Lifting productivity by increasing farming efficiency is going to be key as Scotland moves past the end of this year, with many dairy farmers likely to find they’ll be competing with lower cost producers across the globe.

Looking at relevant new developments from other countries, those already succeeding in the export market, will be one essential route to take.

Here, The Scottish Farmer takes a look at what creative businesses in New Zealand have to offer that’ll make farm management easier and feeding more efficient.

Te Pari auto-calibrated dosing gun

Weighing cattle is being encouraged across the board as an essential management tool yet is still not a routine task on many dairy farms. Not only does weighing ensure your cattle are growing efficiently, converting grass to milk or meat, and reaching the right bodyweight for mating, but also ensures any treatments given are accurate and, in the case of anthelmintics, for example, don’t lead to costly wastage.

Te Pari, a company based in Oamaru on the South Island, has won innovation awards for the development of the world’s first auto-calibrated dosing gun, a handheld delivery system that connects to various weigh scale systems and software programs. The scale, or software, communicates with the gun to deliver the exact dose based on the animal’s actual weight.

It’s powered by twin lithium-ion batteries and delivers an accurate and consistent dose whether the application is an injection, an oral drench or a pour-on. Various barrel sizes and attachments are available making it practical for varying herd sizes.

“The gun is both cost-efficient and easy-to-use,” says Jeremy Blampied, sales and marketing manager. When animals are under-dosed you run the risk of the treatment not being effective, and when they are over-dosed this can become an expensive operation as too much of a costly product is used.”

Jeremy quotes a farmer who assessed his 151 animals as weighing 280kg each and, without weighing, dosed them all at that rate, with the total cost of the drench coming out at NZ$451. When weighed the average weight was actually 228kg, and if he had weighed before treatment, he would have spent NZ$368 offering a saving of NZ$83 or 55 cents/head.

“Not only was there an overall, significant, saving of 18%, but four of the calves weighed more than 280kg. These bigger animals are usually your best, and in this case they didn’t get enough product. While over-dosing is a waste of money, under dosing encourages resistance,” he adds.

There’s no doubt that weighing animals can drive efficiency improvements, with many producers currently basing their management on an assumed average weight. There can be as much as a 300kg range in bodyweight in a Holstein-Friesian herd, for example, and this can have a huge impact on how cows perform.

Gallagher TWR-1 EID compatible scales

Weighing and EID specialists Gallagher UK, also known for their wide range of electric fencing and energisers, are constantly updating and developing their weigh scale systems allowing dairy farmers to collect liveweight data easily and cost-efficiently.

“Technology is increasing functionality and ease of use of weighing systems, and for many farms, even a simple entry level portable system will deliver real benefits as it can be used for cows, heifers and other stock on the farm to improve return on investment,” says the company’s Mark Oliver.

He also sees a positive growth in the development of in-parlour systems, meaning that cows can be weighed more frequently as they enter the parlour. “These systems can give valuable insights into areas like bodyweight and condition scoring,” he says.

The company’s new TWR-1 is one of the first EID compatible scales available on the market and comes with an integral EID reader. A touch screen and user-friendly interface means the system is easy to operate allowing fast and accurate weighing. The ability to link to other systems, including the Te Pari dosing gun, via Bluetooth USB or wifi means data analysis is simplified.

“These developments, spearheaded by researchers in New Zealand where use of technology is seen as key to lifting productivity, are providing British farmers with a real opportunity to increase efficiency at the same time as providing valuable management information that helps them to farm smarter,” he says.

Hustler Combi range of CM livestock feeder wagons

When it comes to feeding cattle, dairy or beef, farmers have often needed to have several different machines to cope with the various types of fodder or concentrate being used both out in a field, or in a housed situation.

New to the market from New-Zealand company Hustler, is the Combi range of CM livestock feeder wagons that are unique in being able to handle both bales or clamp silage, as well as a wide range of different feeds.

“While we’re constantly developing these machines, their versatility makes them fantastic value for money,” says UK business development manager Mike Gibbs.

“They’ve been available in NZ for five or six years, but they’ve only been in the UK for the last 18 months or so, and we have quite a few out on farm now.”

There are three models in the range. The Combi CM116 that has an eight tonne rating, the Combi CM156 that has a 10 tonne rating and the Combi CM196 that has a 15 tonnes load rating. Options include a wireless scale and feed management system that enables more control over proof-of-placement and efficiency.

“The feeder wagon is an exciting development as never before has one machine been able to operate across a wide spectrum of different feeds. Whether you are feeding small bales, rectangular bales, large round bales, clamp silage or a TMR ration, the wagon is ideal. There’s no jamming or plugging up, and we’ve worked on a massive reduction of working parts and components plus the introduction of bearings to replace bushes, which can slash daily start up times,” he adds.