Tuesday, 17 November 2020 06:55

'Crap' situation as shortage bites

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
RCNZ chief executive Roger Parton says time is fast running out to get the problem sorted. RCNZ chief executive Roger Parton says time is fast running out to get the problem sorted.

Some Waikato farmers are jumping on harvesters to help rural contractors overcome driver shortages.

Waikato Federated Farmers dairy chair Ben Moore told Rural News he drove a harvester for half a day on his farm recently to make grass silage.

Moore, who drove a harvester in the UK for four seasons, is expecting to be called up again by the contractor.

He says farmers are trying to help out contractors as best as they can, but the situation is “crap”.

Moore says farmers can’t understand why there aren’t more rooms available at quarantine facilities for overseas drivers.

He says contractors are trying to mobilise all locally-available resources to get all the jobs done, but it’s an uphill battle.

He says hiring suitable locals remains an issue for contractors.

“At a meeting to try and help put jobless people into contractor jobs recently, it was mentioned to contractors that their drug and alcohol policies were too tough and needed to be relaxed.

“The last thing anyone wants is someone high or drunk driving a million dollars worth of machinery that weighs 25 tonne or more.

“It seems we cannot win.”

Moore says the new Government must sort out the mess.

Rural Contractors New Zealand chief executive Roger Parton says 60-70 contractors have completed their two-week quarantine and are working here.

However, another 25 have been unable to secure vouchers for quarantine.

“They just can’t get vouchers until mid-December,” he told Rural News.

The Government allowed RCNZ 210 overseas drivers, however only 149 have gone through the process of getting visas.

Parton says some drivers withdrew after getting their visas because they either don’t want to travel or the UK has gone into a lockdown.

“The whole thing is falling apart…it has only been a partial success.”

He admits initially there was a delay on “the immigration side of things”.

“We all did not understand the process, but that’s been sorted out now. We have established good contacts with key immigration officials should any urgent case arise.”

The Government allocated an extra 100 rooms at quarantine facilities, but Parton says they were snapped up like “tickets to a rock concert” by people wanting to return home for Christmas.

Parton says RCNZ remains hopeful that something can be sorted out but he admits that time is running out.

He says securing quarantine rooms in January would mean the drivers would come out of their two-week isolation as the harvesting season is winding up.

Parton notes that it’s not just the rural contractors who are suffering.

“It’s not just us. The horticulture sector and others also need people for the short term, but we have reached a choke point.”

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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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