Current Progressive Dairy digital edition
Advertisement

Create efficiencies with three-in-one feeding machine

PD Editor Karen Lee Published on 03 February 2011

0311pd_lee_newtech_1

It is no secret that feed and labor are the two highest expenses on a dairy operation, and don’t forget fuel prices that are expected to climb through 2011. Jones Equipment Company LLC in Massey, Maryland, has an answer to reduce expenses in those categories.

advertisement

advertisement

Developed by Lachish Industries in Israel, where feed costs are even higher than the U.S., the RMH is a self-propelled and self-loading mixer/feeder that combines a facer, payloader, mixer and tractor or truck-mounted mixer into one machine.

“These machines are extremely efficient,” says Bucky Jones of Jones Equipment, a U.S. distributor that works with dealerships across the country.

The machine attacks a bunker silo or pile with rotating knives that remove and pull the feed to the center. From there it travels along a conveyer belt into the vertical mixer.

Adaptable to most feed management software programs, it weighs the feed at the site it enters the mixer. This allows the operator to stop at a certain point, reverse the belt and unload extra feed.

The speed of the belt can also be controlled so it can be slowed as the mixer nears the required amount of a particular feedstuff.

advertisement

This added control and loading direct from the face of the bunker means you only remove what you need for each load, without driving back and forth, Jones says.

“You only go to each pile once,” he says. “You’re not running around in circles.”

It is also safer because employees aren’t constantly traveling between pieces of equipment, he says. They can stay in one machine and do multiple jobs.

Between fewer trips back and forth and fewer pieces of running equipment, the fuel savings can add up.

Jones has been using the machine on his family dairy farm in Maryland for four years. After logging more than 14,000 hours to feed 2,600 animals each day, he hasn’t found anything he can’t load with it, noting it will easily grind up round or square bales.

Amos Smith has also been using the RMH on his dairy in York, New York. He milks about 1,200 cows and raises all the farm’s replacement animals. He also custom feeds for his brother-in-law, who milks 400 cows just down the road.

advertisement

Smith has two employees that work for him feeding animals. One feeds the two farms’ youngstock using the conventional method with a payloader and feed truck, while the other cares for the milking strings (about 1,600 cows) with the new RMH machine.

He can drive it between the two farms at 20 to 25 miles per hour.

At the size of machine Smith has, he can only feed that many animals in a day and had to continue with twice-a-day feedings like he had done before the new mixer. He would like to upgrade in size if the dairy economy was better.

But he has seen a financial gain with what he has. When he purchased the RMH, he expected to save on labor, dry matter losses and fuel. In fact, he bought the machine two-and-a-half years ago when fuel prices were starting to climb.

Now he says he’s recording a 2 to 3 percent savings in dry matter, 5 to 10 percent in feeding labor, and 7 to 10 percent savings in fuel. “We’re no longer spending time moving feed,” he says. “Every time you touch feed, you have dry matter loss.”

Jones adds, “Studies have shown that 2 to 3 percent of dry matter disappears somewhere in the feeding process. With the price of feed today and the size of dairies, it doesn’t take long to pay for a piece of equipment like this.”

“It’s the same initial investment as a new truck and mixer,” Smith says. “Plus you’re getting a payloader and facer with it.”

When he purchased it, Smith estimated the payoff to take two years, but figures it only took one year and eight or 10 months to accomplish.

The machines sell for $250,000 to $350,000, depending on the size and options selected. Some come equipped with unique magnets to collect hardware in forages and other feed, which one customer told Jones practically paid for the machine itself, he recalls.

According to calculations he’s done, Jones estimates this technology is a financial fit for farms with more than 500 cows. But you can find out for yourself by entering your farm’s numbers into a spreadsheet at http://rmhjonesequipment.com/how-much-can-i-save/

One benefit Smith didn’t anticipate was better consistency of his delivered feed. He switched from a horizontal reel mixer to this vertical unit and within two weeks gained an additional 5 pounds of milk per cow, he says.

Smith notes that a dairy does have to be set up right for this machine. It has to have low piles (less than 20 feet), smooth terrain and flat bunks for feeding.

Another downfall is that the equipment is substantially higher to maintain, he adds, noting though, that it’s probably comparable to the maintenance you would be performing on two or three machines.

Smith estimates that 80 percent of the parts and bearings are generic and can be found at most local dealerships. He credits the service he’s received from Jones to only missing one day in two-and-a-half years of owning the machine.

It is a high-tech machine, Jones admits. However, most components can be sourced anywhere, while others are specialized and need to be acquired overseas.

“I don’t know if I like the engine,” Smith says. “It’s a really great engine but getting proper service in my area is difficult. Luckily, any problems I’ve had have cured themselves.”

He notes that even if service is lacking, the engine performance is excellent and the machine is more efficient because everything runs off one power source. Because it is a hydraulically driven machine, it is easier to move around, he says. Smith does mention he wishes he had four-wheel drive and quad steering, which is available on the newer models.

The next generation of the machine, which Jones’ sons were scouting overseas last month, includes a computer that will automatically stop and reverse the conveyor when the right amount of feed has been added. It will also have infrared technology to measure moisture and analyze feedstuffs.

Smith says he believes this type of technology needs to become mainstream in the U.S. “We’re in it for the long haul with this type of feeding system,” he says. PD

For more information, visit http://rmhjonesequipment.com or contact Mike Brady at or (609) 314-2228 .

YOUR RESULTS
Would you benefit from the addition of an RMH? The following checklist can be used to determine if this new technology might be a fit for your operation.

1. Do you want to reduce dry matter loss?

2. Would you like to reduce labor expenses?

3. Are you interested in saving money on fuel?

4. Do you need to replace your feeding equipment?

5. Is efficiency something you try to improve?

6. Would you like to own fewer pieces of equipment?

7. Do you have limited travel for your mixer and forage piles less than 20 feet tall?

8. Is increasing safety important to you?

9. Do you need to improve the consistency of your farm’s ration(s)?

If you answered yes to six or more of these questions, this technology may be one for you to consider.

Karen Lee
  • Karen Lee

  • Midwest Editor
  • Email Karen Lee

LATEST BLOG

LATEST NEWS