Video: Cumbrian dairy farmer patents feed invention

A Cumbrian dairy farming family has secured a 10-year patent on a feed cover designed to reduce waste, save on labour and help support dry matter intakes.

Frank Morphet and the team at Swarthmoor Hall Farm, Ulverston, have designed and patented the swingover feed cover after a four-year wait.

Back in 2013, the Intellectual Property Office began a global research procedure to determine whether the simple but effective counterbalanced-pivot design was unique.

See also: What’s in your livestock shed? Sushi-style feeding and GPS trackers


Key points to design

  • Must form a barrier to restrain cows before covering feed
  • Must be hard-wearing and durable
  • Covers must be waterproof and withstand the force of feeding cows
  • Able to be lifted and secured by one person
  • Keep forage in reach of cows
  • Eliminates need to push up feed
  • Cows don’t reach for feed and rub their necks

Frank Morphet demonstrates his feed cover

The Morphet’s contraption finally became patented earlier this year after Mr Morphet first started experimenting with angle iron and steel piping eight years ago.

Farm facts

Swarthmoor Hall Farm

  • 160-head organic dairy herd
  • Producing milk through South Lakes Organic Milk
  • Mixed herd of Friesians including Brown Swiss and Montbelliard
  • Average annual production 7,000 litres
  • 8% butter fat and 3.3% protein
  • AI and natural service

Many different iterations of the design and observed the benefits it has brought to their 160-head organic herd, which produces milk for the family business, South Lakes Organic Milk. 

The swingover feed cover shelters and presents the forage, which consists of a grass silage chopped to 20-30mm mixed with a 16% summer dairy cake.

The farm also grows a forage mix of peas, barley and triticale.

The Morphets have noticed cows eat more without the need to push up feed.

Another benefit of the system is cows don’t reach and rub their necks.

 The Swarthmoor Hall cows are achieving a production of 7,000 litres at 3.8 butterfat and 3.3 protein.

Cows are expected to achieve seven to eight lactations.

Time saving

Commenting on the commercial application of the design, Frank said: “I see this being useful for any farm with a feed passage of any sort of description or anyone feeding a total mixed ration or buffer feeding.”

See also: Starlings ‘steal up to £40,000 of cattle feed a farm’

He added  further improvements could be made, such as finding a stronger but still lightweight material to form the cover and possibly a motorised feature on larger units.

“Although the swingover feed cover is manually operated I think it saves time on pushing up feed, which we used to do twice a day.

“Cows don’t reach for feed or pick out feed the same.”

Trial and error

Just about everyone at Swarthmoor Hall Farm had a hand in designing the cover, with a rubber bottom sheet finally being chosen.

Mr Morphet added: “We’ve been experimenting with the design for quite a while. 

“We’ve tried solid fronts but this just traps rain and leads to wastage.

“It also took some time to get the design right so it balances.

“Really the design is about trying to reduce waste and make savings in different ways.”

Cost of starlings

AHDB Dairy conducted farm trials on the Somerset Levels in December 2012 and January 2013.

  • Studies found birds eat up to half their weight in cattle feed – 30- 50g/day
  • Cost farms up to £106/day per 100 cows in 2013
  • European starlings are known to carry E coli, salmonella, Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (Johne’s) and campylobacter
  • Starling numbers can vary between 100 to 50,000 birds a day – average is about 10,000
  • Could cost a 100-cow family dairy £40,000/year