Tuesday, 21 July 2020 07:25

Dairy champions

Written by  Peter Burke
Hawkes Bay dairy farmers Nick and Nicky Dawson. Hawkes Bay dairy farmers Nick and Nicky Dawson.

Hawke's Bay dairy farmers Nick and Nicky Dawson have been awarded Fonterra’s John Wilson Memorial Trophy for responsible dairying.

The award recognises dairy farmers who demonstrate leadership in their approach to sustainability, who are respected by their fellow farmers and their community for their attitude and role in sustainable dairying. The award is part of the dairy industry awards, which were announced recently.

The couple run 450 cows on their 220ha farm (170 effective) at Patoka, north west of Hastings. They have been dairy farming for about 30 years, starting as sharemilkers before buying the farm outright earlier this year. 

Nick Dawson says winning the award means a lot to himself and wife Nicky because they were nominated for the award and didn’t enter the competition as such. 

“We were nominated by our local Fonterra area manager – which was quite nice,” he told Dairy News.

“We then got interviewed on Zoom by a panel of three people, which was unusual because we couldn’t show them the physical part of the farm. But we enjoyed the experience anyway. 

“I think because it is called the responsible dairy award because it looks at the holistic picture about what we do on the farm, how we treat staff and also what we do outside the farm gate. It’s nice to be acknowledged for that.” 

The Dawson’s have made a huge effort to engage with the Hawkes Bay community and schools in particular, to give young people an ‘on farm experience’ and to show that dairy farmers actively improve the environment to help dispel the myth of ‘dirty dairying’.

Nick Dawson says many kids today have no idea what a farm is like, let alone a dairy farm. The couple regularly host school groups on their farm and even give the young people a chance to milk a cow. 

“It’s special to see their parents – who have had this notion of dirty dairy for so long – say that the farm is a lovely place and that dairying is a nice industry,” he says. “We try to do our bit to promote dairying in every way we can.” 

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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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