Agroscope FAT Tänikon, Swiss Federal Research Station for Agricultural Economics and Engineering,CH- 8356 Ettenhausen

Comparison of feed-distribution systems for dairy cows

In a three-month trial involving two groups of 15 dairy cows each, Agroscope FAT Tänikon investigated whether mixing the feed components of the basic ration or distributing a non-mixed ration had an impact on feed intake and milk yield. In the mixed-ration system, the basic ration, consisting of various silages and ventilated hay, was distributed by a diet feeder, whilst the non-mixed ration was distributed by a feeding bucket fixed on the self-propelled loader. No relevant differences between the two systems were observed in terms of basic feed intake, energy-corrected milk yield or milk components. Compared to several other feed-distribution techniques, the mixed ration system (i.e. the one using a diet feeder to distribute the feed) proved the most advantageous from a work economics viewpoint. With the diet feeder enabling the feed components to be collected from their storage places on the farm, then transported and directly distributed to the animals, the feed transport- and distribution process was almost effortless. A cost comparison shows, however, that these undoubted advantages in terms of work economics come at a price. The system commonly used, consisting of a diet feeder and (manual) feed removal from the tower silo, involves the highest costs per working hour saved (CHF 55.-) in comparison to the exclusively manual system, in spite of taking only half of the machine costs into account (50 % ownership). The simpler system using a feeding bucket allows a halving of the costs per manpower hour with full ownership. The cheapest way to save working time is to use a horizontal silo in combination with an unloading/transport/distribution system, or a diet feeder equipped with a silo unloader. These systems also allow a significant reduction of the physical workload.

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