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Graham
11th August 2009, 10:49 PM
Please use this forum to let us know about cunning ways you've used our timer on your farm, or to help us make the Batt-Latch even better.

Our staff are often motivated by farmers' very positive comments about the Batt-Latch, for some of you it's hard to manage without them.

We are currently testing new plastics for the outer case, completing design work on the solar panel/battery combination for an extended lifetime, and producing the first 5km 'remote' units.

Graham
2nd November 2009, 09:44 PM
I've noticed that sales of our equipment are higher at National Fieldays when the dairy payout is higher. In a way, that disappoints me, because the Batt-Latch, for example, should always pay for itself no matter what the payout is. We'd like to show that the purchase of a gate timer for the farm is a 'no-brainer' as the accountants say.

In time savings, which should always be costed at an hourly rate(s), and in convenience factor (time off farm, swapping early hours for more staff effort in the middle of the day, ability to retain staff, goodwill etc).

Equipment and maintenance savings: less use of farm bike or quad, less fence damage (bulls,steers especially), less pugging over winter, less race damage.

Feed efficiencies (more frequent feed breaks, use with break feeding crops, holding back, release to feedpads). Try 4-hourly paddock breaks with the milking herd.

In health benefits for stock: Surprisingly, this could be the biggest savings area for farmers. We have no published research work to back this up, but many dairy farmers have reported reduced lameness in their cows (up to 60% reduction or more) after using the timers for herd release. More about this later. There is also a strong possibility that when cows walk in single file to the dairy, they will walk on the crown of the race, where they will attract less dirt, and hopefully not pick up mastitis bacteria as much. Some research has already been done by DairyNZ on this, by controlling herd speed (without our timers).

Stock behaviour: we have not had a single negative comment about cow behaviour regarding the Batt-Latch timer. Usually a lead cow in the herd will bring the rest up to the dairy when the timer opens. Once the herd have grown used to the timer, they may even have a mild panic if the timer is not used to enclose them in the paddock! They will wait patiently near the gateway until the timer releases (either side), and most farmers note this generally reduces pugging in the gateways of paddocks. Stock will generally be less stressed, and calmly defaecate in the paddock before moving in their decided order to the dairy.

I am not a farmer, but I'm confident that all of these benefits easily justify the purchase of a timer for any dairy farm, and for many other farm types as well. That's why we call the Batt-Latch a 'Moneymaker' or 'Solar-Powered Profit Generator' in our advertising. It's heartening to see that some farmers rate our timer so highly, they have a spare or older one that gets less use, mainly to cover the odd time the main timer is out of action for any reason.

So what is the pay-back period for a Batt-Latch? On a dairy farm that achieves reduced lameness, it could easily be a matter of days. After that, all the extra thousands of dollars of profit belongs to the farm.

Graham
3rd November 2009, 05:38 PM
For the last few years, we have kept in touch with Neil Chesterton, a veterinarian based in Inglewood. Neil has a keen interest in dairy farm lameness, and has produced a DVD/video for farmers to help reduce the problems. He speaks at many engagements to farmers about lameness, and he is a provider for DairyNZ's 'Healthy Hoof Programme'.

Recently Neil rang to say he's becoming increasingly interested in the Batt-Latch, and some of his clients have had huge reductions in lameness after using the timer. Unsurprisingly, we have sold a lot of units in the Taranaki region..

Neil emailed us recently:


Graham, regarding your request for findings with your timer. Quantifying the cost of lameness on a farm is so difficult.

Work in the South Island had come up with totally confusing figures. One study - a well run large study - estimated it cost his farmers between $40-50 per lameness case. Another - a survey of farmers - estimated it cost over $1000 per case. How can this be? I actually agree with both figures. The lower figure comes from big farms where seldom is a vet called and all they do is keep any lame cows close to the shed until they recover. A bull is run with the cows and they are well fed. If the higher figure was true for every lame cow then many farms would be in receivership! I think it couldn't be true. So my best guess is as in my book at about $200 - 300 per white line lameness properly treated and possibly $50 - 60 per sole penetration when treated early and thoroughly. Straight away you can see how different types of lameness have different levels of economic impact.

Another confusing factor is the stage of lactation of the cow when the lameness occurs. Early lameness (ie before mating starts) is far more costly to a farm because some lame cows fail to conceive or are delayed in getting into calf. Late season lameness - as often happens in the South Island - is less costly because there is no reproductive loss. Often a farmer just dries off the lame cow and gives their share of the pasture to the rest of the herd. Total milk production hardly changes so the cost of these late lactation lamenesses is minimal.

When you ask if it were possible to estimate the savings when using a Batt-Latch the answer is even more complicated because only part of the cause of lameness is happening on the tracks. Batt-Latches I am sure will result in less wear of the foot - but I have no way of measuring this yet. Massey is doing a study on sole thickness right now to work out a way. One day I would like to do a study comparing the thickness of soles in half a herd on Batt-Latch and comparing them with the other half herded home by the usual method. The reason I would like to do this is because I am convinced that thin soles is the precursor to sole penetrations and white line injuries - this latter caused by separation of the sole and the wall when the cows are under pressure in the milking yard.

