FOR dairy farmer Liam Rohan, based at Abbeyleix, Co Laois, a change over from feeding concentrates to home-mixing has, he claims, brought about some distinct advantages.
A saving on feed costs of £8000 for his 100-head herd, an increase in milk yield of some 12.5% – now 1400 gal – and an increase in stocking rate from a cow/acre to a cow/0.75 acres.
"It was in 1990 we moved over to the Keenan complete diet feeder system," he says. "The ability to correct any imbalance or deficiency in our silage was an immediate plus but it was equally satisfying to know just what was going into the rations – I have always been sceptical of the ingredients used by concentrate manufacturers."
Mr Rohan also finds the ability to tweak ration formulations – say by the addition of a little extra straw – enables him to create the best digestive balance for his cows.
"You cant expect cows which are not 100% healthy to produce their maximum milk yields," he says. "Before we switched systems we had an awful laminitis problem with the herd – a problem our vet failed to find a solution for.
"There was a tendency to give those affected extra concentrate in the parlour. With hindsight, this was the worst thing to have done. The cows just wandered out and laid down with a belly full of cake and no fibre in them."
The problem Mr Rohans cows had was a digestive one, acidosis, which caused the laminitis to thrive.
"We stopped feeding concentrate in the parlour and we began to give them home-mixed rations and the problem disappeared," he says.
"Vet visits dropped by a staggering 70% and the protein level in the milk improved."
Mr Rohan, who farms with his sons John and Brian, operates a Keenan Easy Feeder diet feeder. *