Precision farming means precision livestock feeding

Woodstock, Ont. — When we talk about precision agriculture, most people think only in terms of precise crop management. But for dairy and beef producers, precision ag means precision feeding of their animals.

When it comes to precision feeding, the mix wagon is as important to the livestock producer as the air drill is to the broad-acre crop farmer. On your left there’s an inventory of feed stocks. On the right, hungry mouths to feed. And in the middle you have the tool to help ensure those mouths get the correct ration — your mix wagon. How well your animals perform on that feedstock can depend in large part on how you use that tool.

Modern technology has come a long way in making the mix wagon more of a strategic tool for dairy and beef producers, employing tools such as near infrared (NIR) technology to analyze feed stocks. Over the last 30 years, one of the leading innovators in mix wagon technology has been the Italian company Faresin. Their dealer in Ontario is Brodie-Ag, a company that specializes exclusively in feed mixing equipment. For this year’s Outdoor Farm Show, Brodie-Ag brought in a Faresin Leader PF 120 for farmers perusal.

Faresin has developed a feed quality system they call Precision Feed Measurement (PFM) and incorporated this system into the mix wagons they sell. PFM is a simple, three-part system based on feed analysis from the near-infrared tool that comes standard with each Leader PF mix wagon.

All that advanced NIR technology, hydraulic and precise digital capability comes with a price when compared to simpler tub wagons. The Faresin Leader PF 120 lists for $325,000. | Ron Lyseng photo

  • Analysis of the ingredients available for the feed recipe.
  • Application of the feed recipe carried out in the Faresin mix wagon.
  • Analysis of the homogeneity of the feed in the manger.

Andrew Dendekker represents Brodie-Ag. He says the NIR device that comes with a Faresin mix wagon can be a hand-held unit or an NIR sensor installed in the mixing tub, or both. The handheld unit is convenient for precisely determining feed values of the material you have in each bunker. NIR on the tub mixer gives you an idea of the value of the blend you’re feeding. And finally, NIR is used to verify the value of the feed in the manger. This gives you feedback on how you can do better next time.

“The hand-held NIR is pretty simple to use. It analyzes your protein, moisture, fibre, dry matter and gives you that information live on your screen display up in the cab,” says Dendekker, adding that the on-board NIR sensor is installed in the mix tank so the operator knows for sure if he is blending the ration he wanted.

Because SP tub grinders typically work in tight slippery conditions, the top-of-the-line Faresin Leader PF 120 has hydraulic four-wheel drive coupled with four-wheel steering. | Ron Lyseng photo

“Once you have that information for each bunker, then you work with your local nutritionist to decide how you’re going to use those feed stocks. The system gives the operator consistent PFM readings on the display in the cab.”

Dendekker says one of the advantages of the Faresin design is putting the 250 horsepower engine at the back, thus providing access to three sides for servicing. This arrangement keeps the noise, heat and vibration away from the operator. With the cab located forward from the front axle, he says the front-back weight distribution is about equal.

“The designers know the machine is often used in tight quarters so it’s hydraulic four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering,” says Dendekker. He says the company sells about 15 units per year in Ontario plus another half-dozen in Western Canada. List price for the Leader PF 120 is $325,000.

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