When I investigate lameness in a herd I measure over 100 important factors, so to identify the impact of one factor (say Batt-Latch) by itself is not possible without further studies on sole thickness. I would like to design a study in the future (maybe with you) because even without proof I am convinced that voluntary walking must reduce sole wear and subsequent deeper injury to the sole and white line.

I will have a look at your forum - I am only slowly becoming IT literate! I do have a website www.lamecow.co.nz where I can look at putting a link to your website. In my lameness booklet I emphasize in 4 different places the importance of letting the cows drift home at their own pace.

Graham, I would like to catch up with you sometime. I like and recommend your product by name at nearly every seminar I run all over the country (even without scientific evidence!). Just yesterday I talked with a farmer to whom I am going to lend my Batt-Latch because I am sure it will help his situation. I am putting together a new DVD on Cowflow (my growing passion) and I have found the farm where I will be doing my videoing of the Batt-Latch.

Regards, Neil

Many thanks Neil, and we'd be very pleased to see the video. We have not composed one of our own yet, and think it would be good to see on YouTube and our website!

Note that Neil promotes two farming products (one being our Batt-Latch) and the Healthy Hoof Programme on the Lamecow website.

http://www.lamecow.co.nz/recprod.shtml

Graham
9th November 2009, 08:09 PM
NZ dollar rises on higher Fonterra forecast payout
Monday November 9, 05:02 PM

* Kiwi rises on forecast higher dairy payout

* Kiwi recoups some losses against the Aussie


* Swap rates higher, bonds lower

WELLINGTON, Nov 9 (Reuters) - The New Zealand dollar NZD= rose on Monday after dairy giant Fonterra, which generates about 7 percent of New Zealand's gross domestic product, lifted its forecast payout to farmer shareholders by almost 20 percent.

The kiwi settled around $0.7348/58, after surging to $0.7363, its highest since Oct 29, from about $0.7255 in late Friday trade.

"The Fonterra news should have momentum and support the New Zealand dollar for another day or two," said Westpac senior strategist Imre Speizer.

Fonterra raised its forecast payout to NZ$6.05 per kg/milksolids from a previous NZ$5.10, citing an increase in international dairy prices. [ID:nWEL402547] Analysts said the increase payout will mean an extra NZ$1.3 billion for ($944 million) NZ dairy farmers.

House prices data also supported the kiwi. Quotable Value showed house prices grew in value for the first time in 16 months in October, with the recovery driven by a lack of houses for sale. [ID:nWEL18421]

The kiwi also benefited from a weak U.S. dollar after a meeting of the Group of 20 finance officials failed to take action to rebalance global flows or talk more specifically about the U.S. dollar's recent decline [ID:nLQ516726].

The kiwi, which has come under pressure over the past weeks because of the prospects of rising rates in Australia, recouped some losses against the Aussie, but remained below the A$0.80 level.

This week sees the Reserve Bank of New Zealand's six-monthly report on the financial system, as well as third-quarter retail sales [NZ/POLL] and October month house sales and prices.

The data will be watched for more evidence that the emergence from recession seen in the second quarter has picked up pace, and whether that might bring forward the RBNZ's tightening cycle.

Swap rates NZDIRS rose after the Fonterra news, while New Zealand government debt prices weakened on less demand for safe-haven bonds. The benchmark 10-year bond NZ10YT=RR yield closed 5 basis points higher at 5.79 percent. (Reporting by Mantik Kusjanto; Editing by Jonathan Standing)

This news is terrific for dairy farmers for the season ahead. My suggestion is to use just a small bit of this extra income to help ensure that the farm operation is streamlined and will always make more profit.. e.g. buy labour-saving devices, especially if they reduce other overheads like vet bills.

Graham
18th March 2010, 08:02 PM
The other day a farmer rang up about buying another Batt-latch, and mentioned deer movement control. My ears pricked up, and he was quick to enthuse on the Batt-Latch experiences he'd had so far.

He's caught 57 wild deer on the back of his farm using our standard timer, and now wants to use the remote control option to move captured deer around from about 100 metres away, within the main capture area!

The normal method is to hold a gateway open into a well-fenced paddock with lots of feed and maybe hay etc, and have the Batt-Latch release a gate to the closed position in the middle of the night, a few days later. This delay can be up to 2 weeks long. By then the deer think this is all too easy.

I talked to him about using the unit on feral pigs too, but apparently they are too agressive for that technique to work. Still, he's done well out of one timer already..

