Review | Keenan VA2-24S vertical mixer

By: Mark Fouhy

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The Keenan VA2-24S behind a tractor The Keenan VA2-24S vertical mixer in action The Keenan VA2-24S behind a tractor
The Hydraulic jack The Hydraulic jack The Hydraulic jack
The hydraulic operation of two fins pushes the feed onto auger cutters with smaller loads The hydraulic operation of two fins pushes the feed onto auger cutters with smaller loads The hydraulic operation of two fins pushes the feed onto auger cutters with smaller loads
Feeding into troughs Feeding perfectly into the feed troughs Feeding into troughs
Mixing Mixing time Mixing

We review the Keenan VA2-24S twin vertical auger feed mixer, a product born out of Keenan’s collaboration with Italian manufacturer Storti


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The start of this article sounds like a joke that needs a punchline: an Irishman, an Italian, and a Kiwi walk onto a farm …

What we were doing, though, was testing a Keenan VA2-24S vertical mixer – one of a range of twin- and triple-auger vertical feeders to come out of the collaboration between Irish and Italian agricultural manufacturing firms Keenan and Storti.

Keenan has long been recognised for its impressive range of horizontal mixer wagons, most notably the popular rotating paddle-based MechFiber machines. So it was something of an unexpected surprise when we saw a Keenan twin-auger vertical mixer taking centre stage at a recent field days.

To see the new vertical mixer in action, I visited Pam and John Hunter from Eureka, in New Zealand’s Waikato region.

Pan and John are heading into their second season on their new farm and have been increasing cow numbers. They decided they needed a new mixer to cope with the extra capacity required to feed the stock.

Top of the priority list was a machine capable of feeding the 400-plus herd of cows in one mix per day to provide savings in wear and tear on machinery and infrastructure. Just as important was the time saved for them and their staff.

As they are currently operating a system 4-5 farm with a lot of bought-in feed, daily feeding-out is a big commitment and needs to be done as efficiently and sustainably as possible for the ongoing success of their business.

With a large covered concrete feed pad in place already, upgrading the feed bunker area has been a focus. Two new maize bunkers and three smaller bunkers for palm kernel and other feeds have been built and a steel shipping container placed alongside to store minerals out of the weather.

Pam says that, with plenty of room for truck and trailer units to turn around, truckies have noticed and appreciated the upgrades. A new retractable cover for the likes of the PKE bin has yet to be installed to help minimise wastage and ensure consistency for feeds offered to animals.

The wastewater sump catches runoff so it can be spread on paddocks, and finishes off the fantastic setup.

After extensive research, which involved reading up on different machines and physical demonstrations on the farm, Pam and John decided on the new Keenan VA2-24S.

As the model name suggests, the VA2-24S is a twin vertical auger tub mixer, which can handle mixes up to 24 cubic meters.

The ‘S’ stands for short. It’s compact in length, offering a little bit more manoeuvrability around the feedpad. The loading height of 3.3m is right at the limit for a 100hp loader tractor.

There’s also a longer wheelbase model option, which is 350mm lower, making it easier for loading but longer when manoeuvring around the feedpad. So it’s all a matter of choosing what works best in the specific situation suited to your property.

With the addition of the vertical feeder options, Keenan now offers a machine to suit pretty much every application imaginable.

 

The Keenan VA2-24S has a loading height is 3.3m
Loading height is 3.3m

On the job

I wouldn’t consider the operation of a mixer wagon to be rocket science. Keenan, however, has developed plenty of science around creating a consistent mix to achieve optimal rumen health (in cattle), results, and production.

The science and calculations were developed for the Keenan paddle mixers, and all of this research and experience has been adapted to create the ultimate vertical mixer.

If you follow the correct loading order and allow the correct mixing times, similar and consistent results can be replicated. Pam and John are happy with the mix being produced and fed out to the cows from their new vertical auger mixer.

The Keenan In Touch control box allows them to load multiple different mixes. Throughout calving, they had three different mixes for dries, colostrums and milkers. Each of these is made up of different quantities of maize, PKE, soya, water, straw, and minerals.

