New smart feeding system meets dairy farmers’ needs
A smart feeding solution designed to help dairy farmers save up to 3 hours of labour a day, improve performance and significantly cut feeding and capital costs, is up and running in Sweden. This is the first complete DeLaval Optifeeding system, installed on a farm near the southern Swedish town of Månstad. “Optifeeding is exactly what I was looking for: it had to be automatic, suitable for a large farm and reliable. I was glad to find it,” dairy farmer Patrik Johansson said.
Johansson is a 5th generation farmer. He milks his 250 cows, soon to be 330, with four voluntary milking systems, DeLaval VMS robotic units –fully automated milking. “I wanted an automatic feeding system too because I didn’t want the bother of weighing, preparing and distributing the different rations every day,” he said.
Optifeeding loads, cuts, mixes and distributes feed automatically, day and night. And it allows farmers to ensure the right balance for each cow, or group of cows, according to their stage in the lactation cycle. According to DeLaval Director Function Feeding & Herd Management Fernando Mazeris, with this new system feed costs can be controlled, working routines made flexible and waste and energy minimized.
“Feeding is the largest single cost on a dairy farm, representing up to 50% of total running costs. Feeding tasks are, after milking, the most time-consuming activity. Getting the right amount of feed, at the right time, to your dairy herd is key to animal health, to good reproduction performance, and to farm profitability. Having an automatic system do the work is vital to farmers’ lifestyle and to optimal farm management,” Mazeris said.
This new feeding solution is part of Smart Farming, a DeLaval initiative launched in 2008 to influence and shape the future of dairy farming worldwide. For DeLaval Smart Farming is the way “to accelerate the transition from milking management to global farm profitability management by harnessing emerging decision tools and automation technologies for better quality milk and profits.”
On the feeding front, Mazeris explained, automation makes it easier to deliver total mixed rations (TMR). Frequent feeding can be very time consuming; but ensures higher dry matter intakes with less feed wastage, as fresh feed is always available for cows. The Optifeed mixer does not need to be filled during peak morning or afternoon work times, and automatic filling secures the right amount of each component of the rations are loaded. Fewer tractors are needed too.
Optifeeding saves energy costs with bulk mixing of feed and rationalizing of delivery while minimizing feed wastage. It supports energy savings, reduces CO2 and methane emissions. Optifeeding is part of the company’s Sustainable Dairy Farming (SDF), an initiative to support dairy farmers to reduce the environmental footprint of their farms, while improving milk production, farm profitability and the well-being of the people and animals involved.
“Overall, optimizing feed preparation and delivery helps cows reach their full genetic potential. Frequent feeding leads to higher feed intake and more milk. It also helps improve cow traffic in a robotic milking system,” Mazeris said.
In today’s market, with unstable profit margins, milk producers are exploring new ways to cut expenses and improve efficiency. Automated feeding saves guesswork as well-formulated rations maximize milk volume, milk protein and butterfat, which in turn, boosts milk income.
“The Optifeeding system meets my requirements and I also feel that DeLaval is a company that supports me all the way,” Johansson concluded.