Graham
25th May 2010, 08:13 PM
It looks like the Fonterra payout for 2010-2011 will allow more discretionary spending on most dairy farms, and this should flow through to their suppliers.

http://tvnz.co.nz/business-news/fonterra-payout-shoots-up-3567011

At the moment the exchange rate is under US67c. If it stays there, and demand continues, the payout could be as high as NZ$8. I have the same message as a while ago: look around for equipment and products that will give a fast payback and continue to increase profitability long-term.

Those who can, are urged to attend the National Fieldays in mid-June in Hamilton. Novel Ways have a site in the pavillion, PF6. This is in the Innovation Theme area. Have a good look around all sites.

Don't be like one farmer I spoke to a few years ago - we were standing in the middle of one of the busiest roads at Fieldays, and all around were display stands set up at great cost and effort by hundreds of businesses from all over NZ and abroad - at a minimum each siteholder will spend $10,000 and often over $50,000 to do this - his comment was that he couldn't see anything that he needed for his dairy farming operation. I was floored by that.

I'm fairly sure that leading farmers will be taking a lot more interest, and spending 2-3 days there. Don't forget that suppliers of equipment get just one bite at a profit margin, and we are happy with that. It's up to you to buy the right gear so that your operation can reap many times the investment, over the lifetime of the product.

Graham
8th July 2010, 09:07 PM
The Batt-Latch has been used with some success on horses. Usually just one or two horses are being looked after by one person, and they need short bursts of special feed followed by grass, or something similar. By holding them in a special feed area for a timed duration, horses can be given special rations without affecting other stock or other horses. In Sweden, our agent Per Sandberg has sold quite a few timers mainly for use with horses, even though his country is snow-bound for a lot of the year.

http://hem.passagen.se/skogsper/grind/index.html

We are seeing more interest in this use from NZ, Australia and USA.

Graham
7th April 2011, 10:03 PM
During National Fieldays at Mystery Creek in June 2011, I will be one of several speakers at the University of Waikato's short seminars to be held at their outdoors site, D25. The theme is "Breaking Barriers to Productivity", so I have a few ideas for that topic. Please come along and heckle..

For Fieldays in 2011, the Batt-Latch gate timers will be readily available for purchase at the Jenquip site PB29, in the Pavillion. Merv and his staff will be there, and they have several other tech products for farmers, that help to make a difference with your operation.

Graham
9th June 2011, 07:58 PM
A study of dairy herd lameness in Taranaki (http://www.intelact.co.nz/page/intelact_475.php)showed that 65% of the problems occured in herd movements to and from the milking platform. This lines up with large decreases in lameness rates noticed by many purchasers of Batt-Latch timers. No-one has ever said that lameness increased when using our gear.

Graham
18th June 2011, 05:20 PM
Fieldays is now over for another year, lots of smiling faces around both exhibitors and farmers, from what I could see. The seminar series was a bit quiet for some speakers, but we still gave away two timers to participants. Here is a link to the Powerpoint pages of the presentation, also available on the download pages of our website.

http://www.novel.co.nz/Downloads/Fieldays_Presentation_2011.pdf

Jenquip sold quite a few Batt-Latch timers, including three to a farming outfit that was using them to capture or handle deer.

The innovation area was very busy and well funded, which was great to see. The metal sculptures were also just amazing, sited out the front of that marquee.

Graham
23rd August 2011, 08:22 PM
The Batt-Latch timers are in big demand at this time of the year in NZ, as farmers realise the herd can be trained very easily at the start of the season. But our staff are busy making these and shipping them, so any delivery delays should be minimal.

The bird-nesting season is upon us, and soon many sheds up and down the country will be the subject of nesting attempts. Nests in tractors are a common source of fires, often writing off the tractor. We have not made a product to scare birds, as there are several already in the marketplace that appear to do a good job.

However, one of our biggest Batt-Latch using customers, Frank Usmar from Feilding, has discovered how a Batt-Latch can be used to scare birds away from sheds.

Simply set the timer up to release in the middle of each night, secure it to the inside of a shed wall with the strap, and stretch a long metal spring gate down to it, so that when it releases, the spring and hook will smash into the underneath of the shed's roof (not too hard). Frank says that after three or four nights of this massive one-off noise, there will be no birds nesting in the shed!

Brilliant work Frank, and we hope some farmers get plenty of use out of this idea.

Graham
21st May 2012, 10:09 PM
Novel Ways will have an outdoor site at Fieldays this year, in front of the main Pavilion (site E52). We will have plenty of stock of Batt-Latch timer kits, and a few of the new remote controlled units.

We also have a demo gate mechanical latch controlled by the timer, with alternate open and close actions. This might be useful for large loads, dog kennel and chicken coop doors, etc. Each time the timer hits an event, the latch goes to the opposite state. We were asked about this as a locking system for parks and reserves at night. An access gate can be unlocked early in the morning and locked in the evening, with a slightly modified gate timer and a simple mechanical fitting. No other power supply needed.

