Making the most efficient use of grass is high on the management agenda of all dairy farmers this summer and for Cumbria organic milk producer Richard Park it has meant investing about £20,000 in a Bonino self-loading forage wagon to feed freshly cut material to his milking herd.
Manufactured by the Bonino family in Italy for more than 20 years, the range of grass cutting machines is marketed by Green Forage (07791 488 410 or www.greenforage.co.uk) – a new company set up by ex-Lancashire dairy farmer John Metcalfe.
A combination of a conventional forage wagon with a front-mounted two-drum mower, the Bonino machines are fitted with two height-adjustable rotating drums to ensure a precise cut.
Although most farmers opting for cutting and feeding fresh grass would use an adapted flail forage harvester, Mr Park says the Bonino harvester is much faster and doesn’t damage the sward.
“It’s not a complicated machine to maintain, but like a complete diet feeder its main drive areas need greasing regularly. It’s flexible and isn’t a really heavyweight machine to tow; we can run it with a 95hp tractor.”
Cut grass falls on to an elevator that carries the material into the trailer section of the machine. The trailer is fitted with a moving floor to keep the load moving backwards. The whole machine is offset so it’s not running on the cut sward.
“Like a typical forager it is fitted with beaters and a cross-conveyor. The trailer has a 28cu m capacity and holds around five tonnes of fresh grass. It’s taking us about 30 minutes a day to cut the one load of grass that we need,” says Mr Park.
Mr Metcalfe said the forage wagon enables the grass crop to be cut, collected and fed using one machine.” It saves on labour and only ties up one tractor for the job of cutting and delivering the forage.
“Feeding the grass out of the wagon involves raising the rear tailgate; alternatively it can be delivered from a cross conveyor to feed directly into a trough or feed face.”