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Forging ahead with automated feeder wagons

Another example of the ‘work smarter, not harder’ ethos of New Zealand farmers is a range of fully automated feeder wagons being developed by Zeddy.

The Zeddy 500 is a standalone towable unit which has the capacity for 0.5-tonne of dry feed or calf meal. It is suitable for calves, deer or sheep, and identifies each animal from its EID tag, dispensing an individual pre-determined amount of feed as the animal approaches the wagon.

 

The company’s chief executive officer Kate Gwilliam says: “This is a really exciting development which makes management of remote or outwintered stock so easy.

 

“We are working on building the range to reach a wider range of animals and currently we are getting as much interest from international markets as the home market.”

 

The bigger model, the Zeddy 1250, is also a standalone towable unit, but this time has a capacity of 1.25 tonnes, making it ideal to feed up to 300 cows over a three- to five-day period, depending on the level of feed, according to Zeddy.

 

Through the dashboard on both models, farmers pre-determine how much feed should be dispensed to each individual animal. When the animal moves close to the wagon, the feed is automatically dropped, 100g at a time.

 

Ms Gwilliam says: “This way, should another cow come along and push the original one out of the way, the new cow can only get a maximum of 100g of ‘free’ feed. But this will be recorded against her tag number, so her own ration will be altered to take this into account.

 

“Our trial work has shown that in trough feeding, about 15 per cent of animals end up getting 85 per cent of the feed. So trying to get optimum growth across a group of beef animals is very difficult. Some do well and some do badly.”

 

Ms Gwilliam also says feeding cows in the parlour encourages ‘binge-eating’, which can lead to health issues. It is far better for stock to eat little and often over the grazing day.

 

The dashboard stores all information and, at any time, a farmer can launch the app on their mobile phone or computer and see which animals are eating what. It will, for example, indicate when a cow is not eating her programmed ration, which can be an early indicator of a health issue.

 

It is also possible to change individual rations as often as necessary.

 

For example, a cow not ‘doing well’ or looking in poor condition can easily be ‘topped up’ with an increased ration.


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