By Julie Hazelton
LELY Center Eglish is among a number of companies attending the Sustainable Farming for the Future Open Day at the Cargill family’s Hollybank Farm, Parkgate, Ballyclare, on Wednesday, July 20, at 11.30am.
Farming almost 400 acres, Stephen Cargill and son David run a herd of 150 pedigree Holstein cows averaging 11,200 litres at 4.1% butterfat and 3.18% protein.
The father and son team is always striving to improve animal welfare, and maximise efficiency and productivity.
Over the years they have invested in modern labour-saving technology, and one of the latest acquisitions is a Lely Vector automated feeding system.
The self-contained, battery oper-ated vehicle has the capability of feeding up to 600 animals. Forage is stored at predetermined areas in a ‘feed kitchen’, and the grabber, which is mounted on a crane-type overhead construction, selects the forage and puts it into the mixing robot.
A variety of straights, minerals and additives are accurately mea-sured and added using a dispenser. The system can be linked to Lely’s T4C and Horizon computer software, and can be adjusted and monitored using the Lely App on a smartphone or tablet.
The Vector uses metal strips buried in the ground to guide it along specified routes around the farmyard. Once alongside the feed barrier it uses ultrasound sensors to work out its location and distance from the barrier.
“We are focusing on making the business as efficient as possible,” explained David, who is responsible for the day-to-day management of the herd.
“The Vector was installed two
months ago, and is already exceeding our expectations. It’s equivalent to another labour unit, and solely responsible for mixing and feeding multiple rations, and making sure there is fresh feed in front of the cows round the clock.
“Mixing TMR is a time consuming and repetitive task that requires precision and attention-to-detail. The Lely Vector is saving me three hours every day, and the running costs are around £54 per week on electric, which is a significant saving compared to £170 at current diesel prices to operate the tractor and feeder wagon.”
Stephen and David have recently outsourced the majority of field-work to a local contractor and this, coupled with the installation of the Vector automated feeding system, has given David more time to focus on routine management and administration tasks.
The Lely Vector is programmed to operate up to 11 times daily, at two or three hourly intervals. David added: “The Vector is mixing a variety of high and low energy rations for six groups of cattle, high and low yielding cows, far off and close to calving dry cows, and maiden and in-calf heifers. Everything is very precise, and the rations are consistent. The milking cows have increased by an average of two litres per cow per day, and we’ve also noticed a significant reduction in acidosis.”
The feed kitchen is stocked two or three times every week, with the forages and ingredients for the specific rations. The mix for the milking portion of the herd includes first and third cut grass silage, wholecrop cereal rye, maize meal, soya, straw pellets, minerals, acid buff and a toxin binder.
Dry cows receive a high fibre mix comprising of silage, wholecrop cereal rye, chopped straw and minerals.
“The rations are fine-tuned, and the various batches of animals are thriving. Cows are getting fresh forage at regular intervals, and this has contributed to an increase in dry matter intake, and more milk in the tank. Daily liveweight gain has also improved across the various batches of youngstock. Animals are performing better than ever!”
Cows and followers are housed under one roof. The Lely Vector has two routes around the yard, giving it access to two separate feeding areas. One part of the shed has a single sided feed passage, while the other has feed fence at both sides.
The Lely Vector also has the capabilities of the company’s Juno silage pusher. The Vector makes regular trips up and down the passages to measure and replenish supplies of fresh TMR. It also pushes the ration closer to the feed fence.
“There is a constant supply of fresh feed in front of the cows. This means the less dominant cows in the herd can access feed when the others are fed and lying in the cubicles. Cows that were bullied are now more productive and in better condition.”
Lely’s BC180XL block cutter leaves the silo face very clean-cut, which helps to reduce spoilage and waste in the clamp. Two Lely Discovery barn cleaners are also reducing the daily workload on the farm, and have helped to minimise lameness and cases of dermatitis.
“Automation is fool proof,” add-
ed David, who comes from an engineering background and real-
ises the endless benefits available to farming enterprises investing in modern equipment and tech-nology.
Everyone is welcome to attend the forthcoming open day at Hollybank Farm. Please register in advance at www.ahvint.com/en/open-farm-event/
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