The Hall family, Huddersfield

Difficulties getting sufficient straw into dry cows to maximise rumen fill have been overcome on a Yorkshire dairy unit by switching from a Keenan diet feeder to a Shelbourne Reynolds twin-auger model.

Sally Hall 2

The Powermix Twin 22 purchased by the Hall family, with twin augers and a 22 cu m capacity, today single-handedly feeds 700 milking Holsteins, dry cows, followers and black and white bulls.

“We wanted to change to an auger-based machine primarily because of the dry cow transition problems we had been experiencing,” explains Sally Hall.

Her aim is to ensure intakes of 7.5kg/head of chopped straw at each dry cow feed. To do this, the material needs to be short enough to prevent selective feeding from the mix, but long enough to provide rumen stimulus.

“With our Keenan feeder, we weren’t getting sufficient straw into our dry cows to keep the energy density of the dry cow ration low enough for a good transition. The paddles took too long to get the straw down to the ideal length without pre-processing, which also meant the cows were able to sort the material and eat what they wanted.”

“We are expanding the size of our herd, and so also wanted a machine that would produce a consistent mix to prevent selection, be able to chop straw swiftly and consistently, and feed all of our milkers, dry cows, followers and bulls, with minimum mixing time.”

Assessment of the vertical auger-based alternatives on the market led to the Halls to pick out a Shelbourne Reynolds Powermix for a number of reasons, says Sally.

“Firstly, it was the design and the specification that impressed us. The Powermix machines looked to be strongly-built and well-engineered. We wanted a high-capacity machine, but it had to be compact enough to fit our passageways, so overall dimensions were important. Robustness and warranty are also essential as, with the number of cows to feed and different mixes to do, the machine has a significant workload and we can’t afford down time.

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“But accuracy was just as important. With Shelbourne we could specify a top-spec Digi-Star scale and display, enabling us to measure the inputs and feed-outs for each of the TMRs with a high level of accuracy.”

Delivered in summer 2013, the farm’s Powermix Pro 22 was put straight to work feeding a TMR of grass silage, liquid feed and wholecrop wheat. In addition it is used to prepare caustic-treated wheat and a pre-mix based on chopped straw, concentrates and minerals.

“The feeder is operating for between eight and twelve hours/day all year round, feeding at least seven mixes a day, so it has its work cut out. But the advice and back-up we’ve had from Shelbourne in setting up and supporting it has been really good. I think it’s one of the benefits of having a machine that is made in the UK.

“The Digi-Star system is easy to program, and allows us to ensure we are feeding exactly the right amount of each ingredient and total ration per head. Being able to order it as part of the package was a big plus point.”

With a team of two in the pit and a third person bringing cows in, the Halls can put 210 cows/hr through the farm’s rapid exit 40/40 parlour. Since switching to the new feeder, they have also moved from milking morning and afternoon to three times a day, to counter low milk prices by raising output. But it’s not just this which has helped increase yields.

“When we started using the Powermix, the average daily yield per cow rose by two litres,” says Sally.

“I put that down to the improved consistency of the mix, and having enough short and long processed particles in the mix for optimum rumen function. It’s helped us achieve an average annual yield of 11,000 litres at 3.96% butterfat and 3.27%, protein. As our main aim is to maximise lifetime yield, it’s been a very good investment.” 

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