19 September 1997

CAKE NINEFOLD AND DAILY DOES THE BUSINESS…

Out-of-parlour feeding may prove cheaper than TMR variations, and offers the advantages of more than a twice daily concentrate feed. Jessica Buss reports

FEEDING concentrates nine times a day has improved cow performance and simplified feeding for 15 years on one Shropshire farm.

Richard and Neale Sadler offer concentrates six times a day in out-of-parlour feeders, twice in the parlour and once in a mid-morning feed. This feed is a sugar beet pulp, soya and home-grown barley mix fed in a second trough, allowing yard scraping and silage feeding.

The two out-of-parlour stations feed the 60 cows in the high yielding group of their 90-cow herd at Bridge Farm, Edstaston, Wem.

"Offering concentrates little and often allows more milk to be produced from the concentrate fed," says Neale Sadler. The 6000-litre cows eat 1351kg of concentrate with almost 3000 litres of milk produced from forage.

Concentrate portion

Rationing the concentrate portion of the diet in the feeders allows the forage feeding system to be kept simple. Maize and grass silage is put in a bunker once a day and cows almost feed themselves, says Mr Sadler.

The out-of-parlour feeders cost only £4000 when they were bought 15 years ago and the feeders have lasted well. Total mixed rations are expensive, labour-intensive and do not suit our layout, he claims.

"We suffer few breakdowns and little maintenance is needed. There is only one small auger on a motor that moves one revolution every 20sec, and the electronics that control it. If we altered the parlour now we would consider not putting feeders in it."

A high (25%) crude protein concentrate in the out-of-parlour feeders and a cheaper lower (18%) crude protein type is fed in the parlour with high yielders fed on a flat rate basis. These cows are then rationed at 0.5kg/litre above 18 litres in the out-of-parlour feeders.

Individual rations are entered in the keyboard in the house with the cows identified by neck responders which pick up a signal from the feeders when the cow stands at the trough.

When each four-hour feed period starts two or three cows queue. "However, we have never seen any bullying, as the feeder only drops 100g every 20 seconds, so there is little in the trough," says Mr Sadler.

The control unit in the farmhouse can print a list of cows which have not eaten their feed, which proves a useful management aid, adds Richard Sadler.

"First thing in the morning we check which cows have not eaten. It is usually one that has gone lame or is bulling," he says.

After turnout in spring the out-of-parlour feeders are not used and cows are fed concentrate to yield in the parlour.

But from September a third feed is offered in the out-of-parlour feeders in the evening which cows can walk back into from the night grazing fields.

New heifers rarely need any training to use the feeders they tend to train each other with just a few needing guiding in, he adds.

OUT-OF-PARLOUR FEEDERS

&#8226 Spread concentrates into small feeds.

&#8226 Can feed cows individually.

&#8226 Low maintenance and running cost.

Neale and Richard Sadler have used out-of-parlour feeders for 15 years.

From September Neale (left) and Richard Sadler offer cows access to a third concentrate feedthrough the out-of-parlour feeders in the evening.