With the mixer wagon, you have the option to feed whatever you like. For example, in the Bay of Plenty, reject, squash and kiwi fruit can be a good option. If you want to vary diets, just ring the call centre and adjustments can be made.

When I visited, John and Pam had their new mixer for just over a month, so were still coming to terms with the capabilities the upgrade in technology offered over the basic weighing of inputs of their old unit.

Of particular benefit is the remote that allows you to move on to the next mix ingredient if you are within 510kg, a feature Pam finds most helpful.

To feed out the final bit, switching the PTO gearbox on the tractor sees the mixer spin off the last of the feed to be fed out. Mixing is done with the PTO in 540, decreasing the horsepower required for operation. With an older Case MX150 tractor as the donkey providing the power, and with only a slight hill between the bunker and feed pad, the 16-tonne fully loaded mixer wasn’t an issue.

Removing rear linkage arms for mixer wagon tractors also helps with manoeuvrability around tight feed pads.

One thing Pam and John would have liked included on their new wagon is the magnets found on the Keenan MechFibre wagons, knowing what they have caught with those in the past and having saved a number of cows from eating things they shouldn’t.

We did discover that it would be possible to add magnets to the flap on top of the feed, which wouldn’t be 100 percent as effective but better than nothing. 

 

The feed door, flap and conveyor as seen from the safe viewing platform
The feed door, flap and conveyor as seen from the safe viewing platform

Construction

As you would expect of any company selling equipment in the international market, I couldn’t fault the build quality of the Keenan vertical mixer. Weighing in at 7.7 tonnes empty, the Storti/Keenan policy of building things to last is obvious; chassis and components are heavy-duty.

The solid single-piece tub provides plenty of strength with a bolted tube steel ring around the top inside preventing flex when mixing or damage when loading.

The paint job is excellent, although Pam and John found that after a bit of wear removed some paint from the inside of the tub, the consistency of mix further improved. They also got Keenan New Zealand to buff the paint off the augers.

With a feed door at the front feeding onto a conveyor, it’s easy to see what you’re doing while feeding out. The feed door has a large scale up the right side to show how far the door is open. It’s also available with an extra elevator arm to help feed into high bins.

Pam and John’s situation didn’t require this, so Keenan moved the feed elevator over a little bit to the right, allowing them to feed directly into their feed troughs while driving a little further away. This further decreases the chance of catching the machine or of the tractor causing any damage. If you didn’t know otherwise, the modification would go unnoticed.

The other minor tweak Keenan made for Pam and John was to flip the drawbar hitch (different tractors have different drawbar heights). Changing this altered the height just enough to achieve thorough mixing within the tub.

Also important to Pam and John was the ability to feed out the total quantity of each mix. With the two-speed gearbox (540 and 1000rpm), they are able to get down around 100kg, which Pam is happy with.

One knife for each auger can be hydraulically added or removed to push feed onto the auger for chopping. There are also sight gauges to check oil level for the augers without climbing underneath. A hydraulic stand for uncoupling the mixer wagon is always a helpful feature on a heavy machine such as this.

 

On the job
Pam and John Hunter needed a machine capable of feeding a 400-plus herd of cows in one mix per day

The bottom line

The addition of a vertical feeder to the Keenan range represents exciting times for the Keenan family.

Being able to offer the smallest to the largest mixer wagons in both auger and paddle mixers, as well as nutritional support to get the best out of these machines, makes Keenan a one-stop shop for those looking at mixed ration feeding.

Keenan has always had a good reputation for building quality gear and the new collaboration and release of vertical mixers will only enhance this reputation.

 

HITS

Quiet operation

Two-speed gearbox to improve emptying of feed mix

Keenan In Touch technology to provide accuracy in daily feeding

Complete mixer wagon range available from Keenan New Zealand along with service and nutritional support

MISSES

No magnets like the Keenan MechFiber models, possibly add to flap to catch some objects

Loading height is quite high at 3.3m for a conventional 100hp tractor. The longer wheelbase VA2-24L is 350mm lower but 800mm longer.

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