Other points of interest on our site will be the greatly improved GrassMaster Pro drymatter instrument for pasture and forages, and the AgPlanet Agribusiness database website we're developing with a team of software engineers. AgPlanet is designed to allow a low-cost and powerful advertising and information portal for all of New Zealand's agribusiness sector. It will encourage stronger and quicker linkages with new technology and services. A part of the site will be running at Fieldays.

Graham
21st July 2012, 04:49 PM
A new application for the Batt-Latch pehaps: some farmers feed palm kernal and other supplements at the exit of the dairy platform. This works well for herringbone sheds, you allow one side at a time to access the feed troughs, and then before letting the next side out you move those cows off down the race and shut a gate behind them. It's a bit labour intensive though. A farmer in Aussie is thinking about using our short-distance remote controlled Batt-Latch to handle the opening of the gateway to the race, which saves about a third of the work. The short-range upgrade to the latest timers is $300 + GST, and hand-held remote will give you about 200mtrs range. We have an idea or two for moving the cows along without having to get out of the pit, but closing the spring gate again after the cows have gone, that's a bit harder.

In 1995 we used a Batt-Latch circuit board with modified code to run a boom gate at Fieldays. The aluminium boom was powered with a car door power window mechanism. If we had a go at that now, we'd probably use an Elsema gate control PCB, and a bigger motor gearbox. But this would be a lot cheaper than the only other system we've heard about for this type of job, the $25,000 E-Feeder.

Graham
2nd August 2012, 09:32 PM
As mentioned, there have been a few customers using the Batt-Latch timer for free-range hens and chickens. Normally they are let out during the day, and by feeding them inside at night, the birds can be locked in safely. We assume the timer is holding the gate flap open, and at dusk it releases the flap on the coop or chicken shed, which clicks shut, securing the birds automatically.

We have figured out this year that we can easily modify the timer so it moves 180 degrees on each timer action or event. It's just a small step from there to lock and unlock a gate. Here are some ideas.

The mockup gate is a metal frame we use at Fieldays for demos. We've added a small welded latch receptacle, used the Batt-Latch adapter frame for wooden or pipe gates, and slightly modifed the timer inside to have two lugs on the optical sensor arm.

Each time the timer triggers for an event, the cam rotates 180 degrees instead of 360. As long as the gate is resting against its stop point each time the timer activates, the gate will be unlocked or locked alternately. Note we simply used a vertical gate spring as fitted to many small gates worldwide, to hold the gate in the closed position.

All the forces are on the solid steel latch, not the timer. The solar panel would need to be left uncovered and facing roughly in the midday sun direction if possible. We could also supply another solar panel in parallel, mounted on a bracket.

The price might be NZ$395 for the slightly modified timer kit, $80 for the bracket and standard fittings, $50 for a spare solar panel if needed, and the latch and gate spring would probably be the customer's problem, as all gates are different.

Graham
3rd October 2012, 09:34 PM
I was speaking with a dairy farmer yesterday, who uses all four settable release times on the Batt-Latch. He's releasing and holding back the herd for both morning and evening milking. Many farmers report they'll load the feedpad for both milkings to ensure the cows come at their own pace, and on their own time.

A four-release cycle starts with the cows being automatically released out of a paddock or part-paddock for morning milking, they're lured by the promise of the feedpad or in-shed feeder. Either the timer is moved to the next paddock's gateway or reinstalled, with the back half of a paddock opened up, while the cows are being milked. The first few cows find the new paddock and wait at the gateway for the rest of the herd to join up. Near the end of milking, all cows are let into the paddock by the Batt-Latch, and the farmer then reinstates the timer to hold them in, until the afternoon release.

This operation might be more common than I thought, but most farmers hold the cows back in the race close to the shed, if they are utilising 'holding back' as a way of evening out nutrition. But it means two timers have to be used for each herd, or a dedicated timer is kept in the raceway. I'd guess the travel distance is a little shorter with the second method. But checking that all the herd made it out of the paddock for milking is often a good idea too.

Graham
19th January 2013, 05:07 PM
Batt-Latch servicing and spare parts:

We have about one staff member on average (1 FTE) dedicated to servicing Batt-Latch timer units from NZ and abroad. Other staff are involved in manufacturing and procurement as required. We think it's a good time to give some clear guidelines on our generous servicing and warranty policy.

Every Batt-Latch made since 1995 has a serial number on it, and we have manual records on any service history for each one. While we know the date of manufacture, we don't always know the date of purchase, so we'll often extend the 12 month full warranty period by a few months. Until the timer unit is at least 2-3 years old and has been well used, we'll also go easy on any repair costs.

Those well familiar with the Batt-Latch know that earlier units were moulded in red. In 2009 we moved to various specialist engineering plastics, always in a blue colour. The latest blue plastic has proved the most successful yet, it's very strong and the case holds its shape well. These cases have been available since April 2012.

The new cases always come with the latest overlay and keypad, a new type gasket, a new solar panel. They make a very good upgrade to older timers that might come in, and when that case is fitted, we'll restart a 6 month warranty.

