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Unique Contract Hire Package Accompanies Launch of Self-Propelled Diet Feeder Range.

At this year’s Royal Highland Show OPICO launched a range of Strautmann self-propelled diet feeders bringing farmers opportunities to improve efficiencies in time, labour, fuel and more accurate ration mixing. Uniquely, these new machines are not for sale, but instead come with a contract hire package which negates the need for large capital investment and instead spreads the cost monthly over 3, 4 or 5 year terms. At the end of which, farmers can buy the unit, or upgrade to a new one and return the original to OPICO.

OPICO’s MD James Woolway explains: “The dramatic fluctuations in dairy fortunes over the past few years have brought home the need for farms to control costs in order to stay competitive and profitable."

"Cost per litre drives profitability on dairy farms today and self-propelled diet feeders can dramatically influence the daily labour and machinery requirement, and improve efficiency."

“Whilst some farm situations are more suited to a self-propelled feeder than others, the benefit is not necessarily just seen by the very largest farms. Our financial model shows that herd sizes from 250 cows upwards can justify a self-propelled diet feeder."  

Self-propelled diet feeders: the benefits

James comments: "Even before taking on the Strautmann franchise, I was convinced that self-propelled diet feeders were the future for many medium to large dairy units in the UK.”

The key benefits are:

1) Only one machine to run and maintain instead of three (loader, tractor and trailed diet feeder).

2) Big savings in time and labour: With a self-propelled diet feeder, there is no need to spend time shuttling back and forth between the feeder and the different feed storage areas or clamps, nor change loader attachments to pick up different feeds. If a farm has herds on more than one site then using a self-propelled machine also saves the need for an additional loader or shuttling one machine between the sites.

3) Improved ration accuracy: A more accurate mix can be made using a Strautmann self-propelled machine because: i) the milling head prevents silage being gathered from the clamp in ‘lumps’, and ii) exactly the correct amount of ration components are loaded.

4) Less waste: The reversible loading elevator allows the operator to load the exact weight of material (forage, grain, etc.) required. The milling head also removes forage cleanly leaving a smooth clamp face, preventing spoilage and material falling onto the ground.

1702 Verti Mix Self Propelled

The milling head leaves a clean smooth clamp face, minimising waste.

5) Quicker mix time: one of the biggest benefits of a Strautmann diet feeder is the chopping of straw and silage that is done by the milling head which cuts down the mixing time dramatically. Coupled with Strautmann's unique Vario2 auger design, this means that a self-propelled Strautmann is probably the fastest mixer available.

6) Driver comfort!: With a self-propelled machine, the driver can stay (warm and dry) in the cab instead of having to get in and out of cabs to load and then mix and feed out. This saves more time too.

Key benefits of a self-propelled feeder

  • Time saved collecting feed ingredients 

  • Time saved adding correct amount of ingredients

  • Time saved in the mixing

  • A more accurate TMR made more easily, more quickly

  • Clean clamp face, less forage wastage

  • Lower labour requirement

  • Lower fuel usage

  • Better driver comfort, more time saved

Experience and expertise

Strautmann started producing vertical auger mixing diet feeders in 1994. However, the Company soon realised that some farms would benefit from having a self-propelled unit. So development of a self-propelled range started 20 years ago, and the first SF machine was sold in 2000.

With 100’s of self-propelled machines and 1000's of trailed machines now on farms, Strautmann has become one of the leading European diet feeder companies, and is a major player worldwide in the self-propelled diet feeder market.

OPICO took over the import of the Strautmann product range in December 2015, and since then has been expanding the Strautmann dealer network in the UK. A focus on training has improved the knowledge and experience of both OPICO staff and dealer staff.

OPICO's Strautmann service manager and technical specialist is David Mein. He explains: “We know that good backup is the key to happy customers and continued sales. So initially our focus has been to build up the knowledge and expertise for products already being sold in the UK.

"For the new self-propelled diet feeders, prompt technical backup is going to be very important. So this year we have also been focused on building up our knowledge of the Strautmann self-propelled units and putting in place the provision of technical support.”

James states: "We are now at a point where our technical support and parts staff have an in-depth knowledge of the Strautmann self-propelled diet feeders. So I am confident that we can provide the backup required to ensure these machines can work on-farm 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

Strautmann self-propelled diet feeder range

James explains: "Once we started working with Strautmann personnel we soon realised everyone, from technician to managing director, had an in-depth knowledge of the livestock feeding market. The fact that Strautmann produces around 100 self-propelled machines per year, and has many customers on their second or third unit, gives me great confidence as we go to launch.”

The Strautmann self-propelled diet feeder range consists of three models, each with a variety of options to make them suitable for any farm situation. There are two single auger machines - the Sherpa and the SF. The third model is the SF Double –a larger double auger machine.

This range provides a variety of overlapping capacities from 11m3 to 20 m3, with the largest units capable of catering for dairy herd sizes of up to 1000 cows plus followers.

David Mein explains: “The thoroughness and speed of a mix is determined by several key features. The size of the mixing auger in relation to the machine is all-important: a large mixer wagon with a small auger will take ages to mix, if it does it properly at all.

“Strautmann machines were already renowned for their quick and thorough mixing ability. Last year, this was further enhanced by the introduction of the Vario2auger which has a stepped design to allow additional tumbling of the feed constituents.

"The shape of the auger is also important: a traditional ‘Christmas tree’ shape with a large bottom flight is the best to ensure all ingredients are mixed. Strautmann augers already incorporated these key features but the stepped design on the new Vario2 auger further improved the mixing speed and consistency.

