Hinton St Mary, Dorset

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Powermix Pro 13m Express Feeder Wagon

A dairy farm’s diet feeder must count as being the farm’s most used machine. No luxury of being parked for a few months under the barn alongside such seasonal implements as mowers or balers – the diet feeder is required to work every day of the year.

 

And the demands on diet feeders can only become greater as dairy herds become progressively larger and adopt a permanent housing policy.

The feeding regime employed by Hinton St Mary Estate for its 400-cow dairy herd – plus 225 followers – is typical perhaps of modern dairy farm looking to maximise production and profitability.

A Velcourt farm managed by Mark Harvey, the farmed area runs to about 1750 acres. Of this, 1000 acres is used for arable crop production and the remainder for grass and forage maize. "We have a big dependence on providing our own feed," says Mr Harvey. "And ensuring we make a sufficient volume of good quality grass and maize silage is an essential part of the herd’s nutrition. This year’s increase in the price of purchased concentrate has been quite dramatic."Tasked with preparing and mixing the cows’ rations is a Shelbourne Reynolds Powermix Pro 13m Express – one of the new range introduced by the company last year.

A single vertical auger machine, it uses its auger to chop and mix by lifting ingredients from the centre of the chamber to tumble them down the outer edge and create a continuous ‘volcanic’ flow cycle within the machine."This is the second Shelbourne diet feeder we have had – the previous one worked every day for four years he says. "And with a record like that, the obvious decision is to have another one." The new machine arrived at the estate, which is near Sturminster Newton in Dorset last October and, since then has been putting together seven loads a day for the cows as well as being used to chop straw and haylage as a separate entity for inclusion in the next day’s rations.

"We feed the cows in three groups," explains Mr Harvey. "The highest yielders averaging 42 litres/day are fed a ration for 38 litres, the mid yielders averaging 28 litres/day are fed for 20 litres/day and the low yielders averaging 18 litres/day are fed for 15 litres." In-parlour feeding through cow identification makes up the yield deficit for individual cows to maintain the current herd average for milk sold of 8600 litres. The milk is sold on contract to mature chedder cheese specialist, Ashley Chase, based at nearby Bridport.

 

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Powermix Pro 13m Express Feeder Wagon

Mr Harvey points out that it takes about 20 minutes to produce each 13 cu m load – he has opted for the simplest of weight display system which, operated by remote control from the loader, enables the correct weights of ration ingredients to be added to the mix. "By simply zeroing the display after each ingredient has been added, the operator can just put in the required weight of the next component without having to do any maths," he says. "When all the mix is complete he can run a check by looking at the total weight of the mix."

 

The Powermix is also used to mix part loads for young stock or for the dry cows.

"The only word of caution I have when mixing is that it is not left to mix for any longer than three minutes," he insists. "After that time the mix can start to lose its fibrous content by being over chopped."With a variety of feed out requirements – to the left and right, feed passages on the floor, central feed channels and one or two besides, the versatility of the mixer’s feed out system is fully utilised.

The front conveyor which is fed from a hydraulically raised guillotine door can be set to deliver to either side of the machine and can be extended outwards and raised to feed over barriers."Having the feed out conveyor at the front provides the operator with a very good view of the feed being delivered and can control the volume required by looking at the weight change on the display," he explains.

The proof of it all however, is in the eating and how the cows perform during their lactation and on this score he comments that the mix is accurate and, equally important for efficient digestion, fibrous in nature.

Overall then, Mr Harvey would appear to be pleased with the performance of the Shelbourne Powermix pro 13 Express.

"When it comes to feeding our cows and young stock there’s not anything that this diet feeder can’t do," he says. "Mechanically it is strong and well engineered and it does what it says on the label – which is to mix rations accurately, reliably and efficiently."

 

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