17 April 1997

Stortis huge appetite for

a tasty blend

Feeding 250 cows and a

further 350 followers

demands a diet feeder equal

to the task. So says a

Staffordshire farmer who

dug deep to justify spending

almost £50,000 on a self-

propelled diet feeder.

Geoff Ashcroft reports

AT THE 161ha (400-acre) Spot Grange, Stone in Staffordshire, John Pickford believes milk production is directly proportional to the volume and quality of food his cows eat.

It is a philosophy which has seen Mr Pickford develop his 250-head Holstein dairy herd into a lean, mean, milking machine over the last 15 years.

Milk production is about 9000 litres a cow and is achieved by feeding a ration of bought-in straights mixed with a combination of forages on a year round basis.

"The only time these animals see grass is during the remaining 100 days of lactation – producing high yields from wet grass does not work. It leads to all kinds of metabolic disorders, weight loss and fertility problems. The cows need a consistent diet to continually perform well in the parlour," explains Mr Pickford.

At the centre of the operation is a strict diet feeding regime which is executed with near military precision using a Storti Bulldog – the only self-propelled diet feeder of its kind in the country.

In the mix is a combination of sugar beet pulp, wheat, rapemeal, soya, distillers grains, fish meal and minerals which are mixed with grass, maize and whole crop silages. It also means three clamp faces are continually open and at risk from secondary fermentation.

"It takes about a week to get across all the clamp faces so wastage and secondary fermentation are areas where weve now scored," he says. "Compared to digging a clamp face with a loader bucket to pull out silage, the Stortis chopping rotor at the front of the loading elevator leaves a neat, tight clamp face."

Previously, Mr Pickford called upon the services of three ageing Farmhand feeder wagons – though he insists two really were for spares, none of which were really up to the job.

"We needed a bigger capacity feeder to make the job less of a chore but it meant replacing our biggest tractor – a Ford 5000 – to handle the larger feeder."

Adding up the cost of buying a new tractor and feeder didnt make sense to Mr Pickford when he could opt for the Storti Bulldog self-propelled machine for almost the same outlay.

"And were not so dependant on our ageing loading shovel which also needs replacing."

"Okay, its a lot of money just to feed cattle, but considering the emphasis we place on correct feeding, presentation of forage and the time saving the machine allows, then the self-propelled machine makes sound economic sense for our situation. And its not too big, or clumsy around our buildings."

Bought as an ex-demo machine in December 97 with 300 hours under its belt, the feeder has been in constant use at Spot Grange in a twice daily feeding regime. Being used for about five hours a day, it has already covered a further 750 hours in little over four months and, so far, Mr Pickford is pleased to say, without hiccup.

"The Storti has saved us about an hour a day while feeding and because it self-loads gradually from the clamp face and doesnt have to aggressively mix lumps of silage with straights, the ration is light and fluffy and not over-mixed," he says. "The cows dont waste any food.

"Look at it this way," he explains. "If your Sunday lunch was put through a blender before it was given to you, you wouldnt find it very appealing – you probably wouldnt eat so much of it. And its just the same for cattle.

"Id like to see 10-12 years use from the machine but given the amount of hours its covered already, well have to watch how it performs over the next five years," he says. &#42

The Storti Bulldog combines the job of tractor and feeder at Spot Grange.

Staffordshire farmer John Pickford saves an hour a day with the big capacity Storti Bulldog feeder.


Model: Storti Bulldog self-propelled mixer-feeder imported by Rustons Engineering Co

Capacities: 8, 10, 12 and 15cu m bodies

Engine: Perkins 113hp 4cyl turbocharged diesel

Loading: 1.8m (6ft) wide cutting head and elevator

Unloading: belt conveyor on lower right-hand side

List price: £48,995