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Auto-feed pusher proves more cost effective than tractor

Kenton and Charlotte Bennett believe a robotic feed pusher is more cost effective and reliable than manually pushing up using a tractor.

Before making the decision to invest in a Lely Juno, Kenton’s brother Simon, who is an accountant, took pen to paper and was surprised to find that the robot was around £4,000 cheaper over three years compared to a tractor mounted feed pusher.

This was based on buying the Juno on 0% finance over three years and factoring in depreciation and labour on the machinery that would be used for manual scraping. The fact the Juno would push up feed 14 times a day, 24/7 also made it more attractive than scraping eight times with a tractor.

 
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“We’re not going to push up manually as many times as a Juno with all the will in the world,” says Charlotte. Kenton adds: “The Juno will also do it in the middle of the night and you couldn’t get staff to do that - you’d be surprised how many cows feed in the night.”

Since its installation,  the Juno has proved reliable with limited upkeep. In fact Kenton has only had to replace two jockey wheels in the six years he’s had it and the only ongoing maintenance it requires is a weekly clean. “The Juno and the cameras in the calving sheds are the best bits of technology we have on  the farm. They’re both very reliable,” Kenton says.

Ensuring cows have consistent access to feed, 24 hours a day fits with Kenton and Charlotte’s ethos of putting the cow first so as to maximise health and welfare. These were the main reasons they chose to put up a state-of-the-art cow shed in 2015, under the guidance of Dutch vet, Bertjan Westerlaan from VetVice. It was Bertjan that advised moving away from troughs and installing a central feed passage. For Kenton and Charlotte, finding a way to keep feed in front of cows was an essential component of moving to this new system.

“It’s very important. If you want good, healthy, milky cows, you need feed consistently in front of them”, explains Kenton. "Consistent access and providing 750mm/head of feed space means all cows and heifers can access feed at once, avoiding any bullying and ensuring cows are always full".

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With that in mind, Kenton and Charlotte are considering installing an automated feed pusher in a shed which they are in the process of refurbishing for calves and transition cows. Charlotte believes a feed pusher will help dry matter intakes at the critical time around calving. “It’s best to have them full all this time and then you don’t get the problems with milk fever and LDAs after calving,” she explains.

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