If an older timer comes in for repair (a red or an earlier blue case), we'll be looking to move to the new case, as long as we can repair and swap the Batt-Latch circuit board into it within a reasonable time. We might need to change one or more other parts: the battery pack, the gearbox or parts of it, the LCD module. Since a new Batt-Latch unit with all fittings is about NZ$400 (+GST), we limit any repair cost to a maximum of $150.

If you urgently need the use of a gate timer, and the delay with couriers is going to be a problem, we have a limited number of older loaner Batt-Latch units that we can despatch to your address the day you call. Please just remember to send them back once everything is sorted. If you are tempted to buy an additional Batt-Latch in this situation, we'll help that idea along, and most likely will repair your old one for free.

If we don't think you've had a great run with the timer perhaps since the last repair, or since purchase, we'll write off labour or parts so that there is a smaller cost, or none at all. The customer always has to pay the cost of getting the timer to our workshop, but we will pay the cost to return it. This applies also to overseas customers, and in view of our interest in exporting the timers, any costs will be minimal in general.

If an older timer has been left too long with water inside, so it has multiple faults, we will reluctantly write it off (rare), but we'll discuss a great deal for you on a new timer with 12 month warranty.

Other parts: we always have spares of the fittings. The export length springs are in stock (not often on retailers shelves) and these reduce the strain on the timer's gearbox. Any broken straps are covered by warranty, enquire with us or through your retailer. We'll courier a new strap the same day.

Thanks again to all the enthusiastic users of the Batt-Latch, for your custom and for the positive feedback.

Graham
21st April 2013, 03:34 PM
There has been increasing interest around the world on the idea of mob grazing, also known as cell grazing. This is an intensive technique of paddock grazing where the pasture or forage is allowed to reach a more mature stage, and then by using electric fences, small parts (or cells) are allocated to a group of animals for a short time, until it is eaten out.

The result is that animals are less selective about forage eaten, so that some weeds are reduced, and the pasture is well topped and trampled. The soil biology increases because of this, and in turn the plant roots grow deeper over time. Each year, farmers using the technique get some improvement, to the point where some drystock farmers are doing twice or three times the production.

Our agent in Canada, Neil Dennis, uses Batt-Latch timers in his system, and as far as we know, was a pioneer of the idea. The timers allow several cells to be offered consecutively. Another use for mob grazing is to split up unruly animals like bulls into smaller groups. If there are under about 20 bulls in a group, they can remember each other, and so any fighting and tearing up of fences is greatly reduced.

More about Neil Dennis, a trip to the UK in 2012.

http://www.fwi.co.uk/articles/13/03/2012/131902/mob-grazing-can-boost-grass-productivity.htm

Also see www.mobgraze.com and data on the Technograze system from NZ (http://www.kiwitech.co.nz/TechnoGrazing/PressDocs/Perrottet%20-%20Intensive%20Grazing%20Grows%20the%20Bottom%20Li ne.pdf).

TechnoGrazing paper, approx 2002. (http://www.grassland.org.nz/publications/nzgrassland_publication_260.pdf)

Graham
31st May 2013, 09:25 PM
Novel Ways will not be exhibiting at NZ National Fieldays in 2013. We have a few projects to complete for next year, and are busy working for other industrial clients as well. The Batt-Latch gate timers are normally our main sales earner at Fieldays, and that product is where a lot of our design effort for agricultural products has produced results, over the years since 1994.

Technipharm International will hold continuous stocks of Batt-Latch timer kits at Fieldays 2013. Like last year, they will have exhibits either side of the road on the main bottom carpark entry to National Fieldays (on the flat).

The current manufactured timers are the most robust ones ever, with a new case modification that should keep them working in the worst conditions. Our 12 month (plus) warranty still stands, and we are always happy to repair any of our timers if needed, or to supply external parts.

We promise a great lineup of new and improved farming equipment at Fieldays next year.

Graham
7th July 2013, 10:16 AM
Grazetech (www.grazetech.com.au) (our principal reseller and technical support partner in Australia) have kindly produced a short video of the Batt-Latch release action, showing how to energize the gateway if needed.

Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9S9IMQtgm8&feature=youtu.be

Here in NZ, the gate doesn't often have to be energized for many days of the year with dairy herds, but the story might be a bit different with drystock. We are fairly certain that stock work out that the timer is going to let them into better feed conditions in good time. This appears to reduce the stress that they feel when closed up in a space with limited feed available, as is usually the case. The weight gain and behaviour of at least some drystock improves markedly when compared with no timer being in use, and normal practices are used instead. This has not been scientifically tested, but some drystock farmers we have spoken to, are convinced that the payback period for the timer makes it a 'no-brainer'. They will usually buy several units.

