maize with remainder down to grass.

Mr Welton would be the first to comment that the farm and its dairy herd is in something of a transitional stage at the present time.

"We are undergoing some pretty major changes," he explains. "There is a new set of cubicles going in and we are preparing to put in some out of parlour feeders for the cows."

And on top of this workload which has a time schedule of just a few weeks, there is the added challenge of lifting the current herd average of 8800 litres to nearer 9500 litres – a figure Mr Welton believes the herd should be capable of.

The cows are milked twice a day through an 18 – 36 herringbone parlour and receive no in parlour feed.

"We elected to go full TMR a few years ago and, to be fair, it has not done us too badly," he says. "But I feel there is a herd yield barrier that can not be easily exceeded with out some form of individual feeding – which is why we are now planning to install an out of parlour feed system."

undefinedNot that the existing feed system would appear to be too wide off the mark when milk quality is considered. The average fats content hovers around the 4% mark and the protein level at 3.2%, he reports.

With the aim of keeping life reasonably simple, the herd is split into two groups – high yielders and lower yielders. The high group comprise those which have just calved and those still in the full flush of their lactation, and the low group have cows nearing the end of their lactation and those who are starting to be dried off.

During the summer months the lower yielding group is allowed out to grass during the day and receive their mixed ration in the evening. The high yielders are housed all the year round and are fed a mixed ration which aims to provide for 40 litres.

Key to the whole feeding regime is a 13m single auger Shelbourne Reynolds Powermix Pro Popular which arrived just before Christmas last year, replacing an earlier Shelbourne model that had put in several years of satisfactory service.

"We opted to stay with Shelbourne mixers simply because the previous machine had worked so well and so reliably," he says. "Having said that, this one is a totally new machine with good large feed out doors that allow fast feeding to take place on both the right and left hand side of the machine."

The high yielders have a ration formulated using straw, grass silage, maize silage, brewers’ grains, molasses, protein blend and minerals with the lower yielders receiving a similar ration but a smaller volume.

Mr Welton estimates that it takes about a total of about two hours to feed the different groups but points out that the lower yielders are usually fed after the evening milking due to them having been out during the day.

"The mixing action is certainly more aggressive than our previous machine," he says. "We add straw using the silage block cutter to take portions of big square bales and these are just chopped and shredded in a matter of minutes."

Helping to achieve this rapid processing are the retractable static knives which can be inserted into the chamber to cut material as it is rotated and lifted by the auger.

"We aim to feed 3.5kgs of straw to the dry cows so there is quite a fluffy mix for the knives to cope with," he says. "I also try and keep our loading system reasonably simple so that the operator is not having to cope with complicated mathematics."

Mr Welton supplies his operator with a sheet that gives the readout that should be displayed on the weight recorder after each ingredient has been added.

When the out of parlour feeders are up and running, the cows will be fitted with a transponder that will allow them to receive a measured amount of concentrate to match their milk yield.

"This means that they will receive slightly less in their mixed rations," he explains. "I think this feeding to yield system will enable us to achieve higher individual performances overall and still keep a tight reign on our feed costs."

In the meantime, the Shelbourne Reynolds’ Powermix continues to turn in some sterling work with no let up in the volume it is asked to do.

"There is no doubt that this is a strongly built machine which should last for more than a few years," he says. "I think the heavy duty transmission system will ensure the mechanics will remain in good order.

"But more than that, it mixes well and produces good, tidy rations that the cows do well on."

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