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Achieving milk premiums with a KEENAN diet feeder

Rob Kirk with his KEENAN diet feeder

Robert Kirk has been a tenant farmer at Dalby Lodge Farm, near Melton Mowbray, for the last 27 years. The 41.6-hectare farm, situated in the heart of Leicestershire, benefits from rich pasture and is home to the Leedham herd of 50 pedigree, red and white milking Holsteins and 100 youngstock.

For the past 15 years, Robert has been supplying directly to specialist Stilton cheesemakers Long Clawson Dairy, one of only six UK dairies licensed to produce the much sought-after specialist cheese. The cheese, which is protected by designation of origin (PDO), requires high standards of milk quality. Specifically, there is a demand for higher-than-average fat and protein composition, which contribute towards maintaining Long Clawson Stilton’s world-renowned creamy texture.

Achieving milk price premiums

Consistently meeting these rigorous standards to command a higher premium was one of the key factors that contributed to Robert’s decision to purchase a KEENAN Approved-used MechFiber320 diet feeder going into last winter.

“With all the inevitable variabilities on-farm, particularly forage quality, achieving a consistently high-quality yield has always been challenging,” explains Robert. “We looked at the whole system and decided that investing in a new feed system with a diet feeder would have the greatest ability to overcome this challenge profitably. We wanted to better control the diet, both chemically and physically, to ensure the whole herd was getting exactly what it needed all year round.”

“KEENAN diet feeders are highly regarded throughout the industry. I’d heard all-round positive reports from other dairy farmers, with lots of talk around reliability and feed conversion efficiency results. I, therefore, decided that KEENAN was the only option for my system.

“The output has become much more dependable, with protein increasing from 3.1–3.36%. We can now keep a closer eye on inputs versus outputs and can see how feed performance improvements have helped with our overall profitability.

“The cherry on the cake is herd health and condition. We sell 40% of our milking herd every year and are delighted that the KEENAN has helped us command a better sale value. The cows are in the best nick to hit the ground running at their new home,” adds Robert.

Opting for an Approved-used diet feeder

Working alone for the most part, machine reliability and ease-of-use were key priorities that informed Robert’s purchasing decision.

“I couldn’t justify a new diet feeder on such a small system but wanted assurance of machine quality as the machine will be working hard,” he explains. “So we decided to opt for an Approved-used machine. Everything from the set up onwards has been really straightforward.”

As with all KEENAN-refurbished diet feeders, the used machine undertook a meticulous mechanical, electrical and functionality safety check before replacement parts were fitted, and the machine was shot-blasted and re-painted by specially trained engineers.

Buffering summer grazing diets

Seasonal challenges are part and parcel of farming life. The cows at Dalby Lodge Farm are out to grass over the summer months, which means the KEENAN is not generally required. However, when adverse weather prevailed, the feeder once again delivered.  

“There have been periods of prolonged wet weather this summer,” continues Robert. “Usually, this can have an adverse effect on milk yields, which can be difficult to get back up once they’ve dipped. However, that has not been the case this year.

“It’s been incredible how the yield has held up when the cows were temporarily brought back into housing because of the rain that we’ve had. This is, in part, due to our first cut of silage being very good this year. The diet also had a higher percentage of dry matter, and the cows consumed the forage like there’s no tomorrow.

“Overall, I’m incredibly pleased with the real results from the KEENAN MechFiber, and we’re in a great position to control feed costs as we head towards the winter. The herd is in the best condition it’s ever been, with 90% of cows holding in-calf to sexed semen,” concludes Robert.