“A key benefit when moving to a self-propelled feeder is that less power is required. The Vario2 auger has a power requirement that is around 8% lower than its predecessor. Coupled with the smooth rolled inner surface of the mixing tub, this reduces HP requirement and fuel usage.

"A surprising amount of time is saved when filling and mixing is done with just one machine. The Strautmann feeders also have a milling head that can chop material as it is loaded, further speeding the operation. So when farms change over from a trailed to a self-propelled mixer, they usually find they can reduce the tub capacity,” adds David. 

In detail: the Sherpa

The Sherpa is the smallest in the range, and is one of the most popular in the EU. It is a two-wheel drive single auger machine, powered by a Perkins 144hp 4 cylinder engine mounted behind the cab. It comes in two sizes:

  1. The Sherpa 1201 has a 12m3 mixing capacity and is suitable for feeding dairy herds with 200 plus cows (a total of 400 head with followers)

  2. The Sherpa 1401 has a 14m3 mixing capacity, and is commonly used on farms milking up to 500 cows.

Sherpa Self Propelled

The compact 1201 Sherpa – the smallest of Strautmann’s self-propelled
diet feeders – has a height of only 2.54m, although the milling head can reach up to 4.00m.

The Vario2 mixing auger is fed by a 2m wide milling head and a centrally mounted conveyor.

David explains: “The central mounting of the conveyor is important for a number of reasons. As the milling head is feeding into a central conveyor it maximises throughput and speeds up forage collection compared to a milling head with a conveyor attached at one end. Similarly, the collected forage is discharged from the conveyor into the middle of the mixing tub which aids mixing per se.

“Visibility of the milling head from the cab is also excellent due to the central conveyor and mounting of the milling head. The Sherpa milling head can reach a maximum height of 4.3m and its design ensures it leaves a very clean clamp-face.”

All the functions on the Sherpa are hydraulically driven which means low revs can be used when minor functions are engaged.

The front wheels on the Sherpa, under the engine, provide the drive for the machine with rear wheel steering.

David adds: “A turning circle of 5.26m can be achieved: as with all Strautmann self-propelled machines, this is considerably better than a tractor and trailed mixer, and similar to a tractor and loader. As a result, there are rarely any issues of manoeuvrability when compared to the farm’s existing machinery.”

For feeding out, the Sherpa can be fitted with a number of different discharge options: a simple side door at the front right and/or rear left. An additional conveyor extension for higher troughs is also available.

The cab is compact but accessible and has a simple joystick and button control with three separate screens to enable simultaneous viewing of machine function, weighing, and camera-view of the tub contents.

In detail: the SF range

The SF range has two models the SF single (one auger) and the SF double (two augers), which are suitable for dairy herds with 400 milking cows upwards.

The SF range machines are powered by a 175hp 6-cylinder John Deere engine which is mounted on the front right hand side of the machine, and easily accessible for servicing.

The larger diameter 2m wide milling head that is fitted to the SF range is capable of picking up and chopping any type of forage.

Once again the two speed reversible conveyor is mounted centrally on the SF and so power to run the milling head is kept to a minimum as it feeds in easily from both sides. The SF can reach a maximum height of 5.1m and has an automatic filling system which controls the movement of the milling head down the face of the clamp.

"This maximises clamp intake and reduces stress from any erratic manual movements of the loading arm" explains David. "The fact that the conveyor can be reversed means that once the desired quantity has been reached in the tub, any excess in the conveyor can simply be returned.”

For feeding out, the SF single and double have more discharge options than the Sherpa and this is one key reason the SF range is popular in the market. The SF can be fitted with a front cross conveyor, rear cross conveyor, rear opening doors, or a combination of doors and front conveyor. In addition, to reach over obstacles or into higher troughs, elevator extensions can be fitted or front cross conveyors can be adapted to shift sideways left or right. These many options make the SF machine the most adaptable on the market.

The two-speed reversible conveyor is mounted
centrally, which minimises power requirement.

As with the Sherpa the SF is fully hydrostatic with all functions being controlled using 6 independent hydraulic circuits, a large oil tank and two oil coolers.

The SF is 4-wheel drive and 4-wheel steer, and comes as standard with 25kph running gear based on leaf springs but can be up-rated to 40 kph-rated pneumatic suspension.

In the cab, a simple joystick and single screen ICS controller give the operator the ability to control all functions. The screen has three different modes, one for driving, one for milling (loading) and one for feeding out. Cameras pointed inside the tub help keep the operator informed.

An additional feature, standard on the UK SF models, is a built-in modem that allows Strautmann and OPICO technical teams to connect to the machine from Germany or the UK. This allows the machine’s performance to be monitored remotely, allowing any irregularity in data to warn in advance of any problem, which can then be dealt with before an issue develops.

OPICO’s unique contract hire package

When OPICO was researching the market potential for self-propelled machines in the UK, the two main concerns for dairy farmers were the initial purchase price of the unit, and its potential worth after a few years of work.

In order to remove these two perceived obstacles and define the on-farm cost of running a self-propelled diet feeder, OPICO has devised a unique contract hire package for all Strautmann self-propelled Verti-Mix feeders.  

The hire contract consists of a monthly charge based on a 3, 4 or 5 year term, depending on the set-up of the individual farm. At the end of the contract, there is the option to purchase the diet feeder, or update to a new one and return the used unit to OPICO.

A mandatory service and maintenance contract will run alongside the hire contract to ensure the machine is maintained in the best possible condition during its contract time on-farm.

James explains: “The contract hire and service package negates the need for upfront capital investment and fixes the monthly cost of a farm’s feeding machinery. After the past few years’ price volatility, we believe this will be an attractive option for dairy farmers."

Please contact OPICO on 01778 421111 for a bespoke quote and farm visit.


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