New York Dairy Producer Says Helix Reel ‘Great Idea’

Rob Collins testimonial

Collins Knoll Farms LLC in central New York has been using its new RC 270 Reel Commercial TMR mixer for several months. Rob Collins, one of four partners in this 720-cow dairy, says it’s their fifth KUHN Knight mixer and the third in the commercial series of this size. Their new reel mixer, however, is the first with the open-center Helix® Reel design. Collins is sold on the new design of the reel, which he believes makes for smoother operation.

Collins, 42, farms with his younger brothers, Alan and Dave, and their father, Edward, in Shadwicks, New York (between Albany and Syracuse). A third-generation farmer, he oversees the cropping and feeding/bunk management end of the operation, as well as the bookwork. Collins returned to the farm after earning a degree in ag technology from Cornell University. 

The family has 10 full-time employees and milks 650 cows (primarily Holsteins). They have 720 mature cows in all and roughly 1,000 head of youngstock. While most of the herd is milked twice a day, 112 head (just fresh and early lactation) are milked four times a day. Milking facilities consist of a double-16 parallel parlor. Their original six-row freestall facility houses 500 head. Two years ago they built a six-row cross-ventilated barn with an insulated ceiling. They also have two three-row barns for youngstock. Their old tiestall facility has been converted to a two-row freestall for older calves. Younger calves are housed in a new calf barn, including eight pens and two robotic calf feeders. 

The Collins’ operate 4,000 acres. They raise 1,500 acres of a mix of alfalfa and grasses (timothy, orchard grass and reed canary) and 150 acres of winter wheat. Additionally, they grow 900 acres of corn, 600 designated for silage and mostly brown mid-rib. The rest of the corn is harvested as high moisture corn or dry shelled corn.
Feed is stored in bunkers, with a total capacity of 10,000 tons. They also have a three-bay commodity shed for straw, hay and corn meal, with upright bins for storing dry cow pellets and the “milking string mash” of soy, canola and minerals. 
The TMR is 55 percent forage with two-thirds of the forage portion consisting of corn silage and the other third haylage. They also mix in brewers grain, a concentrate premix, corn meal, chopped straw, some hay (from processed large squares) and liquid whey. In addition to their own herd rations, the Collins' mix TMRs for two other farms – their RC 270 Reel Commercial mixer gets a workout! 

“We’re doing nine loads a day, about 10,000 pounds each load. We’ve been happy with the reel. This is the third one of this size we’ve owned. One is in use feeding heifers and mixing loads we sell."


One of their customers picks up their TMR, while they deliver to the other farm. Both have herds somewhere between 50 and 70 cows. The Collins’ have been mixing and selling TMRs for three years now. 
They purchased their first KUHN Knight mixer in 1995 when the cows first went into freestalls. They have owned five mixers in all. They started with a KUHN Knight trailed mixer when they were still feeding out of silos. 
This dairy purchased their new mixer with the Helix Reel option from Clinton Tractor and Implement in Clinton, N.Y. Collins says the local dealer has been great to work with. He notes that the other two commercial reel mixers were purchased used (both were 2 years old). “This is the first of this type we’ve bought new,” he notes. 
Collins is sold on the new Helix Reel configuration. He thinks the fully-loaded mixer starts easier. They shut off their trailed RC Reel Commercial mixer between the bunk and barn. 

“When it starts up, it’s not working as hard to get it going.


The optional Helix Reel is built tough, according to Collins, who is happy with the faster, more consistent mixing and improved load leveling. With all potential obstacles removed from the center of the reel, feed is free to flow unobstructed from one end of the mixing chamber to the other, improving end-to-end mixing action and eliminating uneven filling for optimum load leveling and maximum efficiency of mixer operation. 

“It doesn’t push the feed all at once into the augers and doesn’t push liquid out the door."


A mix bar runs diagonally across the center of the reel for consistent feed movement throughout the entire mixing chamber. The reel crossbars keep feed moving efficiently around the outside of the chamber. The secondary mechanical mixing action from the mix bar makes for fast thorough mixing even in wet, heavy rations with large amounts of distillers grains and liquid ingredients like Collins’ whey.

“I think it’s more uniform unloading instead of a straight bar and a slug of feed loading into the auger. That twist works.It starts dumping in the front while it’s finishing on the back. There’s a more even push into the auger."


Cleanout speed is a key factor that can limit feeding efficiency. The new open-center Helix design of Collins’ KUHN Knight RC 270 provides fast, consistent unloading, with quicker, more complete cleanout.

“It (the Helix design) is a great improvement. Whoever came up with that had a great idea!"


He thinks the Helix Reel also takes less horsepower to run. They use a 140 horsepower Case tractor with it, but Collins thinks they could run it with less. 

“It takes all that to pull it, though."


In addition to his reel mixer, Collins also uses KUHN equipment in his haymaking operation.

“We also run two KUHN rotary rakes for hay and straw and we have an eight rotor KUHN tedder."


In the past they have covered 1,000 acres a year with the rakes. With the drought this year, they chopped more forage and only baled 300 acres. Collins likes KUHN equipment, which he says is built to last.