Collecting silage or a mixed ingredient ration left after cattle have eaten their fill, is reckoned to be made quicker and easier using the Silo Crab, a new tractor-loader or telehandler-mounted device from JF Hudson.

Comprising a bucket with hydraulically-adjustable side extensions, it is run along a feed passage gathering left-over feed as it goes. Pulling in the rubber-edged scraper extensions at the end of the run sweeps the gathered material into the bucket, eliminating the manual shovelling needed when a standard bucket is used in the same way.

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James Hudson explained: “The Silo Crab allows you to make better use of manpower and time as the process of cleaning up left-over feed is quicker, easier and sees a consistent clean-out of the feed passage every time.”

Gathering up remaining feed helps manage cattle rations to save costs – the left-over forage can be returned to the clamp and dispensed with the next feeding. It can also be weighed to more accurately calculate intake and daily feed costs, making it easier to adjust the amount of feed put out and helping nutritionists fine-tune rations for optimum intake and performance.

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The machine’s design was inspired by the experience of using a handler bucket to collect left-over feed at Metcalfe Farms, in North Yorkshire. With no walls to push against after running down the feed passages, a fair amount of material had to be manually shovelled into the bucket.

After modifying the bucket by adding scraping arms either side and recognising its potential, fabricators at JF Hudson built a bespoke version, taking into account the significant horizontal and vertical stresses imposed on these elements.

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“The dairy unit at Metcalfe Farms has 965m of feed fence in more than six open-ended feed passageways that require cleaning every day,” said Mr Hudson. “The Silo Crab saved the dairy team 45 minutes a day and on the basis of a £35/hr cost for a loader and operator, it effectively saves more than £9580 a year.

“Between the middle of March and the first week of September last year, the machine collected left-over feed from 164km of feed fence, which meant it paid for itself within six months.”

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Owner, Philip Metcalfe, added: “The Silo Crab has been a really good investment for several reasons, not least because it has saved time and been good for staff morale. We’re saving diesel because the loader does not need to run for as long and the high capacity of the bucket allows TMR to be weighed more conveniently with no spillage.

“Also, its wide reach keeps the loader well away from the feed fence, so from a cow welfare and a health and safety perspective it’s of benefit, too,” he said.