The RSF Cobden Technical group hosted a bus trip to visit some local feed pads on Wednesday 24th September. Approximately 15 customers enjoyed the bus trip visiting three farms with established feed pads in the area.
First stop was Craig & Annette Smart’s at Bungador. The concrete feed pad is a new addition to this farm, having upgraded from a gravel based pad in the Autumn. On a very wet farm the feed pad has allowed cows to be fully fed over the wet periods while standing them off paddocks to protect pastures. The Smart’s feed home grown silage and hay on the pad. Craig has noted that the cows are much happier to stand on the concrete pad than the old gravel pad. The pad has no wash down system and Craig explains that the cows make much less mess on in than he had anticipated. They have cleaned the pad by scraping it off four times since they started using it in June this year. Wastage has been dramatically reduced, estimated five bales worth of silage and hay has been wasted, while approximately 500 have been fed on the pad so far. Craig did the earthworks himself. Fill cost approximately $5,000 and concrete was $29,800. Feeders were $1200 each x 4, total investment $39,600, approximately $250 per cow. The pad measures 42m x 10m and would comfortably accommodate 170 cows. They opted for 4-5 individual feeders rather than one big row as it makes cleaning the pad easier, the feeders can be reconfigured into other sizes if required or moved and used elsewhere on the farm. When asked what he’d do differently next time, Craig explains “I would have done it 10 years earlier”.
The next farm visited was Murray and Andrea Taylor’s at Brucknell. The Taylor’s put their feed pad in 18 years ago and it has certainly stood up to the test of time. The initial outlay for the pad was approximately $50,000, $185/cow on this 270 cow farm. The cows are on the feed pad every day of the year, getting approximately 3kgDM/cow/day on the pad at the moment. The feed pad doubles as laneway going to one part of the farm which has helped with hoof health, reducing mud and stones on a high traffic part of the track. The Taylor’s pad measures approximately 80m x 10m and features concrete troughs down either side. The Taylors use a feed mixer wagon to mix and deliver feed into the troughs including silage, hay and by-products such as citrus, brewer’s grains and potato waste. Murray lists the best things about having a feed pad as having an area to stand the cows off of pastures in wet conditions and significantly reducing wastage which gives him more confidence that they can get value out of purchased in feeds. The Taylors put the cows on the feed pad before milking in the summer, which hasn’t seemed to affect cow flow into the dairy. The pad is cleaned by scraping approximately every two weeks. One observation that the Smart’s and the Taylor’s made was that the cows seem to prefer it when there is some manure on the pad to soften the feel underfoot. Murray lists the downfall of the system as the extra time, labour and capital involved in running the mixer wagon.
The final stop for the tour was Ashley & Michelle Gristede’s farm at Port Campbell. The Gristede’s commissioned their feed pad in July last year. It is a gravel base approximately 23m x 120m with two rows of waste not feeders. Initial outlay included approximately $50,000 for earthworks, $30,000 for gravel and $45,000 for the feeders, an investment of approximately $210 per cow on 600 cows. The gravel base held up well in the first winter but now has gravel starting to pull up after its second winter and there are now plans in place to put concrete down which will cost approximately $150,000, taking the total investment to $460 per cow. The Gristedes feed mainly vetch and cereal hay on the pad and have recently invested in a feeder that allows them to feed large squares into the feeders so that they can allocate to the cow’s what’s required rather than putting whole bales in that the cows would eat over a few days. The aim of this is to give better access to all cows and reduce wastage from spoilage.
The Reid Stockfeeds team would like to sincerely thank the famers that opened up their farms for others to have a look around and learn from their experience. The key takeaways of the day were;
Feed Pad Pro’s;
— Allows cows to be fully fed over wet periods
— Protects pasture’s
— Cows happier to stand on concrete than gravel
— Less mess than anticipated
— Feed wastage dramatically reduced
— Individual feeders make cleaning easier and allow reconfigurations
— Reduction in mud/stones on a high traffic part of track
— Area to stand cows off pasture in wet conditions
Feed Pad Con’s;
— Gravel based pad subject to heavy deterioration after heavy winters
— Extra time, labour and capital involved in running mixer wagon