Correct trough set-up can spell feed improvements

On a farm where maximising milk from forage is key to the success of the system, ensuring cows have free access to the ration at all times is crucial.

With this in mind, along with plans to expand cow numbers from 170 to 240, Wiltshire farmer and consultant for The Farm Consultancy Group, Max Sealy decided to overhaul his feed trough set-up and has since seen big improvements in of ease of trough cleaning and dry matter intakes.

Prior to addressing feed set-up, the 20 year old feed troughs at Whitelands Farm, Kington Langley, were suffering from pitted concrete and collapsing walls and insufficient size had meant cows had to be fed twice a day.

“Cows were tending to stand side on to the troughs, restricting feed access to the rest of the herd. Intakes were probably reduced as well because the neck rail was not set back,” explains Mr Sealy.

And although neck lesions have never been a major issue, Mr Sealy was conscious that incorrect standing at the feed trough could create lameness problems.

“We also struggled to get enough feed in the old trough and because they were dish shaped, cows tended to flick feed out and waste the ration.

The new feed troughs have been designed with the cow in mind. The feed surface has been raised so it is now 20cm off the standing surface and the neck rail has also been set back.

Feed space has also improved, with 360ft of feed space for every 170 cows. “I think the importance of feed space is often underestimated – you need a good 2ft a cow, particularly so that heifers do not get pushed out.”

Addressing feed surface quality in the two 180ft by 4ft troughs has also been a big benefit. “I wanted the new troughs to be easy to clean and attractive for the cows to lick clean,” he says.

After visiting a friend who has used a paint polyurethane floor seal on the bottom of his troughs, Mr Sealy decided to do the same.

“This is the third winter since the paint was applied and it has worn well. It seems very resistant and is still smooth.”

It cost Mr Sealy £225 to paint both troughs, something he views as a good investment considering the fact cows clean out the trough more effectively.

“The paint can be applied on top of fresh or old concrete as long as it is clean and dry,” he says. “It’s important to brush the surface first to remove any dust. When cleaning out by hand, it’s also important to use a plastic shovel, as a metal shovel will chip the paint.”

As a result of modifications, the farm has witnessed increased intakes which have helped achieve 4,000 litres of milk from forage out of a total 8,200 litres a cow a year. Increased trough size has also meant cow only have to be fed once a day.