Farm­ers look­ing to tech­nol­ogy to stretch scarce fod­der re­serves

Sales of win­ter feed­ing equip­ment are boom­ing with long wait­ing lists for some diet feed­ers, re­ports

Irish Independent - Farming - - WINTER FEEDING -

SALES of win­ter­feed­ing equip­ment like diet feed­ers and straw blow­ers have been ab­so­lutely fly­ing, ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try sources from the Ir­ish ma­chin­ery trade.

It ap­pears farm­ers are look­ing to tech­nol­ogy in a bid to stretch ex­ist­ing fod­der and bed­ding re­serves. In a nor­mal year busi­ness wouldn’t start for diet feed­ers un­til af­ter the Plough­ing Cham­pi­onships, but this year some ma­chin­ery deal­ers had al­ready started sell­ing diet feed­ers in July. One sup­plier told me re­cently that lead times for diet feed­ers are cur­rently pushed out to March 2019 de­liv­ery, such is the de­mand.

If you are on the mar­ket for a new or sec­ond-hand diet feeder, there can be a lot of con­fus­ing ter­mi­nol­ogy out there. You need to know the ins and outs of what type of feeder will suit your par­tic­u­lar farm.

You also need to have at least a rough idea of what the cost of run­ning the feeder will be each year, oth­er­wise the tac­tic of us­ing a mixer wagon to stretch feed re­sources will back­fire spec­tac­u­larly through hid­den costs. The cost is per­haps best worked out on a per an­i­mal ba­sis and will de­pend on the ini­tial price of the ma­chine, the an­nual de­pre­ci­a­tion and main­te­nance costs, and the length of time you in­tend to keep the feeder for ( see Ta­ble 2).

THE BA­SICS

Farmer-spec diet feed­ers can be crudely clas­si­fied as be­ing from one of two camps: they use ei­ther a pad­dle or tub de­sign to chop and feed the ra­tion mix. In re­cent times there has been a few sales of big­ger self-pro­pelled style feed­ers, but these are only fi­nan­cially vi­able in the big­gest feed lots in the coun­try.

A typ­i­cal wagon has three main com­po­nents: floor con­veyor, mix­ing sys­tem and the un­load­ing con­veyor. Feed dis­charge lo­ca­tion and height is im­por­tant when choos­ing a wagon to match a feed pas­sage. If you are look­ing to buy a mixer wagon, there are cer­tain things to look out for. Be sure to ask your dealer the fol­low­ing ques­tions:

Where is it made? (Buy Ir­ish if pos­si­ble)

• What is the re­quired horse­power to drive the mixer wagon?

Can the ma­chine han­dle a wide range of feeds?

• Is the dis­charge to the rear, front left or right? Can this be changed?

Is there a two-speed gear­box in the ma­chine for mix­ing heavy loads?

Is the ma­chine de­signed in a way that min­imises the oc­cur­rence of dead spots (places where con­cen­trates and other com­po­nents of the ra­tion can linger)?

Does the ma­chine come with an on-board weigh­ing sys­tem?

What about light­ing set up for dark win­ter road jour­neys?

• Will the un­load­ing height of the wagon be suit­able for my feed bunkers?

• What is the ser­vice in­ter­val and what are the main­te­nance costs in­volved?

THE HOR­I­ZON­TAL AUGER FEED­ERS (PAD­DLE FEED­ERS)

The pad­dle type mixer can be thought of as be­ing a hor­i­zon­tal auger feeder. These are a very com­mon sight through­out Ir­ish farm­yards. Typ­i­cally, these feed­ers will have a length that is three times their di­am­e­ter. The hor­i­zon­tal auger feeder is more suit­able to the farmer who has easy to ac­cess sheds and wide pas­sages that can be en­tered from ei­ther end. It also of­fers big­ger ca­pac­ity and is favoured by those with larger num­ber of mouths to feed.

This type of wagon gets its name from hav­ing a big, hor­i­zon­tally mounted cen­tral ro­tor. The ro­tor gen­er­ally turns at low rpm, lift­ing and turn­ing the ma­te­rial and mov­ing it from one end of the ma­chine to the other. This mix­ing sys­tem re­quires less horse­power than other de­signs and pro­duces a lighter re­sul­tant feed.

For an av­er­age sized hor­i­zon­tal auger feeder (say 12–14 cu­bic me­tre ca­pac­ity) you will need to have a 100 horse­power trac­tor.

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