Tips for making sure your mixer wagon was working at its best and advice for farmers considering a move to robotic milking were on the agenda at an on farm event organised by Zinpro and held in Cheshire recently.
The importance of looking inside mixer wagons to check on their performance, and monitoring the condition of the machine was highlighted by Jeff Weyers, an American dairy nutritionist with Zinpro.
Dr Weyers said: “A lot of mixer wagon operators do not look inside the mixer when it is mixing or even when it is empty.
“There is a lot of money going through that machine in terms of feed. And the mixer wagon itself, and associated machinery, is very expensive and is critical to the success of the dairy.”
He said the area of feed management which received the least attention, but should require the most, was the constant analysis of the mixer wagon and operator.
He said feeder wagon operators should make a habit of looking in the mixer wagon prior to the first load of the day.
“The feeder needs a basic understanding of what the components – knives and kicker plates – look like and how they function,” he added.
“They should be aware of how many knives there should be on each auger and what they look like when they need to be replaced.”
He said by checking often enough, the feeder could establish maintenance guidelines on the equipment.
He added it was important to notice how the wagon cleaned out the last load of the day.
“Is there a lot of feed left around the edges? Is there feed clinging to the augers? If the wagon does not clean out well there could be a couple of issues,” he said.
“First, examine the kicker plate and the leading edge of the auger. The leading edge should be very close to the side wall.
“This leading edge, coupled with the kicker plate, is critical for feed movement up the auger. It is also important during clean out at the end of every load.”
Dr Weyers said since there was a lot of pressure placed on the bottom of the augers from weight and cutting pressure, the kicker plate, leading edge and any knives along the bottom would wear out quicker than knives at the top of the auger.
He also advised safely climbing up the manufacturer’s ladder to look in the mixer again during mixing.
He said the most obvious thing to look for was ‘dead spots’, meaning feed that was not moving.
“Specifically look at areas around the discharge doors,” he said. “If the door area is worn out it will create a depression for feed to get caught and will stop feed from being picked up by the kicker plates and augers.”
By examining the load from start to finish it is possible to pinpoint where the dead spot is forming, since feed moves around differently as more weight is added.
Usually when the mixer is one-quarter full, feed will still flow around in a circular motion from front to back, back to front. As more weight is added the movement shifts from circular to a ‘boiling’ motion.
The auger’s purpose is to bring feed from the bottom to the top and boil over back down the wall of the wagon, all the while shifting feed from front to back and back again.
“It is a must to look inside at different time points during mixing, since a dead spot might not be apparent until sufficient weight is added,” said Dr Weyers.
If there is a dead spot in the machine, Dr Weyers said it was important to firstly make sure the tractor RPMs were high enough.
“In the past couple of years since budgets have tightened drastically on the dairy, the idea of saving fuel has forced a decrease in the RPMs while mixing,” he said.
“This practice will dramatically affect the mixing capability of the augers. Simply increase tractor RPM by 500 and inspect the difference in feed agitation.
“Establish a visual of how your mixer is working when all the components are new.”
Feeder wagon top tips