Graham
5th October 2013, 09:58 PM
Putting a real value on the Batt-Latch Timer:

Most of the timers we sell are used to release a dairy herd to the platform. There may be two herds, two timers in use. But for the sake of finding what the value of a timer could be to a dairy farming operation, let's look at the situation of an average herd of 400 cows, milked 450 times a year, with an average time to open the gate and walk the cows to the platform of 45 minutes. Farm workers (or the farm owner) save about 340 hours a year of labour using the Batt-Latch, time which can be spent productively on other tasks during the week, and valued at say $30 an hour. We have not allowed for the extra benefits of staff retention and staff goodwill.

If on that farm, each cow has about a 10% chance of becoming lame during the year (below normal figures),and the average cost for each event is $300 (this is on the light side (http://www.veehof.co.nz/BlogRetrieve.aspx?BlogID=5973&PostID=108534)) then we can start to supply the cost savings. I have just read a Masters thesis (http://mro.massey.ac.nz/handle/10179/3506)in veterinary science completed in 2012. Over the North and South Islands, some dairy farms were surveyed. On average the farmers thought they had 2% of the herd lame, when in fact the correct average was 8%, at that instant in time.

Farmer feedback and the results of lameness trials shows that about 70% of lameness is caused by poor stockhandling in races, on average. Cows that are not pushed in races tend to look after their hooves better. This helps in their general production figures, higher conception rates, lower vet bills, less discarded milk and risk of vat tainting with antibiotics, quicker milkings.

So assuming that nearly all of the time taken to bring in the cows is now saved by the timer, and 70% of the lameness disappears (it may be higher than this), there are some simple calculations on a spreadsheet which can provide the annual cost benefits for one Batt-Latch timer, which should last for 5 years before needing to be replaced.

The staggering result is that one Batt-Latch timer should save an average farm operation close to $92,000 over a five year period. There are few farming tools costing under $500 that could possibly produce such terrific benefits.

As an afterthought, the Batt-Latch timer saves even more staff time when a feedpad is used. There are still some farmers who bring the herd up to the feedpad at 3.30am or so, and then they have to go back home or wait for 45mins or so until the cows have eaten enough, before milking. There are other unique uses for the timer, including holding back after milking, short rotation on feed crops, break feeding in winter, and stock movements on runoffs. Even scaring birds out of sheds during nesting time.

This sort of mini-report on tools and equipment is what I would like to see coming from DairyNZ (remember that is the outfit dairy farmers pay levies to, in a bid to improve productivity on dairy farms). Have a look at their website, you won't see much about our gate timer at all. I have asked that the reference here also mentions the brand at least, but that is obviously not possible. The other mention relates to the SMASH annual conferences for smaller dairy farmers in NZ. Three of our donated timer kits are given away in a draw of registrations, a very popular incentive. Again, it is dairy farmers who are saying how great the Batt-Latch product is.

This brochure from DairyNZ spells out the costs involved in the Healthy Hoof Programme. It looks like you could buy about four Batt-Latch gate timers for the initial costs of the training course. While I'm not saying that using Batt-Latch gate timers will solve all the lameness problems on a dairy farm, surely this product deserves some kind of a mention in the official articles on dairy herd lameness in NZ. It's too cheap, too easy, but maybe it would chop out a lot of research grants and opportunities to sell advice to farmers.

Graham
26th October 2013, 09:29 AM
We supplied a new Batt-Latch customer in UK/Europe yesterday, and he related what he was going to use the timer for: letting his dogs out for their daily run.

In his case, the dogs are in a kennel of some kind, and with a securely fenced lawn, park or paddock surrounding it. He'll hop in his car and head off to work in the morning, closing the automatic driveway gate behind him as he goes. At a later time, the Batt-Latch fitted to the dog kennel will open the kennel door, which will spring open. So his dogs will get their exercise and freedom, without the bother of them following his car all the way down the drive, I assume.

We'll wait to see how this goes, and post a photo of the setup later. It's a great idea though. Here are some other ideas for gate control in general, already posted. http://forum.novel.co.nz/showthread.php?9-Batt-Latch-Feedback&p=171#post171

Graham
26th October 2013, 12:05 PM
Here's a drystock farmer in Dakota, USA, using our gate timers to operate a mob grazing system.

http://farmprogress.com/library.aspx/mob-greenbacks-41/46/456

Graham
8th November 2013, 07:08 PM
A dairy farmer was in today (Mr S), here's a timely new use for the Batt-Latch from him. When there are bulls running with the cows, hold them back in the paddock when it's time to bring up the cows for milking. OK, this means the cows will need to be handled carefully and let out of the paddock manually, but the advantage is the bulls are less likely to go lame if they aren't using the races much in the course of their duties. The Batt-latch can be set to hold them in the old paddock, and they get released as the first cows come back from milking. Bulls can be a bit of a bother in the dairy platform anyway.

Graham
4th December 2013, 07:04 PM
From South Dakota USA, a very interesting use for the Batt-Latch timer.


