Hi-tech farming as the ‘i-cloud’ is used for cows


The first week of September was just like mid-summer, last Wednesday and Thursday in particular at around 30 degrees felt as sunny and hot as any weather we’ve had this year; alas it was not to last.

A ten degree drop on Friday with some showers was a godsend for the cows and the young-stock, having been very uncomfortable in the heat.

As usual, over at Tillington where they have choice, the young heifers did not go out on either of the two hot days, but on Friday they were out in the cool rain all day. More rain at the weekend freshened things up a bit, and the grass certainly looks greener, and will grow again in the cooler temperatures having had some moisture.

We have cut 400 tonnes of maize silage a little early as we ran out with two weeks to go! It’s a bit green, but quite dry and smells really nice and the cows are tucking into it with gusto.

I have had it analysed and it will be interesting to see how the cow’s analysis compares with the paper one. Cutting it 10 days early means that it will be higher in sugar, but lower in starch, however it will be interesting to see intake levels and the amount of milk produced.

We are fortunate in that we have a ‘PACE’ device on our Keenan feed wagon which enables me to not only programme the diets from my office, but also monitor the loads and how accurate they are loaded; ingredient by ingredient.

At any time (usually once a week) I can send data on cow numbers and milk production and constituents to the ‘i-cloud’ programme and receive an instantaneous conversion result telling me how much milk is produced per kilogramme of dry-matter fed.

This takes both forage and concentrates to account and a seemingly small difference of producing 1.3 litres rather than 1.4 litres per kg/DM is huge when you consider that each cow consumes 23 kg of dry-matter each day. Unfortunately such tiny moves are not easy, and so much depends on forage quality and its intake characteristic.

You can have the best silage in the world, but if the cows don’t really like it much and eat less, it will not be a good winter.

At least milk prices are moving up and some useful structural changes are now taking place as Arla members are allowed to buy into Arla-Amba, join Milklink Co-op farmers and become full members of the large Danish Co-op.

Farmers For Action (FFA) are threatening more protests, but the Unions are against and feel that such action should only take place when things are desperate.

Given that we are gaining public support for the badger cull trials and that police time is tied up keeping the protesters out of the way, the unions think that farmers protesting over milk prices is just silly, especially as there are more much-needed increases in the pipeline.

Standing in for a colleague last week, I attended the Welsh Animal Health and Welfare Committee in Cardiff. I had got up at 3am to drive George our herdsman to Gatwick, as he was off home to Bulgaria with his wife for some holiday.

I took the train from Guildford to Reading and admiring the almost completed very modern station, jumped on the Great Western. Arriving an hour early, after security I went to the Welsh Assembly’s café for some well-deserved breakfast.

I came back to the waiting area to be told off for wandering around on my own! I answered that I have been here a few times and I do know my way around, but rules is rules apparently.

It was difficult to ignore the elephant in the room during discussions; that is the complete waste of money and effort in vaccinating badgers in endemic areas of bovine TB which is soaking up all he funds.

Given that Wales is dominated by the Labour Party and that the best they can hope for is a coalition government, it is difficult to see how they move forward, even when the culling in England proves to be a success.

There is a great deal of attention given to the horse problem of fly grazing and subsequent welfare issues. Wales is also in danger of becoming the puppy farming capital of Europe if it does not do something about dogs, another difficult issue.

I majored on the fact that there is a lack of vision and that government is not showing commitment to the farming industry in important areas (such as sheep scab) which could improve animal welfare considerably. I compared Wales with Scotland’s approach; that went down well!

I am interested to read about two energy creating devices which traditionally have been something of a problem.

A Grammar School for boys in Kent have installed a tiled floor made of re-cycled lorry tyres in one of its corridors, and the children are encouraged to run along the corridor and behave in a boisterous manner! By an ingenious system, the specially designed tiles harness this kinetic energy and turn it into ‘green-power’.

Running in the corridor when I was in school gave someone in authority the right to subject the offender to a good old fashioned hiding; in fact I remember our headmaster who was quick to release some inner tension, grabbing a young student teacher and subjecting him to some hair pulling and a clout or two before realising his mistake.

His crime was walking down the corridor on the ‘wrong’ side, which teachers were allowed to do, but this poor lad who had not started shaving was dressed in a way that did not sufficiently distinguish him from the pupils.

Such detail is easily missed if you are the headmaster in a foul mood, just itching for some boy to step out of line so that frustration can be vented in a bout of violence.

Another ingenious invention which is of our time, is a car suspension system that recovers the energy created by crashing through pot-holes in the road, turning it to energy.

This system called ‘Gen-shock’ generates energy which is fed into the car’s electrical system, and can help power air-conditioning and headlights.

This system if adapted by car makers would benefit British motorists more than any other in Europe. Indeed, in West Sussex I believe that the whole car could be driven by a big electric motor strapped on the roof, and powered by the pot-holes in our roads!

Last year Britain’s roads had 2.2 million pot-holes, and according to the AA there are six pot-holes for every mile of road.

All road-tests which are conducted by car magazines abroad always end with ‘We shall have to wait of course to see how this car copes and rides on our roads in the UK’.

The Honda car company has built a special track in Japan to mimic British roads, which consists of a four mile rutted piece of road, and it is unlikely that the power generated by this ingenious system will off-set the £1 million a day cost to British motorists to repair axles and suspension components damaged by our roads (according to Warranty Direct).