29 September 2000

Sophistication has a price but its worth it…

The dairy industry may be in the doldrums, but this years

European Dairy Farming Event managed to reveal

an interesting crop of new developments

– most of them aimed at improving the lot of the dairy

farmer. Andy Collings reports

Automated feeding of small groups of cows to provide specific nutritional requirements is possible with the Denmark-built Mullerup TMR Robot Mix Feeder.

HOW interesting to note just how diverse the dairy industry has become in terms of the machinery and systems it now demands.

What was once a stool, bucket and churn operation now apparently requires sophisticated parlours packed with electronic devices, computer controlled diet feeders, and automated slurry disposal systems. And that is if one ignores the increasing number of robotic milking machines that are now available.

In short, you can now feed cows automatically, milk them with robots and clean up behind them without lifting a fork.

Such sophistication is, however, not without its cost. But, as with the arable sector, many dairy farmers concede that investment in automation is cheaper than the cost of labour.

One of the latest developments to be revealed at the Dairy Event was to be found on the Fullwood stand. The Denmark-built Mullerup TMR Robot Mix Feeder is designed to enable small groups of cows within large herds to be fed individual rations according to their specific lactation requirements, rather than blanket feeding to whole herd of a common ration.

A relatively small auger-type mixing hopper is suspended from a single running rail and delivers prepared rations to specified groups of cows. Power for transport is supplied by battery but the auger automatically connected to a power shaft at the point where the rations are formulated.

Up to nine different types of feed can be mixed – each is measured from its own supply hopper according to a prepared computer programme. Weigh cells at the point where the hopper is suspended control the quantity of each ingredient being added.

Up to 15 groups can be fed up to six times a day with the advantage, says the manufacturer, that food is always fresh, no tractors or feeder wagons have to be used, and labour requirements are virtually avoided.

Price of the Mullerup TMR Robot Mix Feeder system is between £150 and £300/cow depending on the set-up required.