30 November 2001

OUTDOOR RATIONS CHALLENGE

Feeding pigs outdoors brings its own particular

challenges. Mervyn Bailey outlines available

equipment for this often challenging task

STATIC feeder, snacker or spreader? The feeding method chosen for outdoor pigs is down to personal preference, the layout and location of the unit and likely winter ground conditions.

A static unit keeps feed fresh, minimises wastage and avoids the hysteria created by a regular feeding routine. But they concentrate feeding activity in a particular location and there is no control over animal intake.

Cob throwers and snacker type mobile feed dispensers allow feeding over different areas and eliminate the cost of having to buy a specialist trailer, plus a collection of feeding units. But there is a high degree of wastage through trampling.

Equally, enthusiasts of spreading point to the lack of potentially aggressive competition, which can arise when feed is dropped in lines or small heaps by snacker type dispensers. Either way, manufacturers seek to cater for every need.

With Rowlands Engineers and J Harvey Engineering no longer making cob and nut throwers, the field for this particular technique has been left open for Peter Allens long-established Rota dispensers.

Using a fast spinning disc, these machines dispense nuts and cobs over a large area from access tracks, eliminating the time and trouble involved in entering pens.

With an adjustable throw from 1.5m to 45m (5ft to 150ft), this method of feeding is claimed to be fast and efficient, while eliminating stress and bullying associated with trough or drop feeding.

Feed can be laid in a line by operating the discharge system with the unit standing still, or dispersed over a large area – to discourage competition and encourage foraging – by dispensing on the move.

The Peter Allen Rota-Field Dispenser range covers capacities from 0.5t to 7t with loader-mounted, tractor linkage mounted and trailed versions to suit different layouts and herd sizes.

Feed volumes discharged by the bladed throwing disc can be monitored electrically, with a hydraulic drive providing both simplicity and the opportunity to vary disc speed and throw.

Trailed versions go from 0.5t to 7t capacity to suit quad bikes, compact tractors and full-size power units, with a divided hopper on the 4t version allowing two different feeds to be carried. The same is achieved with the 5-7t versions, using separate hoppers.

Nuts can be dispensed into troughs or feeders by fitting an outlet cover and pipe on to the spinning disc unit, turning the Rota-Feeder into a bulk trailer.

Alternatively, a purpose-made mobile hopper can provide bulk transport for feeding arrangements where nuts are dispensed into a bucket for hand distribution or pouring into a static feeder or trough.

The 3t capacity Tow-Along feed trailer from Morgan Engineering also has a divided hopper. There are four chute outlets in the tapered lower panels giving easy access, plus a storage box at the rear for minerals, medical items and small equipment.

The Tow-Along is available to standard specification, but Morgan Engineering makes a point of producing custom built designs to suit individual needs. Transporters can also be built on a redundant trailer chassis to minimise costs.

J Harvey Engineering produces similar bulk transporters in 3t and 5t capacities, but with the added feature of auger discharge so feed can be dispensed directly into troughs or feeders. With an extended chassis, the transporter can include load space for bedding straw and other items.

For smaller outdoor units, the snacker feed dispensers, developed originally for feeding sheep, have a useful role. The Logic Multi-Feeder is typical of such units suitable for use behind a quad bike.

Its standard model has a 320kg hopper and single axle with low ground pressure tyres. Capacity can be increased to 0.5t and larger tyres or tandem wheel equipment fitted to improve mobility.

An electrically opened/spring closed slide dispenses feed in a series of regular drops of adjustable volume and spacing. Logic maintains this approach minimises feed losses through trampling.

Using a wheel-driven rotating chamber, the Snacka from Port Agric drops feed at fixed regular intervals across the field. But the mechanism is simpler, according to the manufacturer. Drops are approximately 1.8m (6ft) apart, and contain between 0.5kg and 1.5kg depending on the type of feed used.

The Snacka mobile livestock feeder will hold 500 litres of feed in its moulded plastic hopper, which sits in a galvanised steel frame. The wide hopper opening makes filling by hand or bucket easy, says Port Agric. There is a flexible cover to prevent spillage and keep the hopper clean in storage. &#42

Peter Allens Rota-Field Dispenser, with capacity from 0.5t to 7t, has a hydraulic drive spinning disc to spread dry feed over a large area, minimising the stress and bullying associated with trough feeding.

For small outdoor units snacker type feeders, such as the Logic Multi-Feeder (pictured) provide a convenient way of dropping feed in small spaced piles.

Suppliers

&#8226 J Harvey Engineering (01728-723083)

&#8226 Logic Manufacturing

(01434-606661)

&#8226 Morgan Engineering

(01366-500947)

&#8226 Peter Allen (01235-772161)

&#8226 Port Agric (01892-783424)