The precision feeding of cows is now very much science-based on the tremendous amount of research that has gone into ruminant nutrition over the last century or so.

For the greater part, this has naturally focused on the functioning of a cow’s digestive system, but over the years, that has extended to the way food is fed and now it has rolled out to into the design of the machines in which it is prepared.

Demand for milk and meat

With the ever-increasing amount of knowledge available, it is inevitable that specialisation in one particular facet of the whole operation will occur, and that is just what Siloking has done; it builds machines to feed cows, and that is all.

It might be considered a risky enterprise given the reported rise in the vegan lifestyle, but the company considers that little more than a distraction as it prefers, instead, to take note of the global consumption of animal protein.

Siloking precision tub feeder
Unashamedly a premium product, Siloking is distributed by Kverneland in several European countries

This is showing a steady increase as incomes are generally rising throughout the world, and as they do, so people can afford to include more protein in the diet, and the preference is for it to be derived from animals.

Ruminants just happen to be the most efficient way of extracting protein from vegetation such as grass and converting into a form that we are able to digest, and there is a significant area of the world that is only suitable for growing grass.

The cow as an economic unit

This then is the philosophy that guides Siloking and its accompanying mantra – that the cow is the number one customer, with the farmer himself coming second in the pecking order.

Siloking trailed feeder
Neat design is evident throughout the range

Fine words, but how do they translate into the practical task of building a machine that will increase the yield of cows?

Here, there is another guiding mantra, and that is ‘precision’. It is a matter of being precise all the way through the feeding operation according to Richard Vogt, export manager for Siloking.

Accuracy brings control

Richard suggests that there are three phases to a planned diet. The first is the one that is intended, the second is the one that is mixed, and finally, there is the one that is actually eaten by each individual cow.

The aim is to try and ensure that the last matches the first as closely as possible and the selection and correct use of the mixing machine is crucial to obtaining the desired outcome.

Data control USB stick
The control box which manages the data is placed above the two speed gearbox

Precision starts with getting the mix right, and that means correct and reliable weighing in of ingredients.

To help ensure that the correct amount of each ingredient is included, each model has frame to support the tub.

This allows weigh cells to be inserted between the two rather than on the axles or drawbar, which is often the case where the base plate of the tub doubles up as the chassis.

Weigh cells tub feeder
The weigh cells connect the body to a rigid box frame chassis

Situated like this, they will last longer and be more accurate. All Siloking’s mixers have a frame made of box steel, the better to minimising twisting, thus reducing the random mechanical loads weigh cells may be subjected to.

Software encourages precision

Accurate weighing is essential in getting the fed diet as close to the planned diet as possible.

Being able to weigh the ingredients accurately is a start, but the cumulative total needs to known as well as the final weight, which can then compared to the desired mix.

Precision tub feeder control box
The antenna for the ISOBUS compatible data transfer system is sited atop the hydraulic hose support

This comparison is important Richard feels, for it gives an indication of the precision being achieved and so operators can work towards improving it.

All this can be done via the company’s own software and the figures shown on an ISOBUS screen in the tractor and on up to four loaders, as well being downloaded to the farm’s computer via a USB stick which slots into the control box sited above the gearbox.

The auger is everything

The quest for precision starts with the design of the machine the company believes, and it is attention to detail which makes its tubs particularly efficient and effective in processing the feed.

The most basic concept adhered to is that the tub is built around the auger. It is the auger that does the work and so everything else must be centred around enabling it to function efficiently.

Auger gearbox feeding
Seelox, hardened stainless steel is used on the augers and can be specified for the floor

While the height of the auger may be the most obvious dimension, it is the width that matters to engineers.

A narrow auger will mix more evenly across its width and it can turn faster due to a lower torque requirement, important when working down slabs or bales of silage.

Capacity versus effectiveness

Unfortunately, tall, narrow augers will not fit into low buildings, but more importantly still, they restrict the size of the tub which also has to be narrow to fit the auger, reducing the total capacity.

Precision auhertub
The tubs are shaped to suit the auger and encourage mixing on the twin- and triple-tubbed models

Therefore, just like most machines in farming, a happy medium has to be found. In this case the the conundrum is addressed by the inclusion of a two-speed gearbox, allowing a faster speed for cutting and a more economical speed for mixing.

Ensuring that the floor area is completely swept by the auger is a fundamental feature of all mixers, and tubs are either shaped to accommodate the diameter of the auger or have internal baffles fitted to avoid any dead spots.

Shaped to stir

Yet, Siloking has a further trick up its sleeve in the finer shaping of the tub. At either end it is folded into a semicircle rather than rolled.

Steel tub feed
The front and rear of the tub is shaped in flat sections to encourage mixing

By doing this, the mix encounters greater resistance from the walls as it passes along them, slowing the outer layer, causing it to mix more thoroughly with the material behind it.

Forming the metalwork in this way is more expensive but the action upon the feed and the reduction of mixing time due to this action, is worth the extra, the company contends.

Stress reduction

There is a whole host of discharge options and combinations available to suit the farm situation. One important feature of them all is the use of a relief valve on the belt drive motors.

The relief valve motor
The relief valve is attached to end of the drive motors for the belts directs excess oil back to the rear axle

As tractors grew bigger over the years, the power of the hydraulics was causing motors to fail ever more frequently. With a pressure relief valve integral to each motor, the problem has now been overcome.

The features noted here are generally present across the trailed range, and also the self-propelled machines which add the ability to self load the tub via a milling unit on a front conveyor belt.

Self-propelled for greater precision

These machines may seem something of an extravagance to most stock farmers but they do come with the advantage of cutting the silage as they load, further saving mixing time, and the tub is located between the axles, lowering the overall height.

Kverneland mixer auger
Allan Hetherington, Kverneland’s product specialist, with Richard Vogt of Siloking

They are a popular choice on the continent, especially in the dairy region of the Alps where Siloking is based, and follow the company’s philosophy of maximising the return from each cow through precision feeding and feed management.

Siloking has no great expectations of selling large numbers in Ireland, but Richard Vogt suggests that they should not be dismissed as a rich man’s toy, for specialist farms will always benefit from specialist machinery.