Accurate rations, less waste with self propelled feeder

8 May 1998

Accurate rations, less waste with self propelled feeder

Self-propelled diet feeders

have yet to make their mark

in the UK – popular as they

are in several other

countries. Andy Collings

visited ADAS Bridgets, where

such a machine has clocked

up over 2000 hours in its

first six months of use

MIXING rations for 650 milking cows and a further 650 or so youngstock is a task not many would particularly relish on a day-by-day basis.

But at ADAS Bridgets, Hants, that is the task faced by staff – and one further compounded through the farms research work, which requires relatively small groups of cows to be fed different rations.

Six months ago Bridgets herd manager, Robert Bull, took the decision to invest in a self-propelled diet feeder – an Israeli-built RMH 280C – reasoning that there should be a more economical way of feeding his stock than using four trailed diet feeders, two JCB telescopic loaders and five people.

Not a small investment – the RMH 280C retails for about £48,000 – but Mr Bull did his sums and came to the conclusion that it was a viable proposition. "At peak times we need to mix up to 90 different rations each day," he explains. "Our old system was so time consuming and labour intensive. For example, using a loader to fill mixer wagons meant a trip to fetch an ingredient and then a trip back to return any surplus to its store. And when all the ingredients had eventually been loaded there was the 15 minutes or so to wait while it was mixed.

"Loading, mixing and feeding is now virtually a one-person operation – although there are not many hours in a day when it is not working."

Marketed by RMH (UK) based at Alresford, Hants, the 280C has seen almost non-stop use since the day it arrived and has already clocked up 2200 hours. Powered by an 80hp Deutz engine, the machine has a hydrostatic transmission, which allows forward speed to be fine-tuned when mixed rations are distributed along the feed passages.

Hydrostatic drive is also employed to power the machines four mixing augers, cutting head, feed elevator and discharge chute. The cutting head – a 1.6m (5ft) wide auger equipped with serrated knife sections – is used as an entry point for all feed types including silage, powders and hay. The machine is simply driven into the heap.

One of the 280Cs main features is its computer controlled loading and mixing system. Rations formulated on the farm office computer are downloaded into the machines computer along with information in respect of number of cattle to be fed, the bays the machine must visit to pick up the required feedstuffs and the amount of time required to mix. Checks can be made for all rations mixed via a print-out which states how much of each ingredient has been loaded and when it was loaded.

Heading Bridgets feed team is Nadine Gregory, who well recalls the difficulties of mixing and feeding using the four trailed units.

"It was always very chaotic and very labour intensive," she says. "With the self-propelled just one person can load, mix and feed."

Miss Gregory also believes rations are now more precisely formulated and wastage is less.

"The machines computer tells the operator just how much to load using a digital display which reduces to zero as the required quantity is reached. It then tells the operator which ingredient to add next and where it is stored. When all the ingredients are on board they are mixed for a pre-set time.

"Wastage is also so much less. When we filled feeder wagons with a loader spillages were frequent and, however much the operator tried to be precise with his weights, it was always going to be difficult using a bucket."

Miss Gregory points out that it is important to get a ration right not only for the animals being fed but to ensure that accurate stock controls of expensive ingredients are maintained.

Overall, the RMH 280C, with its 2.5t capacity, appears to meet the requirements at Bridgets. Reliability of such a machine will always be paramount and, to date, there have been few problems, but it is still well under a year old – albeit on route to completing 4000 hours. &#42

Loading in progress. Note the flights on the auger which mix without taking the material to the ends of the hopper.

Feed team leader, Nadine Gregory:"Accurate rations are important for the animals being fed and to ensure adequate stock control of expensive feedstuffs is maintained."

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