Reviews

Keenan Klassik Mixer

Like most of the country, Otorohanga has had an excellent growing season this summer, one of the best for several years. Although it hasn't been the hottest, consistent rainfall has allowed supplement supplies to be replenished, and stock are all looking good.

But as we all know, winter is just around the corner and we will need to feed-out the supplement we have as efficiently as possible, ensuring animals are fed with minimal wastage. Where I am, we have been operating a Keenan Klassik 14m3 mixer wagon, purchased new in 2008, to achieve this.

About Keenan

Keenan has been in the mixer wagon market for 35 years. I first came across the machines in 2001 while contracting and working on farms in Ireland, where they were originally made. They have been in New Zealand since 2007, manufactured by Rakaia Engineering.

Not a lot has changed on this simple and reliable mixer range since the original model, other than the option of bale handling tines in the top and the change to a six-paddle mixer, instead of the original four. These changes were made back in 2005 and feature on our machine.

The Mech-Fibre model, the latest update to the Keenan mixer, has had quite a makeover, with further improvements to the bale tines/handling capabilities, plus the electronics/weigh computer have been updated to run in conjunction with the PACE program, encouraging further production gains and improving the bottom line. In addition to the mixers, Keenan also manufactures a range of strong, simple Orbital muck spreaders. 

If you’re looking to buy a Keenan mixer and wagon, you won’t find them in your local tractor dealership. Instead, customers deal directly with the manufacturer’s representatives, who will set up the machine and system on your farm to ensure it suits your operation in order for you to achieve the best possible production benefits and gains. Keenan has qualified service technicians available, if and when you need repairs or servicing. Also on hand are nutritionists who will prepare feed recommendations based on your goals for the season. Having the right people as part of your team, with the skills and knowledge to help you achieve your goals, ensures you get the best out of your machine.

Machine operation

The Keenan Klassik only requires a tractor of 85hp minimum to tow it, but if you intend to take it up hills, as we do, then some extra horsepower and weight is advisable as it’s quite heavy when fully loaded. 

For mixing and loading, this system requires two tractors: one to mix and the other to load. When mixing, you only need to run the tractor at about 1500rpm, which is quite low but this is so the feed is mixed and cut rather than beaten to mush – the latter can ruin the nutritional benefits of the feed. The loading height of the second tractor is a little more than a standard silage wagon but there is no need to get a new 150hp machine for loading, as I find smaller amounts feeding into the machine works best.

Getting the mix right

As long as the loading order is followed, it is quite easy to turn out consistent mixes each day. The scales are large, bright and easy to read, even on sunny days. They have four load cells (one on each corner) so it is easy to get your mix right, and variances you would otherwise get in bale weights or grab/bucket loads of silage are removed, saving you feed and keeping animals fed to their requirements.

The procedure is relatively simple: all you do is start up the mixer and, using the easy to read scales, load the mix in the correct order. It’ll come out the same every time and all the ingredients will be thoroughly mixed so the stock gets all the nutrients they need. Having it well mixed also means the stock can’t be picky.

With our machine, we can mix up to 2200-2400kg, depending on the make-up of the mix. Mixing time takes longer if your mix is unable to tumble as it should, therefore affecting the quality of the mix you feed out. 

The Klassik mixer has bale handling tines in the top so you can feed balage as well as pit silage. Square bales work best as they break up easier and feed into the mixer better, so they are not as hard on the machine.

There is also a port for adding liquids (water/molasses) at the back. However, we tend to put the high-pressure hose over the top. If you are adding minerals, small amounts can be added with a bucket by climbing the ladder at the back and throwing these into the mix or tip the loader bucket across and add when you are putting the maize in.

Used or new?

Keenan has a variety of used, refurbished machines for sale. Some of these machines have had full sandblast, new paint job and possibly a new skin in the belly of the machine, which will last 8-10 years on average, depending on usage. New knives have also been added to these refurbished wagons. The weigh system and electrics are also fully checked and repaired or replaced if need be.

If you have a tight budget to work to, a refurbished 14m3 Keenan, similar to our machine, will cost you between $25,000 and $65,000. For a similar size new Mech Fibre machine, you would be looking at around $78,000. With both options you will still get the help and support that goes with all Keenan products and systems.

Verdict Since trading in our old silage wagon for the Keenan Klassic five years ago, we’ve made savings on feed beyond our expectations. Better utilisation of feed and less wastage ensures savings for any farmer. Knowing exactly how much the animals are being fed means there’s never a problem with over feeding one day and under feeding the next.

Operation of the Keenan is relatively simple, too, and getting the mix right every time is easy if you follow the correct order.

Thanks to the Keenan, even through winter we have maintained growth rates in stock, meaning they are nearer to finished for marketing come spring time. 

I think one of the biggest drawcards for buying a Keenan is the support you get from the manufacturer and the fact that a nutritionist is part of the package. But don’t just take my word for it; visit the Waikato where there are currently 200 Keenan Klassiks in action – stop and ask the owner for their opinion.

Positives:

  • Clear, easy to read scales for measuring inputs for each mix
  • Automatic oiler for chains, saves time doing regular oiling, it does still have plenty of grease points that need doing!
  • Hydraulic drawbar foot, it would be heavy to have to wind it manually to get it off the tractor

Negatives:

  • Two tractors are required: one mixing and the other loading the mixer
  • Only able to load feed from the left-hand side limits the operator
  • Twine and small stones can get caught in between the seals/main bearings on the beater

The Keenan difference

The “bird’s nest” type ration produced through the Keenan wagon enables better digestibility in the rumen. This allows animals to extract more nutrients from the same amount of feed, equating to extra production. Because of the uniformity and evenness of the mix being provided to the animals, farmers have found they are getting less wastage, a further saving on feed costs.

Keenan targets a 10 percent gain in feed conversion efficiency in just one year. On a dairy farm, this equates to an extra 40kg m/s per cow. You can work out the dollars per m/s to give you extra profit!

Photography: Mark Fouhy

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