High-tech companies in New Zealand are busy empowering farmers to feed, manage and control their stock more efficiently remotely. With outlying stock often many miles from the home farms, technology is developing to make farm management more efficient and a lot easier. It's a concept which could also be adopted by Scottish farmers who often face the same time-consuming issues but there are possible opportunities.

Dairy, beef, deer and sheep farmers in Scotland will soon be able to feed their stock remotely, with minimum labour needed to ensure each animal gets the right amount of concentrate to remain in optimum condition.

Zeddy, a natural innovative New Zealand business that’s developed a fully-automated range of feeder wagons, is hoping to launch in the UK in the next 12 months, and is busy looking for potential distributors.

The Zeddy 500 is a standalone towable unit that has the capacity for 0.5 tonne of dry feed or calf meal. It’s 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.

“This is a really exciting development that makes management of remote or outwintered stock so easy,” says CEO Kate Gwilliam. “We’re working on building the range to reach a wider range of animals, and currently we’re 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 periods, depending on the level of feed.

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

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

Kate explains how, compared with the more usual trough feeding, this technology provides a more accurate and easier feeding system. “Our trials work has shown that in trough feeding around 15% of the animals end up getting 85% 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.”

She also says that feeding cows in the parlour encourages binge eating, which can lead to health issues, saying it’s far better for stock to eat little and often over the grazing day.

“It’s been surprising to see how animal behaviour has changed,” says Kate. “They soon get used to the Zeddy machines and seem much happier feeding often with smaller amounts spread out across the day.”

All dry feed is stored in a closed hopper, so nothing is spoilt or wasted by being exposed to the elements.

The dashboard stores all information, and, at any time, a farmer can launch the app on his cellphone 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’s 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.

“There are big savings to be made with more accurate feeding, and no wastage. There’s also a significant change to the amount of labour needed, as instead of driving or riding out to more remote areas once or twice a day, feeding can all be controlled from your phone or farm office.”

Likely costs in the UK will be around the £8000 mark for the larger model at launch, with a monthly charge of just under £300 to cover the data set, access to all information at the touch of a button, plus regular service and maintenance.