Wednesday, 16 September 2020 12:59

Plantain in animal’s diet offers potential benefits

Written by  Staff Reporters
Plantain has positive effects on milk production and in reducing nitrate leaching. Plantain has positive effects on milk production and in reducing nitrate leaching.

New Zealand farmers can now assess the potential impact and investment of plantain using OverseerFM.

Plantain varieties have been used on NZ farms for some time, with positive effects on milk production and in reducing nitrate leaching.

Following the comprehensive research programme Forages for Reduced Nitrate Leaching (FRNL), plantain has been included in OverseerFM as a pasture type on pastoral and cut and carry blocks.

“For the first time, farmers considering sowing plantain can compare estimates of their farm’s nitrogen losses before investing time and money. Also, those who already use plantain can have it recognised in their farm plans,” says Dr Caroline Read, chief executive of Overseer Limited.

“There has been a lot of interest in exploring the impact of adding plantain to farm systems or including it in compliance reporting.”

Plantain offers significant potential benefits.

Depending on the proportion of plantain in the animal’s diet, less excreted nitrogen ends up in urine and urine volume increases, resulting in urine patches with less nitrogen – which is better for the environment.

How large the environmental effect is depends on the farm’s situation, e.g. scale of plantain use, amount of supplementary feed used, soil type and climate.

The FRNL programme was led by DairyNZ and funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and research partners DairyNZ, AgResearch, Plant & Food Research, Lincoln University, Foundation for Arable Research and Manaaki Whenua-Landcare Research.

First, FRNL assessed the impact of Ceres Tonic plantain and other forages and identified that plantain reduces nitrogen leached. Overseer has spent the last year working with AgResearch scientists to translate the FRNL findings into OverseerFM.

“Including plantain in Overseer ensures farmers can have the good work they are doing acknowledged as part of compliance processes,” said Dr Ina Pinxterhuis, DairyNZ senior scientist and FRNL programme lead.

Further research is planned to better understand the effects of plantain on nitrogen processes in the soil, said Pinxterhuis.

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Lely offerings for the future

Dutch robotic specialist Lely launched a new farm management application called Horizon at its recent Future Farm Days 2020.

Designed to connect data from a range of on-farm equipment and suppliers into one management system, it creates a real-time decision-support platform, to make the farmer’s life easier, the herd healthier and the farm more profitable, says Lely.

Developed over a 24-month period, with over 100 test farmers in seven countries, working with 75 engineers, designers, farm management advisors, veterinarians and AI specialists, the new application will eventually replace the current Lely T4C management system. It uses smart algorithms and the cloud to deliver data that is processed into actionable information that is always accessible on any device in a user-friendly way.

Lely claims the Horizon application unburdens farmers from routine decision making and helps them optimise their workloads, using integrated routines based on easily scheduled cow ‘touches’, create logical and more efficient workflows. It is also possible to assign a certain task to an employee and to schedule a time slot for the cow touch, rather than analysing different reports and filtering long lists.

Horizon is also able to connect and combine data from non-Lely sources into a complete solution for the farmer removing the need to enter the same data twice, while scrutinising individual data streams in different applications will no longer be necessary. Currently, connections with farming applications such as Dairy Comp, Uniform-Agri, CRV and Herde already enable farmers to synchronise information about calving and inseminations between applications. Lely’s ambition is to connect with more partners over time, to hand the farmer more smart data.

To ensure full support in the migration to Lely Horizon, existing Lely T4C customers will be personally informed by their Lely Center before the end of 2020.

The migration is planned in a phased approach, from country to country, over the year 2021.

Also launched at the event, Lely Exos is an autonomous concept for harvesting and feeding fresh grass to the herd.

The company suggests that feeding fresh grass makes better use of available roughage, suggesting “fresh” has between 10 and 20% more nutritional value than grass silage, as there are minimal losses typically seen during mowing, tedding, raking, harvesting and feeding.

Lely suggests that feeding fresh grass over an extended season reduces the amount of silage that has to be conserved, reduces the need for concentrates and bought-in feed and increase the margin made on each litre of milk produced.

Based around an all-electric vehicle that mows and feeds, Exos is light weight and uses soil friendly technology, that can be exploited throughout the growing season. Design to work 24/7 as feed requirements change, the system places no constraints on labour or time, while it is also designed to work in tandem with the Lely Vector automatic feeding systems.

In operation, Exos also collects field data as it goes about its job, giving framers live data on grass supply and lending itself to a further concept of delivering a targeted liquid fertiliser as it passes over a harvested area.

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