New technology can help maximise fodder on Limerick farms

Donal O'Regan

Reporter:

Donal O'Regan

Email:

donal.oregan@limerickleader.ie

Man behind the wheel: Johnny Corkery, Geary's Garage, Kilmeedy, testing the John Deere HarvestLab 3000 in Fedamore

Man behind the wheel: Johnny Corkery, Geary's Garage, Kilmeedy, testing the John Deere HarvestLab 3000 in Fedamore

MACHINERY has got so high tech that it is hard to believe there are Limerick farmers still working today that brought milk to the creamery in a pony and trap.

Geary’s Garage, John Deere’s main dealer for the Mid-West, recently took part in a number of tests and demonstrations of the new John Deere HarvestLab 3000 in Fedamore.

The HarvestLab is a sensory system which is mounted to the chute of the harvester and takes constant readings of the crop as it passes through the chute.

It provides real time data which enables the farmer to work with his contractor more efficiently by assisting with harvesting decisions and then subsequently providing information to also help with the farmers feeding programmes. This will be invaluable information in a year when fodder will be scarce.

The HarvestLab sensory system provides permanent data which is gathered all over the field, with 4,000 measurements per second, measuring up to 10 nutrient values, the results of this analysis are available while harvesting is taking place.

The benefit of this real time data is that it allows both the farmer and contractor to make decisions much faster, for example if specific fields are preferred or not, monitoring the forage amount to help the farmer make educated decisions on what will go in the silo stock and what will be used later on in the feed rations. In addition the system can also be removed and used in stationary mode to evaluate forage nutrient quality at feeding.

The HarvestLab 3000 uses near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) to evaluate characteristics including moisture, dry matter, protein, starch, neutral detergent fiber (NDF) or acid detergent fiber (ADF). By documenting the specific constituent values, growers know immediately the organic matter that was harvested which is fundamental in managing soil quality. The fertilizer usage can be adjusted as a result and specific fertilizers can be used according to the individual grower’s requirements with the ability to manage direct inputs; which provides a direct cost saving to the bottom line.

One of the biggest benefits of this system is that while this data is gathered by the contractor’s harvester it is fully accessible by the farmer as it is wirelessly transmitted to their MyJohnDeere account.

Johnny Corkery, of Gearys Garage, Kilmeedy, said: “This is a huge benefit for beef and dairy producers, custom harvesters, and livestock nutritionists wanting to optimise the nutritional value of the feed. These nutrient values can be wirelessly transmitted to the John Deere Operations Centre for analysis, future crop and nutrient application planning and for archiving field and crop history.”

This means that all year round, the farmer has access to data which can aid decisions such as the adjustment of silage additives which in turn ensures higher silage preservation quality and feed cost control through less silage spoilage.

Ultimately it enables the farmer to focus on producing high quality silage which in turn leads to higher farm output including milk production optimisation, lower cattle illness rates, and energy production optimisation, decisions which have a huge impact on farm profits.

Of course a system such as HarvestLab 3000 also provides a wide range of benefits for the contractors. In particular, with the ability to calculate tonnage per acre it provides the option to move to a system of pricing on a per tonne basis.

This is a significant advantage to both the contractor and farmer as we move more towards a system which is focused more and more on quality over quantity. The farmer will pay for exactly what has been harvested regardless of whether it is a light or heavy crop, and the contractor is in a much better position to price jobs and to analyse and adjust their costs. As we have seen with the adverse weather conditions we have experienced across the last 12 months cost analysis and control is becoming more and more a significant part of farm management and technologies such as those introduced in the HarvestLab 3000 will have an even more important role for both farmer and contractor.