Our cattle herd of 120 cows are only allowed eat during the evening after 8pm, in the last 2-3 months of gestation. By changing the cows' diet to eat and digest during the night hours, their birthing or calving hours are adjusted to the wee hours of daylight or morning hours.

In the past 2 years we have performed this with an electric wire that we moved open by tying it to another post, after we ate supper. Now we do chores at 4pm, placing bales in our hay managers (round bale feeders). We go in for supper, go to sleep and wake up at 5 or 6 am, and walk through the cattle to find if any cows are looking to calve or having started to calve.

The Batt-Latch has saved us much time and effort, very much worth the product's value.

Thank you,
Ted Lacey
Trent, South Dakota, USA


Applied across a lot of farming operations and with other stock types, there is a lot of potential in this method for handling stock births. There has been previous research into timing calving with feeding times.

http://www.jarvm.com/articles/Vol1Iss4/Gleeson.htm (http://www.jarvm.com/articles/Vol1Iss4/Gleeson.htm)

It's practised a lot in Ireland too.

Graham
11th December 2013, 07:19 PM
A recent letter from Frank Usmar, who remotely monitors a drystock farm from an urban base, with infrequent farm visits.


Hope all is going well for you and your electronics business. We have had a good run with the Batt-Latches lately. All 10 are being used on a regular basis..


Because Frank has kept us in the loop with his findings on the timers, we have modified the code to suit his operation, and made other hardware changes. These changes have been kept in the product so other people can use the features too (options like the release delay extending up to two weeks). In fact Frank was one of the few who pushed for the solar panels, which have become an important feature for ease of use, and for export sales. He tested the first units that had solar panels fitted, a few years ago.

Frank thinks we should look harder at the monetary benefits of the timers when used on drystock. It is certainly an undeveloped area. It appears that stock put on weight faster when they are less stressed from wondering if, or when, they will get moved to the next break. This in turn reduces damage to paddocks, fences and gates. The stock soon figure out that the timer will let them move, and they don't have to wait for a farmer to turn up.

Of course, having a lot of timers allows Frank to stagger the breaks one after the other, extending the length of time he can be away from the farm. He can also choose to divide the stock up into more manageable mobs, trending towards mob or cell grazing. This type of farm can easily be fitted with a water use monitor, so that anything outside the normal is relayed by a cellular link. This is not sci-fi, it's all available right now.

Graham
13th January 2014, 09:38 PM
Horses can be tethered on a lead rope, and if the idea is to let them free at a later known time into the rest of the grazing area, a metal loop or shackle can be fitted to the far end of the lead rope and installed behind the Batt-latch cam as usual. But to stop the horse applying more than the recommended 7kg or 15lb of weight inline with the gearbox shaft, it would be best to fit an additional strong spring on the strapped side of the timer (or add a spring to the lead rope if that is practical). This will mean that the Batt-Latch gearbox doesn't get the full force from the horse, and it's a cheaper option than our full-sized gate bracket kit.

Graham
20th January 2014, 09:27 PM
This recent Batt-Latch feedback from Frank should interest other drystock farmers.


We have 10 Batt-Latch gate release timers. They are used to save both time and travel costs to a remote farm block where we run 140 Friesian cross beef steers on approximately 40 hectares. Objectively, we manage the pasture grazing for the stock to ensure the regular availability of feed.

The property is divided up into 44 small paddocks using conventional fencing and electric fencing where 3 mobs of steers are grazed on a rotational basis. We are a strong believer in rotational grazing, not so much for the purpose of grass recovery, but for the frequent provision of fresh forage growth at an ideal height suitable for fattening stock. While there is some importance for pasture growth recovery we find that once a new area is opened to the stock, they tend not to drift back onto previous areas until they are short on feed.

A typical scenario would be a herd of 40 steers that are given a new grazing block every 2 days, using 3 Batt-Latches, meaning that they are being fed new grass every 2 days for a period of 8 days. At that point we visit the farm and shift them onto a new block followed by setting up another 3 blocks by using the same three Batt-Latches. The steers are familiar to the setup and shift very easily without dogs. There is never any problem with them finding the gate as the Batt-Latch timers emit beeps at the time of release, and the noise of a spring gate draws their attention. We may vary the setting time periods depending upon the number of stock and paddock size. During periods of slow growth the grazing cycles are extended. With larger herds and high pasture growth rates, we use shorter rotations. This is a management tool to ensure efficient control of the pasture and best supply of feed to our cattle. There is provision on the Batt-Latches to set precise times, with releases being programed for up to two weeks away, if required.

Intensive rotational grazing systems make up what is more commonly called the “TechnoGraze system”, which is well known for small scale efficiency in fattening dairy beef.

The financial advantages for us are in the reduced travel time and expenses. For example, the time to travel 50 km could be 45 minutes each way on a country road, meaning 1 hour thirty minutes travel time. For a farmer time means money whether it be employing somebody, or saving time to be spent on other productive activities. The total cost to operate a motor vehicle is variable depending upon many factors, but an average could be around 70 cents or more per km for a 4WD farm ute, meaning a cost of $70.00 for 100 km return travel. One can easily see that with the saving on vehicle running costs alone (to a remote farm 50 km away), it doesn’t take long to pay for a Batt-Latch.

