Vector automated feeding system eligible for grant aid

John Rafferty can access a wealth of herd management and feeding information from Lely's T4C computer software.
John Rafferty can access a wealth of herd management and feeding information from Lely's T4C computer software.

The Lely Vector is an automated cattle feeding system designed to ensure optimum flexibility and deliver a constant supply of fresh TMR around the clock.

Poytnzpass milk producers Pat and John Rafferty installed the UK and Ireland’s first Lely Vector in 2012.

John Rafferty can access a wealth of herd management and feeding information from Lely's T4C computer software.

John Rafferty can access a wealth of herd management and feeding information from Lely's T4C computer software.

Almost five years later and John Rafferty stresses that he couldn’t be without it.

He said: “The Vector is responsible for one of the most important jobs on the farm. It mixes and distributes 18 loads, comprising of seven different rations on a daily basis for the various batches of animals in the yard – two milking groups, pre-calvers, dry cows, weanlings, bulling heifers, and store cattle.

“Prior to buying the Lely Vector my daily routine involved using a feeder wagon to mix the individual rations. I spent more than two hours every day mixing rations and feeding cattle. The system also pushes the TMR forward to the feed barrier at regular intervals, a job I used to do manually up to four times every day.

“The Vector is labour saving and cost-effective. Since it was installed we have more time to focus on herd management and fertility. We do all our own AI and regular foot trimming, which represents significant savings, and on top of that we’re saving approximately 3,000 litres of diesel per year, as well as reducing the wear and tear to the tractor.

“Running costs of the Vector are estimated at under £3 per day, but we have reduced this by using 20kw solar panels situated on the shed roof.”

The Vector is a self-contained battery operated vehicle with the capability of feeding up to 300 animals. Forage is stored at predetermined positions in a ‘kitchen’, and the mounted crane-style grabber selects the forage and puts it into the 600kgs vertical tub mixer.

The Vector contains a vertical mixer auger and a counter-blade making it suitable for a range of feeds including hay and straw. Forage and concentrate quantities are measured accurately, and additives such as yeasts and minerals, are dispensed into the mixer.

Boasting compact proportions, the Lely Vector is suitable for all systems and requires a minimum feed passage width of only 3.25 metres. It is powered by four 12V batteries and uses metal strips buried in the ground to guide it along the specified route. Ultrasound sensors control its location and distance from the feed barrier.

Pat and John Rafferty run a herd of 135 commercial cows. The herd is milked by two Lely Astronaut A3 robots and the average yield has increased to 10,700 litres per cow at 4.00% butterfat and 3.25% protein.

Pat added: “The Vector works in conjunction with the milking robots and the Cosmix out of parlour feeders. The herd is averaging three daily milkings and producing an average of 34.1 litres of milk per day.

“Indepth herd management information, and figures based on feed efficiency and feed conversion are available from the computer’s T4C software. I can also access the data using an App on my mobile phone,” added John.

The Rafferty family’s Vector is housed in a 24m x 9m purpose-built shed which includes a storage area for the various ingredients.

“Putting the silage and chopped straw in the kitchen is the only manual task involved,” explained John.

“We are feeding first, second and third cut silages in our rations, and I replenish the kitchen stock two to three times every week.”

Lely Center Eglish is staging an open day at Pat and John Rafferty’s farm, 9 Tullynacross, Road, Poyntzpass, on Thursday 19th January 2017 from 11am to 4pm. Lely’s farm management support representative Bas van Santen, and Jim Brooke from the company’s technical sales support team will be outlining the benefits of the Lely Vector. Presentations and demonstration will be running throughout the day and everyone is welcome.

Jim Irwin, director of Lely Center Eglish, said: “Lely’s A4 milking robot and the Vector automatic feeding system are eligible for grant-aid under Tier 2 of the Farm Business Improvement Scheme.

“We have had numerous enquiries about robotic technology since the scheme was announced by DAERA Minister Michelle McIlveen in December. Financial support is available to farmers planning large-scale projects to upgrade and transform their businesses. Successful applications will avail of 40% grant aid up to a maximum of £250,000.

“We are urging farmers to attend the open day. It provides an opportunity to talk to our experienced staff about Lely’s labour-saving and environmentally friendly technology. Our dedicated team can also offer help and advice on building design and business plans ahead of the 24th February deadline.”

For further contact Jim Irwin on 07827 884639.