How these Dutch farmers solved the problem of cows 'feed sorting' their winter rations
A well-known phenomenon on many farms during winter is the way in which cows move their noses through the feed in order to try and extract the tastiest feed.
Known as 'feed sorting', the process is costly and unwanted because it can leave valuable feed components wasted on the ground and lead to lower feed efficiency, ruminal acidosis and reduced dry matter intake. But is there any way of stopping cows from sorting their food at the barrier?
Dutch dairy farmers and father and son partnership Bert and Robert Versteeg think they have found a way to minimise feed sorting.
Last year, the Versteeg's feed consultant pointed out that sorting behaviour by their cows could be reduced further despite their already good yield of 27kg of milk per cow per day. Bert Versteeg explained: "The feed looked well mixed to me, but a consultant visiting our farm was not satisfied."
One of the consultant's recommendations was a change in the loading order of the different feed ingredients.
The rations Bert gives his cows consist of pressed pulp, two different concentrates, grass silage and maize.
He drives his 10-year-old 18 m3 Solomix mixer feeder wagon along the concentrate silos and silage pits as part of his daily routine for loading.
The order in which the various feed components were loaded was mainly determined by the logistic organisation of the farmyard and by habit. The concentrate silos are next to the shed where the mixer feeder wagon is stored, so Bert logically started by loading the relatively fine concentrate and then drove from the shed towards the grass and maize pits.