With the start of the calving season in the spring, dairy farms are busy places with not only the rush of young stock, but also the feeding of dry cattle and those in early lactation.
Complete dietetic feed is an answer to facilitate the management of herds which may have different nutritional needs.
It is also widely believed to help ruminants make better use of feed ingredients if they are mixed rather than fed separately, resulting in an increase in the total solids content of milk.
Feeding at Gurteen Agricultural College
A popular type of machine for mixing fodder and concentrates is the vertical mixing tank or wagon which, at first glance, seems to offer little scope for variation between brands, however, the devil, as always, is in the detail. .
Recently, Kuhn held a demo day at Gurteen Agricultural College in conjunction with local dealer, Alan King Agri Sales of Roscrea.
Kuhn had brought a 20m3 a two-bin mixer trailer from its Profile range and a trailed Primor straw blower to put it to the test.
Agriland got to see an example of the Kuhn loader in action – check out our video below.
The basic principle of complete feeding is that the ration is prepared in such a way that each animal receives exactly the same level of nutrition.
Naturally, this starts with getting the right ratio of ingredients to the tank and Kuhn’s system is based on having a load cell on each axle as well as the drawbar.
With these three sensors, the company says the ration can be weighed to the nearest kilogram, with the total displayed on the machine itself and a bluetooth-connected screen in the loader cabin, which has a range of around 90m .
There are different levels of digital sophistication that allow remote downloading of rations and record keeping, depending on the intensity of inventory management in place.
It is best to add the ingredients in ascending order of inclusion, starting with the least and working up to the major feed item which in this case is pit silage.
The mix prepared on the day was for the dry cows as they only had one early calf at a time Agriland visited.
This included some straw that had already been squeezed out of the bale by the straw blower.
Kuhn is quick to point out that although the Primor 3570 has a reducing effect on straw length, it is sold as a blower rather than a chopper.
That said, using straw taken from a bale and passed through the fan blades saves a lot of time and fuel compared to using untreated straw.
The college had the mixer attached to a John Deere 6155M which provides 155 hp. This is more than enough for this size mixer, Kuhn suggests 7hp per m3 is a good guide to power requirements.
There are many options available for dispensing the mixture. Gates can be located in various places on the trough while the belt can be driven in both directions and have an elevator attached to feed the troughs.
Occasional examination of the feed placed in front of the animals showed a homogeneous mixture with the beet portion evenly distributed in the silage and the finely ground straw.
Straw blowers may seem like one of those items that bring convenience, but are hardly essential and therefore are way down on the wish list of many farmers.
Yet that would ignore not only the time and effort they save, but also the more efficient use of straw as it is laid in litter areas as a cohesive blanket rather than randomly scattered pieces. .
Not only does this consistency reduce bedding waste, but when it comes to spreading, there are no bits of manure lying around the field all winter waiting for warmer weather to return before finally to rot.
Why buy a blower?
The purchasing decision will be influenced by whether the straw is considered a valuable input or simply a practical waste that does not necessarily require a machine to process it.
On the day of the demonstration, a bale was evenly and generously placed over a four-pen area that normally took up one and a half when deployed by hand.
It was not immediately clear whether less straw used would mean work would have to be done more often, but it seemed unlikely as the machine left deep, evenly distributed clean litter.
Two ball capacity
The blower shown was a Primor 3570M trailed machine which is suitable for smaller tractors which might not have the weight to counterbalance a mounted unit, particularly if used for silage feeding.
A minimum of 60hp is recommended when on straw, however, if it is to be used for silage feeding, another 10hp at least is recommended.
Being the kind of machine that is likely to be used in many short, steady sessions, finding a used tractor to hang on to doesn’t have to be a big expense. Otherwise, the time saved on spreading by hand could easily be lost hitching it to the tractor every day.
This particular machine is a two-bale model that can be automatically loaded if the bale is positioned on the ground. The rear door can be operated from inside the cab or there are dual side-mounted controls at the rear.
It has an eight-blade fan that can be set to run at two speeds, with the feed roller drive provided by a five-V poly-belt that is hydraulically engaged. A wide-angle PTO is standard.