Zero grazing is nothing new, but is making resurgence as dairy farmers look to maximise output while keeping their production costs to a minimum.
For many dairy farmers, the potential to reduce their three biggest costs – contractors, concentrates and fertiliser, and as a result save around 5 pence/litre makes zero grazing an extremely attractive proposition, and one of the reasons why there is a considerable interest in the latest machines on the market, such as the Grass Tech Grazer.
Designed and manufactured in Ireland by Grass Technology Ltd, so ideally suited to UK conditions for 2016 the Grass Tech Grazer is now available in four model sizes, ranging from the smallest Grazer GT80 to the tri-axle Grazer GT160 which is ideal for larger herds of 400 cows plus. For all of these models, a rear mounted cross-conveyor is also now optionally available, making the Grazer easily adaptable to differing feeding systems.
All models in the range are based around a heavy duty Galfre disc mower, which has a drum speed of 1575rpm, Hardox pans under the mower bed and variable cutting height to as low as 35mm. This is carried on a heavy duty 60mm pivoting pin with spring suspension for accurate contour following. The cut grass is conveyed into the trailer using a non-chopping rotor that revolves at just 70rpm so as to not damage the grass.
On all models, the trailer body is built around a robust 160×80 frame, carried on heavy duty double bogie axles. On the mid-range Grazer GT120 a Wetland Kit is also available whereby the axles can be off-set to spread the weight over a greater surface area. The trailer is filled and emptied using a variable speed hydraulically powered bed conveyor. The specification includes centralised greasing, full load sensor and rear view camera.
Since the Grass Tech Grazer was fully launched in the UK in 2015, experience from those machines sold has shown that considerable savings of up to at least 5 pence/litre can be achieved.
The Grass Tech Grazer is designed to be a simple but robust, cost effective machine that does not require a high powered tractor; even the largest GT160 model only requires 120hp and the smallest GT80 just 75hp.
One of the greatest benefits that users of the Grass Tech Grazer have found is that by feeding fresh, high quality young grass from the spring through to the autumn in place of silage, milk yields of 20 litres are easily achievable. By achieving a higher milk yield over maintenance, concentrate usage is reduced, but also by not needing to produce so much silage, contractor costs are also reduced and in many instances only better quality first cut silage is sufficient to see the herd through the winter.
A further benefit that users have found is that zero grazing enables greater utilisation of their grassland. With a zero grazing system where cattle are housed and fresh grass is harvested and brought to them, this will result in grass utilisation of around 95%, compared to nearer 60% with a conventional grazing system due to poaching and selective grazing. Through greater utilisation of grassland, this makes better use of fertiliser, releases land for other crops or allows herd numbers to be increased.