Livestock 2012: For best feed fix then mill and mix

Post date: Aug 19, 2012 1:03:19 AM

An opportunity to make savings on feed costs is usually the main driver for pig producers considering a switch to home milling and mixing. And while the initial investment, labour and running costs have to be factored in to such a venture, rarely does a pig farmer who has made the change from using compounds have any regrets.

That's the view of those making and selling the kit, plus of well-established pig producers now settled into home milling and mixing.

Mill and mix benefits

But it's not just about saving on feed costs, says Mark Unitt of Shropshire feeding equipment manufacturers Danagri. "While that can be significant, producers believe having total control over what's going into the diet is equally important.

"A producer can have confidence in knowing he's using high-quality ingredients and can source them in bulk to make additional savings. He's able to work with his own nutritionist to create the rations he wants for whatever pigs he has on the farm. He's got complete control of the entire job of feeding his pigs and can ensure everything going into the mix is fresh," says Mr Unitt.

Being able to manipulate rations quickly and effectively is another bonus highlighted by Mr Unitt. "Changes to diets can be made swiftly if there are issues over growth rates or performance of pigs at whatever stage," he adds.

Dust issues

Although many hammer mills are still in use - most with a capacity to mill about 2.5t an hour - it was the higher dust levels produced by this method of milling that led producers to move away from on-farm mixing.

New developments in milling and mixing equipment mean high dust levels are no longer a problem - something that has been a big attraction in bringing people back to home mixing. New disc mills are capable of handling up to 12.5t an hour.

The hammer mill system usually saw producers milling into a holding bin to produce ground material that could be pulled straight into the mixer. But the modern disc mills have up to four times the output for 50% of the power use and provide greater flexibility for handling the ration.

And while the basic ingredients of pig diets may stay the same - wheat, barley and soya - it's likely others such as wheat meal (mids), rape meal or even biscuit meal and milk powder may be needed, depending on the type and age of pigs being fed.

Flexibility is key

"It's important that anyone considering a home milling and mixing unit makes it as flexible as possible from the start. The investment is for at least 20 years, so as different feeds are needed - or different ingredients become available - it's important for the system to be able to cope," says Mr Unitt.

A typical installation would have the wheat and barley going into the grinder and then into the mixer. Wheat feed and soya would then be pulled into the mixer from their own hoppers, followed by the mineral inclusion, fish meal or milk powder as required.

Tight control over feed quality

Northern Ireland pig farmer Andrew McCrea uses feed produced by his father's home milling and mixing unit. The 35-year-old hammer mill produces upwards of 150t a week, supplying feed for the family's pig enterprises. Mr McCrea pays a £15/t milling charge for feed used in his breeding and finishing unit.

"The main advantage is having tight control over the quality of the ingredients we use, but you need to work closely with a nutritionist.

"We buy grain on the spot market, although we have just bought some maize for October to April delivery. Home milling and mixing is another job to do, so you must be ready for that commitment. We only buy the grain as we need it. We pay as we buy, so there's not a lot of credit.

"That's something that has to be taken into consideration for anyone thinking about investing in this type of system," he says.

Edward James runs On Farm Feeds - a mobile milling and mixing business based in Monmouthshire. "It's one way for farmers to have all the benefits of home milling and mixing without having to invest in the equipment," says Mr James, whose charges start at £25/t.

"We can provide the expertise to formulate rations or work with a farmer's own nutritionist. It's a flexible system that's proving very popular with farmers who want specific diets to feed to pigs for the farm shop trade."

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