Although growing and feeding on-farm crops tends to alter with grain prices, there are still a significant number of mixed farmers who consider this the most cost-effective way of keeping feed costs down.
The days of these farms having their own mill-and-mix systems have all but disappeared, but farmers still have to process this home-grown feed, which is why there’s a requirement for feed processing contractors.
Glyn Hamer started his Herefordshire-based mill-and-mix business in 1991, after a time working for another animal feed processor, which then decided to relocate.
Tropper MegaMix Twin
- Engine: Scania Euro 6 13-litre in-line diesel
- Power: 490hp
- Transmission: 12-speed range-splitter
- Max torque: 2550Nm between 1000 and 1300 r/min
- Mixing capacity: 12t – two 6t tanks
- Milling types: hammer and roller
- Extras: Molasses tank and protein and minerals induction hopper
- Capacity: 35t/hour with roller, 35t/hour with hammer
“In this area, there was a strong demand for on-farm mixing, so I took a bank loan and found a machine for £7,500,” he says.
His first machine was a second-hand Feed Mobile with a 150hp Dodge lorry up front. “The Detroit auxiliary engine used for the mixing was noisy and dusty, and there was a lot of maintenance required all round,” he explains.
Sitting room carpet
“Every morning we would keep our fingers crossed that it would start, and in the winter we had the old sitting room carpet on the bonnet to keep it warm.”
Mr Hamer, who now works alongside his son James and employs his brother, has about 350 regular customers and works in different areas on alternate days, covering a radius of 50 miles or so.
“During the early years, we had three of these Feed Mobile machines, which required a lot of spare belts and chains to keep going. They had a 1t capacity, but still had a hammer mill and roller mill, all powered by a separate engine.”
The machines could manage about 5t/hour, and Mr Hamer would try to visit six or seven farms a day. “On a good day, we would be managing 40t.”
In 2005, Mr Hamer decided to invest in a new Austrian-built Tropper machine. “The concept of the Tropper machine was completely different. Instead of having augers, belts and chains, there’s a vacuum system that lifts and mixes the material instead, thanks to a combined compressor unit.”
Since then, Mr Hamer has had three of these machines and now runs two, which include the newest model, a 12t-capacity MegaMix Twin.
Scania up front
This twin-tank machine has, as the name suggests, two 6t aluminium tanks, each with a 30.5cm (12in) auger. At the front of the MegaMix Twin, which James collected from Austria in June this year, is a Scania Euro 6 R490.
The MegaMix has also evolved, and the power for the mixer now comes from the same engine that drives the tractor unit at the front, rather than an auxiliary powerplant, like before. On the older models, a Mercedes V6 350hp engine was used for this task and was mounted up front, just behind the cab.
An external pto diverts power from the drive chassis to the mill, and there are two soft-start clutch mechanisms that provide engine protection. When in work, the pto runs at about 1,500rpm.
Not only does this make the process more efficient, but saves a lot more space on the lorry itself, reckons Mr Hamer. “This makes it possible to have the twin 6t tanks, as well as a molasses tank, while maintaining manoeuvrability around tight yards and lanes.”
Because power now comes from one powerplant, the 490hp Scania had to be delivered first to the factory in Austria to be remapped and fitted with an external pto for the mixer, he explains.
Impressive turning circle
The chassis, which made up £100,000 of the total £310,000 cost of the machine, is bespoke for each machine. “Every machine is built to order,” says Mr Hamer. The three-axle chassis has a steering axle at the rear, making for an impressive turning circle.
A self-cleaning filter system front and back takes care of dust extraction, while a strong magnetic separator takes any foreign bodies out of the equation, as grain is sucked up into the roller or hammer mill. This has a handy inspection hatch that is easy to empty.
The hammer mill has 120 hardened metal hammers and can even cope with processing moist grain if required.
Meanwhile, the roller mill consists of two belt-driven 600mm-long rollers with a diameter of 400mm. If required, the crushing gap can be adjusted as necessary while running, all via the control panel.
“At the rear, there’s an electronic control centre,” explains son James. A backlit 10in colour display enables you to set everything at a touch of a button.”
The MMX Control interface has a separate weight display for each mixing chamber, so it is possible to mix two rations at the same time.
“It’s easy to do 20t/hour continuously with the new machine. When using the hammer mill it can reach 35t. That’s the beauty of it, when one tank is mixing you can fill the other tank, so there’s no downtime,” explains James.
Thanks to a high-capacity screw conveyor that has a clever elbow joint to alter unloading heights, the machine can discharge at up to 60t/hour into a silo, trailer or bunker, meaning there’s no waiting around when the mixing’s done.
Mr Hamer became a member of the NAAC more than 20 years ago. “When the government threatened the use of red diesel for the mill-and-mix lorries, this was a huge concern for us.
“We were allowed to use red diesel in the auxiliary engine, but the NAAC successfully argued for the classification of mobile feed trucks as agricultural vehicles, enabling the use of rebated fuel in the main engine as well. It makes sense because the trucks can’t be used for haulage or anything like that, only for preparing farm livestock feed.”