Lely launched three new pieces of equipment on Oct. 6 that increase dairy farm automation, and continue the integration of Lely technology from the farm through to further processing.
The technologies won’t immediately find ready homes in Canada in many cases, but show the direction the dairy automation leader is headed.
Fresh grass every day
The new Lely Exos caters to the market that insists on fresh grass every day for cattle. Fresh forage has a higher nutritional value than grass silage, the company says, but from a daily labour perspective, most farmers have opted to either take the cows to the grass by pasturing, or keep cows in barns and bring the hay, or silage to the cows. In some countries forage is cut almost daily for cattle, limiting the need for investment into feed storage.
The Exos, which looks like a forage box that drives itself, or a vehicle from a futuristic movie, autonomously moves to a field, mows and collects the forage for the cows daily or whenever it is needed. It can operate 24 hours per day, bringing feed to Lely’s Vector automated mixer and in-barn feeding system.
The company says the Exos is lightweight to avoid to avoid harming soil, so that it can work in all conditions from spring to late autumn while grass is still growing.
The company is looking at how fertilizer can be applied using the Exos as it mows and collects the grass.
The system is in testing on farms, but isn’t yet available for sale.
Treating manure on farm
Lely also announced the Lely Sphere, a manure treatment system that separates manure into three types of fertilizer that can be used for more precision application.
The company claims it can reduce ammonia emissions on farms by about 70 per cent.
Using manure where it is produced fits with the circular dairy system that Lely is aiming for in much of its technology.
The system is based on separating solid from liquid manure, with liquid falling into a pit and solid manure gathered by the Discovery Collector barn cleaning robot.
A filter captures ammonia, which is then converted into fertilizer.
The system then allows for three fertilizer streams, the typical nitrogen phosphate and potassium farmers use for their crops in certain times, which can make the application of manure more accurate.
Nitrogen in a mineral form is found in the discharge water from the N-Capture filter system, phosphate and organic nitrogen from solid manure and potassium in the liquid in the pit.
The system harvests about 10 to 20 kg of nitrogen per cow per year to put back on fields.
It has been running on test farms since 2017, but initial commercialization will start on Dutch farms. Farmers in the Netherlands have been held back by dairy emissions limitations that hamper farm expansion.
Managing dairy data
Lely also introduced Horizon, a decision support platform for managing data on dairy farms.
Horizon will replace the Lely T4C management system.
The cloud-based system will be available on any device and provides more behind-the-scenes processing of data to create information that’s of value and can be acted on, the company says.
It has been tested on 100 farms in seven countries.
The software aims to help farmers manage workflow with access to daily actions and the ability to assign tasks to workers.
The software also connects to farmers’ partners, allowing outside data to be moved into the management system, including DairyComp.
Farmers using Lely equipment will be transitioned to the new system during 2021, using a country-by-country approach.