Richard Park, Kendal, Cumbria

Low Sizergh farm, near Kendal, just south of the Lake District National Park, is a busy place – not just because there are 150 cows which need to be milked three times a day, but also because there is a farm shop and tea room which draws in over 150,000 visitors a year.

undefinedIn charge of the farm, is Chris Park who exudes an energy and enthusiasm for his dairy herd that overcomes all suggestion that three times a day milking can be pretty demanding.

"We’ve been milking like this for about 18 months and it has become a routine for everyone concerned," he says. "More importantly, the three-times-day milking has increased the herd average to 9000 litres – a boost of 1000 litres when compared with the former twice-day system."

The farm, which takes its name from the nearby 14th century Sizergh Castle, runs to about 300 acres and has been classed as organic for the last nine years. Not surprisingly in an area of the UK which sees more than its share of rainfall, the vast majority of the acreage is down to grass for grazing and silage production. There is, however, about 20 acres of wheat which is cut for while crop silage.

All the young stock – the progeny from the cows – are retained on the farm for six months after which the heifer calves are sent away to be contract reared before rejoining the herd. Calving takes place all the year round.

One of the latest acquisitions for the farm has been a Shelbourne Reynolds diet feeder – a 9m Powermix Pro which has a single mixing auger and is supplied complete with feed out conveyor."We have been TMR for some time now and have become reliant on having a good quality mixer wagon that can produce the rations we need for the cows," explains Mr Park.

"Prior to the Shelbourne, which arrived in March last year, we had a Keenan paddle-type machine."

One of the Powermix’s greatest attributes, he says, is its ability to chop and process big bales – something we were unable to do with our previous machine - and the overall speed at which it can prepare a load."I think when we consider these abilities and combine them with the feed out conveyor system, which can deliver both to the left and to the right, the reason why this particular mixer wagon was chosen becomes clear."

undefinedThe plan is to mix a ration containing grass silage, whole crop silage, soya and maize plus crimped cereals and minerals. Silage is added first followed by the whole crop and then the other ingredients."The large display for the weight indicator is invaluable," points out Mr Park. "Working from a diet ingredient sheet we can accurately add the required amount of ingredients so that there is next to no over or under feeding."

With the fixed knives extended into the chamber, the mix takes about five minutes to complete - Mr Park points out that the mixing action is pretty aggressive and, while this is good in that feeds are prepared quickly and thoroughly, it is possible to over mix.

Mixed feed is then distributed along the feed barriers using the conveyor/elevator feed out system.

"It is the control of the system which is so useful and the ability to feed to the left or right adds in a high degree of flexibility when it comes to feeding around some buildings," he says. "The positioning of the conveyor at the front of the machine so that it can be seen by the operator from the tractor cab is also a useful feature."

Fed for 28 litres, the cows also receive concentrate in the parlour during milking to provide an individual feed to yield system and, during the summer when they are out to grass, the cows are also provided with a buffer feed.

Having the farm shop and tea rooms provides a useful outlet for a percentage of the milk produced on the farm which is sold as ice cream, cheese and also straight milk.

However, Mr Park recognises that to maximise the returns on these outlets, the milk needs to be of good quality and he is convinced that the way the Shelbourne mixer wagon presents the ration to the cows has a bearing on achieving the quality he needs.

"We have a butter fat average of about 4% and protein of 3.2% which I think is about where we should be," he says. "Mixing diets is not just about the ingredients – it’s also how the food is presented and the way the cow’s digestion system utilises the feed as a result."

Overall then, after just 18 months use with the Shelbourne Reynolds Powermix Pro, what is the verdict?

"I’m very pleased with it," he says. "It produces a good accurate feed that retains the fibrous nature I think is so important, it is easy to operate and it’s reliable. Above all else, it helps us produce good quality milk."

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