Peter and Robert Fare, Kirkham, Lancs

The purchase of a Shelbourne Reynolds Powermix Popular diet feeder has created new opportunities for one Lancs-based dairy farm. Peter and Robert Fare – a father and son team who run a 110-cow dairy herd near Kirkham, Lancashire – clearly believe that to get the best performance from their cows requires care, compassion and attention to detail. And it is a formula that appears to be working well.

undefinedBased in the village of Roseacre, Post Farm comprises just 160 acres of which the vast majority is down to grass but there is also about 12 acres employed to produce whole crop wheat.

The cows, as you would expect, are housed during the winter in cubicles, but are allowed out to grass during the day in the spring and summer – their grazing working in with the two cuts of silage that are taken.

This year’s first cut was significantly down in volume when compared with last year and, according to Robert Fare, the second cut doesn’t look to have too much bulk in it.

"Last year we managed to fill the clamp and had to resort to round baling with the amount of grass we had," he says. "But this year’s cold spring has left its mark and I think it’s a good job we have the whole crop wheat to fall back on."

In addition to the 110 cows, there are also the followers – the on-farm stock numbers increases rapidly during the summer and autumn, when the cows are scheduled to calve.

"We use an Angus bull on the heifers and a black and white from there on," explains Robert. "We try and create as few problems as we can when introducing heifers into the herd."

The herd average is put at 7800 litres and there is a very respectable milk quality in terms of butter fat, which is 4.4% and a protein of 3.41%.

undefinedHelping, no doubt, to produce these quality figures is the cows’ diet which is mixed by a Shelbourne Reynolds Powermix Popular 11.

The mixer wagon arrived in November last year and has proved to be a worthy investment, insists Robert.

"I am just amazed and pleased at how the cows have adapted to the system," he says.

The cows are fed a diet which includes grass silage, whole crop wheat, protein blend and minerals. With the large amount of silage made last year it was important that the mixer wagon could handle and process the large bales that were made when the clamp was full.

"We hadn’t ordered the mixer with any fixed knives," he explains. "And we were concerned whether without them it would manage to chop the bales up sufficiently."

Robert’s concern proved to be unfounded – the machine processed the bales well, albeit at a slower pace than if the knives had been available.

"It was certainly better when we put two bales in," he explains. "There was then more resistance for the auger blades to do their work. I would think it took about six or seven minutes to chop the bales down to lengths of about four inches – time we use to add the other ingredients."

Clamp silage, both grass and the whole crop, is cut and loaded with a shear grab.

"One of the first things we noted was the big reduction in waste and that the cows were eating all of it with out picking through it. Our previous system of simply loading out silage meant that a significant amount was spoiled every day."

Despite the success with the diet mixer, Robert and his father are still reluctant to stop parlour feeding – even though they admit it’s a habit which is hard to break.

Instead, the cows are fed as a single group – during the winter this means that two loads are required each day – and fed concentrate in the parlour to match individual yields.

The cows are also buffer fed during the summer months when they are at grass – Robert says this not only keeps the milk yield and quality on line but also helps overcome the fall in yield during the transition for silage to grass in the spring and vice versa in autumn when the cows are re-housed.

undefinedFor the coming autumn, there are plans to use the mixer to produce feed for the young stock and also to create a high fibre ration for the dry cows as they approach their calving date.

"In many ways, we are still learning and discovering just what we can actually do with the mixer," he says. "It really has opened up all sorts of new avenues we could take to improve our production – and hopefully reduce costs."

So, no problems with what the mixer produces – a well mixed feed that the cows consume all of and do not pick through – how about the machine itself?

"Mechanically, it’s very sound," says Robert. "The drive system is simple and strong and the auger clearly does a good job."

He adds that the maintenance is pretty basic in that he greases once a week and checks the gearbox oil level at about the same interval.

"Overall, I think that in the Shelbourne mixer, we have a good machine that is going to serve us and our herd well," he concludes.

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