29 September 1995

Selective feeding of mixed cow groups made simple

FARMERS who require a simple system to provide selected groups of cows with different feeding regimes now have the Yoke-l feeder to consider.

Designed by Devizes-based dairy farmer Joe Dyke, it is a system now being manufactured and marketed by Rustons Engineering Co (Reco).

"One of the problems we had was finding a way of supplying extra forage to our high yielding cows – those in the first 100 days of lactation – without giving it to the rest of the herd," explains Mr Dyke.

"Short of spending hours sorting cows in to groups each day, the problem appeared to be a difficult one to solve. But it was an important problem because we have become increasingly dependant on high quality forage, which clearly cannot be fed to ration in the parlour."

Mr Dyke also believes the expansion in the number of mixer wagons now used on dairy farms also made the ability to feed at different rates important.

The solution was to use a system of light beams and collars fitted with mirrors. Each feed stall has two light beams shining across it. As a cow enters she breaks both beams but the second one is reflected back by the mirrors on her collar. This activates the yoke opening system – a 12V motor beneath the yoke pushes it open – and the cow is allowed to feed.

Manual over-ride

When she leaves the stall, the light beams are reinstated and the yoke is shut. A manual over-ride allows the cow to be retained in the yoke if necessary.

Simple in design and operation, it enables the herd to be split into three: High yielders have collars with mirrors on the right hand side, another group have mirrors on the left and the third group, no collars at all.

Reco is currently building the Yoke-l in units of five – sufficient for up to 15 cows to feed, says Mr Dyke. Priced at £4750, this would equate to just over £300 a cow.

Selective cow feeding made easy. The Yoke-l feeder recognises groups of cows which require different amounts of forage feed. Mirrors fitted to collars intercept light beams and automatically activate the opening and shutting of yokes.