Taking the long view delivers benefits for Bellfield Farm

Bellfield Farm has reaped the benefits of a long-term partnership with its mobile mill and mix provider, Harbro. By combining flexibility with a deep understanding of the farm, Harbro has adapted its service to changing circumstances to deliver consistently for over ten years.

David Collinson runs Bellfield Farm with his wife Moyra and son Phillip. The home farm is 130 acres, located in Willerby, on the outskirts of Hull. Including additional land in arable production, they farm 260 acres. It is a diversified business with arable acreage dedicated to providing feed for its 55-strong dairy herd, beef calves and 200 laying hens.

The economic realities of running a small dairy herd led the family to slim down their operation and sell their milk through an on-farm vending machine, proving a phenomenal success. “The choice was to go smaller or to go. We chose to slim down our herd and sell the milk ourselves to keep the operation profitable,” says David Collinson.

“We have a closed herd, so we buy nothing in. The dairy cows are a Holstein-Friesian mix with some Jerseys. We have followers for our dairy herd and beef calves that we raise and sell on.”

The arable operation has a rotation of wheat, barley and beans. They produce enough to be self-sufficient in feed for their livestock. This is where Harbro first became involved with Bellfield Farm.

“I have been working with the Collinsons ever since I joined Harbro nine years ago, and I know the relationship goes back much further than that,” says Michael Richardson, ruminant specialist for Harbro. “A Tropper visits their farm every fortnight to mix the feed for their beef cattle and hens.

“We speak every two weeks to discuss what the farm needs, but the conversation often covers more than just animal nutrition. I live only 30 minutes away, so we are in the same agricultural community.”

The Harbro mill and mix service is designed to utilise any raw material the farm has grown or sourced locally. The objective is to tailor a ration from this. Michael tests all the cereals and beans once the new crop is in the store and uses the results to formulate the ration specifically for the farm’s raw material. Minerals and protein concentrates are sourced through Harbro and added as required.

“The sky is the limit with the equipment we use. Not only is it able to flex to the available ingredients, but to the farm set-up. This could mean blowing the feed into a bin or store. Because the machines are so mobile, we can also alter when we visit depending on the farmer’s needs, although most prefer a visit on a fixed schedule.

“We add Champion RumiTech 35, Alkacid and molasses to the cereals for the calf feed. Champion RumiTech 35 is the most popular concentrate Harbro sells. RumiTech makes the rumen more efficient, and we routinely see a 10% improvement in the feed conversion ratio, meaning cattle perform better but eat less feed.

“Alkacid helps prevent acidosis and, in turn, also improves the feed conversion. This creates a win-win. The farmer saves money by utilising home-grown cereals and getting the most from them by maximising the feed conversion when feeding it,” adds Michael.

“I always speak highly of Harbro,” declares David. “I can ask Michael any question and rely on his technical backup; he’s a real ally on our team.

“Our regular mill and mix operator know us, and we know them, which means we always get the same high standard of service. We must have everything on the farm at the right time so the operator has everything to produce our rations. We work closely with the mill and mix team and Michael to ensure this happens.

“We are not a farm that regularly changes the businesses we deal with. It is the same for Harbro; they are not a company that will disappear. We trust Michael and Harbro to look after us.”

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