At a recent event held in France, Kuhn were keen to instil the virtues of its latest range of self-propelled diet feeders. Jane Carley reports.
Kuhn Farm Machinery’s SPW intense self-propelled feeder wagon range now features a 225hp FPT stage IV engine.
Self-propelled mixer/feeder wagons are still a rare sight on UK farms, but Kuhn says they could be a good choice for larger herds or farmer groups, offering significant savings.
A recent student project in the UK showed when feeding 500 cows per day with a TMR system, operating a self-propelled wagon saved 28 minutes/day and used 16 per cent less fuel than a trailed mixer wagon of the same capacity, says the manufacturer.
Kuhn product manager Antoine Cherrier says: “Loading and mixing takes 10-18 minutes per load, compared with 18-25 minutes for an equivalent-sized trailed machine. As well as time savings which free the operator up for other tasks, fuel costs are lower.”
Mr Cherrier says SP wagons work particularly well where the farm has more than 150 cows fed on a high proportion of concentrates, with silos at different locations on the farm which would require a lot of shuttling around with a tractor and loader.
He says: “All loading, mixing and distribution is carried out from the cab so there is a high level of comfort for the operator. There is no need to keep swapping from the loader to the tractor or for a second operator to load, which also cuts labour costs.”
Didier Vallat, business unit production manager at Kuhn Audureau, Nantes, which produces 80 self-propelled mixer wagons per year, says: “We began production in 2001 and our first customers were large farms in East Germany with 1,000-3,000 cows, so the machines are proven to handle high workloads of 2,000 hours per year or more, sometimes with drivers working in shifts.”
Kuhn’s SP mixer/feeder wagon range starts with 10cu.m capacity models and offers varying sizes to suit herd size.
From 2017 the flagship SPW Intense twin auger machines with capacities from 14-27cu.m will be powered by 225hp FPT engines. The engine compartment, situated at the rear to minimise exposure to dust and debris, has three opening panels for service access and an air pre-cleaner can be fitted for especially dusty conditions.
This series features a 68cm diameter 160hp or 200hp milling head, feeding into an 80cm-wide hydraulically driven conveyor. A bolted wear plate is now fitted to the head for ease of maintenance.
The manufacturer offers automatic regulation of the milling head downstroke via a pressure sensor on the head, adjusting pressure depending on the product density. This is designed to safeguard the machine, minimise damage to the clamp face and maximise capacity.
Twin vertical mixing augers are hydraulically driven for improved mixing and emptying with speed adjustable from 0-55rpm.
All functions including travel, loading, mixing and distribution are controlled via a joystick and armrest buttons.
For transport the operator uses the lever to increase and decrease speed with thumb button to select a speed range up to 40kph; the only pedal is the brake. Engine speed adjusts according to load, reducing revs once the desired forward speed is reached, to cut fuel consumption.
Monitoring is via Kuhn’s CCI IsoBus terminal which displays the now-familiar machine icons for loading and mixing. Touchscreen adjustment of the milling head and conveyor or of the mixing augers and discharge conveyor is available depending on operation. The CCI terminal also manages machine maintenance with service alerts and diagnostics.
Data on up to 80 rations with 15 different ingredients can be managed, and up to ten feed batches memorised by name; feeding records are transferred to the farm office via a USB stick.
Cameras in the hopper and at the rear of the machine are connected to a separate in-cab monitor; selecting reverse on the joystick automatically triggers the rear view camera.
While loads measured by weigh cells in the tub are displayed on the CCI terminal, third party weighing equipment can also be fitted.
Feed is distributed via a 1.2m wide cross conveyor which can side shift 25cm to either side of the machine for different feed passage configurations. A rear straw blower can also be fitted as an option.
Weight distribution is 65 per cent on the rear axle allowing two-wheel drive to be used for manoeuvrability; a rear steering axle is a further option for tight buildings.
Frederic Chopin is part of the farmer group GAEC la Serpiniere at Commequiers in the Vendee region of France, producing 3.1 million litres of milk from a 300 cow herd.
Including followers, there are 1,250 head of cattle to feed each day, both at the dairy at Les Guittonnières and two further youngstock yards each within a kilometre of base.
Mr Chopin purchased his first self-propelled feeder in 2004 and has used Kuhn machines since 2012. He is currently trialling Kuhn’s prototype generation 4 SPW 22 Intense.
Mr Chopin says: “We used a trailed machine when we only had 250 cattle. We would need two men and it would take far more time to use a trailed feeder now. The SPW takes 10 minutes to load 10 tonnes of wet feed and less than three minutes to unload.”
One of five farmers in the group, Mr Chopin takes charge of feeding while others have responsibility for the arable land, youngstock rearing, milking, cow health, etc on the 500 hectare (1,236 acre) farm.
Quantities range from five to six mixes per day in spring to 11 mixes a day in winter, and Mr Chopin reckons it takes two-and-a-half hours to feed all the stock.
A typical ration includes 1kg of hay, 2kg of rape meal, 3kg of soya, 5kg of mixed wheat concentrate, 6kg of grass silage and 43kg of maize silage per head, all gathered from silos in the main farm yard; high yielding cattle also get additional concentrates.
“We save a considerable amount of time at feeding and it is also economical – the SPW uses about 15 litres of fuel per hour to mix and feed,” he says.