October 16, 2021

High moisture corn feeder provides options for robotic milking systems

MADISON, Wis. — The HMC Feeder replaces the cost of pellets for dairymen with robotic milking systems.

“High moisture corn has been a secret for profitability for our dairy for many years,” said Bradley Biehl, AMS Galaxy USA president. “We have 100 years of dairy history in Pennsylvania.”

The dairy farmers crop 340 acres and milk 125 to 130 cows at Corner View Farm, near Kutztown, Pennsylvania. Galaxy milking robots were installed at the dairy in 2011.

“When my family was looking at switching to robotic milking, we spent a lot of time focusing on equipment and learning what was the right equipment choice for us,” said Biehl during a Knowledge Nook Session at the World Dairy Expo. “The biggest hidden cost was this new bill our family got for the pellets.”

The amount for pellet bill was staggering, Biehl said.

“We wrote $600,000 in checks to buy pellets for the first eight years we had the robots,” he said. “We milked cows 90 years before that and that expense wasn’t there.”

When the dairymen switched to robotic milking, they expected to gain feed efficiency benefits which would lower their feed cost.

“That was not the case,” Biehl said.

Initially the dairymen tried several pellet formulization changes over two years to try to address the challenge.

“We fed a corn gluten pellet which worked pretty decent for a few months,” Biehl said. “Then we had variability in loads and very quickly we’d see reduction in palatability, lower eating speeds, visits to the robot dropped, production dropped and we had a slide of performance.”

Other feeds they fed to try to eliminate the cost of the pellet included steam flaked corn and roasted beans, ground dried corn, roasted corn and corn with molasses.

“For most of these solutions, we didn’t have the optimum performance we know we can get,” Biehl said.

In 2019, Biehl did a sketch of a feeder for high moisture corn.

“I went to the AMS Galaxy team and we came up with the solution for a high moisture corn feeding system,” he said.

There are many benefits of high moisture corn.

“It is farm raised and stored, palatability is comparable to pellets and cows can eat high moisture corn faster than any dry mix,” Biehl said.

The HMC Feeder system has an intelligent control system.

“You can use the smart phone app to monitor augers and the level sensors in the hoppers,” Biehl said.

“The high tech dispensing system hopper design eliminates bridging and we made it adaptable to any milking robot brand,” he said.

“I believe there’s a great opportunity for producers to save money by keeping commodities on the farm,” he said. “At the end of the day there’s been more money in the checking account since we started this two years ago and on my ration yesterday, our milk production was 92 pounds per cow.”

Storage options for high moisture corn include Harvestore silos, bags or well-maintained bunkers.

“It is more to manage,” Biehl said. “I’ve done from 18% to 30% moisture corn and it’s all worked well, but if you get under 25%, you’ll see dusting and eating speeds will drop.”

For 10 months of the year, Biehl fills his HMC Feeder once a day.

“We try to fill it twice a day in July and August to keep the face of our bag fresh,” he said.

There is a high and low sensor in the hopper of the feeder.

“We encourage producers to run the hopper to the low level sensor,” Biehl said. “When our low level sensor goes off, we know we have 45 minutes to fill it.”

The feeder is a first-in, first-out system.

“You don’t want to be piling the feed in it,” Biehl said.

For the first two years Biehl has used the HMC Feeder, maintenance costs have been minimal.

“We’ve changed one gear box,” he said. “The augers are turning slow, it’s a slow-running system.”

Each installation of a HMC Feeder system is custom-designed for the dairy operation.

“No two systems are alike,” Biehl said.

The hoppers are positioned close to the robot milkers.

“This one is placed in the feed alley and loaded with a skid steer loader,” Biehl said.

“This one is really unique,” he said. “It is elevated over a center drive through feed alley and the dairyman uses a telehandler to fill it.”

For more information about the HMC Feeder, go to www.hmcfeeder.com.

Martha Blum

Martha Blum

Field Editor