JAY-LOR® Fabricating, Inc. manufactures bovine feed mixers to produce a fiber-rich combination of nutrients to improve herd health and farmer productivity. Now, thanks to this Canadian company’s latest innovation – The Alexander Knife – food mixing is even more cost-efficient with higher quality concentration of nutrients. David Soyka reports on what’s new in the mix.
Most of us get it from cartons. Dairy farmers, of course, draw milk from cows and place it in those cartons. But it’s not enough to just get milk. Farmers want to deliver the highest quality milk. This requires the highest quality feed. After all, what comes out of the cow is only as good as what goes in.
JAY-LOR® Fabricating Inc. addresses this concern with its Total Mix Ration (TMR) feed mixer. This innovation not only reduces the extremely labor intensive process of feeding the herd, but it also ensures a properly balanced diet that contains essential nutrients. With the recent introduction of the groundbreaking Alexander Knife, JAY-LOR further improved the speed and output quality of its industry-leading machinery.
The problem with cows is that they’re like kids: They’ll pick through their food to get to the tasty parts and leave uneaten the portions that are good for them. However, if cows don’t get enough nutrition, their milk production decreases and what is produced is of lower quality.
TMR blends a balanced mixture of hay with the proper amounts of grains, vitamins and minerals. This makes it impossible for the animals to pick through the healthy stuff to get to the tasty stuff. TMR feeding can increase daily milk production by two to three pounds, which is why the industry considers TMR as the most influential factor in increasing and improving milk production in the last 20 years.
The technology addressed a significant problem. “Basically, a mixer uses a push/pull process with an auger to combine a wet silage with hay and nutrients to produce a consistent feed,” explains Jake Tamminga, founder and president of the Orton, Ontario, Canada-based company. “Some of our customers have told us about problems they’ve had with hay ‘bunching’ in their mixer, which slows down processing time. Farmers waste time by having to constantly clear the blockage or having to carefully load smaller portions of hay. They’re frustrated with the wait time required for the mixer to finish processing the feed.”
JAY-LOR studied the problem for several years and developed a solution. “It involves horizontal and vertical knives that cut the hay to reduce bunching,” describes Tamminga. “The first thing we came up with was a square cut auger with a vertically sloped knife that cut up some of the big pieces. At about the same time, we were working with one of our customers, Carl Alexander, in the field. He came up an idea that involved a hook with an angled knife design on the top of the auger that pulls the hay down into the mixer to eliminate the bunching of materials against the drum wall. That’s how we came up with the ‘Alexander Knife’ name. It’s now available on all our mixers.”
JAY-LOR won the Ag Innovations 2009 Award for its patent-pending Alexander Knife. (The company previously won awards from Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, and the Greater Dufferin Area Chamber of Commerce.) “The technique improves cutting and mixing efficiency by 100 percent,” Tamminga indicates. “Because it increases cutting speed with less horsepower, users get better fuel consumption with lower related pollution, so it’s really a ‘green’ technology that offers machine sustainability. Less cut time, less mix time, and less fuel consumption also reduces overall operating costs and extends mixer life.”
In addition, greater efficiency means less downtime for the farmer. “An auger with an Alexander knife decreases processing time by a third compared to an auger without the knife,” Tamminga points out. “Also, the knives work like a kicker to push feed out the door at more frequent intervals, resulting in a much smoother and consistent discharge that is more easily managed. The farmer doesn’t lose any time waiting for the feed to mix. He’s getting the feed almost as fast as he can load it. This saves time and money, as it reduces waste from spillage and results in a high-quality nutritious feed essential for animal health and quality milk production.”
So how hard has it been for JAY-LOR to convince customers that its latest innovation is an “udder’ necessity to improve their efficiency? “Let me put it this way,” Tamminga says. “We ordered about five tons of steel to take advantage of a bulk discount to make this new product. We figured we’d have more than enough. Well, today, we’re totally out of steel and have to reorder. We’ve been working double shifts to keep up with demand. We don’t have to sell our customers on the concept. The word is out: It works.”
And here’s another advantage: The Alexander Knife can be retrofitted onto an existing mixer. “In this economy, nobody wants to spend a lot of money if they don’t have to,” Tamminga says. “The payback here is more than worth it, particularly since it’s not necessary to buy an entirely new mixer.”
MIXED MARKET PROSPECTS
Tamminga notes that he expects the milk market to continue to have ups and downs, especially in North America. “I think you’re going to continue to have a yo-yo market that has more price volatility than we’ve ever seen before,” he says. “I don’t foresee that going away any time soon.”
While Tamminga says his company isn’t likely to rebound back to sales levels of 2008, overall business is good despite the current economic challenges for milk producers, in large part thanks to continuing innovation with products that help farmers not only do more and reduce costs but prove to be lasting investments.
Tamminga founded the company in 1993. The first mixer sold is still in service. JAY-LOR has 50 employees and about 70 dealers throughout North America. The Midwest and eastern regions represent the largest segment of geographic sales. The company also sells through dealers and distributors to more than 30 countries.
The company manufactures to order in a 45,000-square-feet facility. Its product line encompasses mixer sizes ranging from 300 to 1000 cubic feet. While feed is the primary application, JAY-LOR also makes vertical mixers for composting.
JAY-LOR has a long and strong heritage of working on the cutting edge. This ensures that the company will continue helping farmers improve production in ways that make the herd happy and healthy. Benefits filter down to the consumer.