Various studies have been conducted by research agencies and Universities into the advantages and efficiencies of rotational grazing. The internet provides various reports on this subject. There are additional setup costs like fencing and water supplies, but even if you don’t have these facilities, Batt-latches provide the means to shift stock over large paddocks. As a safeguard, we also monitor our water supply via a modem which phones us should the water supply be low.

The development of the Batt-Latch by Novel Ways has provided us with dependable and compact units that can be setup over all standard gateways to provide a timed release of a spring gate which controls stock movement onto fresh pasture. With direct financial gains being attractive, we feel the use of the Batt-Latch gate release timers offer the best means of controlling the provision of fresh pasture on a rotational basis.

Regards

Frank

Feilding Farmer

Graham
1st March 2014, 09:15 AM
I was watching Rural Delivery this morning, as I often do. The first item was hilarious and annoying at the same time. A soil scientist at Agresearch, Dr. Andrew Manderson, is the head of a small blue-skies team building a farm autonomous robot or AgriRover. This is funded from some sort of "AgResearch Curiosity Fund". They are looking 2-5, or is it 5-10 years out, when farms will be more automated than they are now.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/9355473/Farming-robot-could-bring-the-cows-in

Despite their initial intention being to treat urine patches, take soil samples, measure grass height, map growth rates, and observe stock remotely, (http://www.gizmag.com/mars-agrirover/29645/)the farmers they spoke to about it, immediately asked if it could bring the cows in for milking. So part of the TV item was how it would do this. And here you really do need to use your imagination, because none of the hard stuff has been built yet.

The Rover would use its own controller to wake up at the right time, move out of its charging/storage spot, open and close any gates to get to the paddock the cows are in, open the race gate and collect all of the herd using a sophisticated camera with pattern recognition no doubt. Then it would slowly bring them to the shed to avoid lameness, itself avoiding the cow pats and deep mud holes.

Despite the fact that AgResearch scientists and technicians use up cash at the rate of at least $150 per hour per person when they're on a job, this initial rover - which appears to be made of an RC transmitter and receiver board, a box with some batteries in it, four motors and four tyres, a big solar panel and a camera or two - only cost $4000. $4000 in parts. This blue skies fund (helped by Callaghan Innovation) is obviously going to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe millions, so the scientists can have a play with this type of gear.

I guarantee any commercial product that might result, will look nothing like that rover. I wonder if Andrew Manderson has heard about our Batt-Latch timer, which sells at retail for $395 and lets cows out to the shed automatically. He probably doesn't understand that if the conditions at the shed and beyond are better than the paddock offers, most or all of the cows will move by themselves. Dairy farmers that use our product already know this. They don't need to waste levies and taxpayer funds on scientists to let them go over old ground.

If the scientists were grabbing private sector products, testing and looking at them and helping with extensions of their use, solving other issues, and looking around the outside of what is available for new development areas, then their work would be more focused and useful.

In all the time that we have been selling the Batt-Latch timer, no scientist has run a timer-based feed efficiency trial, a lameness trial, or carried out any useful research that farmers could use to make a buying decision on our timer. Despite this, we have sold a lot of timers, as farmers strongly recommend them to other farmers. I have no doubt that we have saved the dairying sector in NZ, millions of dollars in costs over that period, and it'll keep going. We didn't charge a single dollar to farmers for our R&D. But if we don't pay the researchers for trial costs, they won't do anything specific that involves our gear, as their mandate to do research that benefits stakeholders is overridden by searching for more revenue. Big "open-scale" projects get more revenue from funders like Callaghan Innovation.

I have watched for years while a Ruakura project to measure standing grass from a quad bike apparatus about the size of that AgriRover, expended many hundreds of thousands of dollars with no end result. No commercial product eventuated. I know of two or three other projects that are best not mentioned, resulting in something similar, the gear left outside to be turned into scrap metal or scavenged for parts. And that's just a small part of the picture, the part I'm aware of.

So I'll be watching the rover project with interest, while they try and make a herd gatherer out of it. Meanwhile we'll be asking farmers what new add-ons to the Batt-Latch timed gate release would make practical sense.

Graham
4th March 2014, 08:56 PM
I have to admit that in the heat of summer here, and on some farms, not all cows will leave the paddock once the Batt-Latch timer drops the gate, and move to the dairy platform for milking. Most will arrive at the dairy, and stragglers may have to be brought through later. It still saves a lot of time.

We know that feedpads , in-shed feeders, better grass, crops, all help with enticing cows to move. But cows may have some shade and a comfy spot to lie down in a paddock. They have to swap that for possibly a long, hot, dusty walk to the platform or feedpad, followed by a big wait on hot concrete, packed in with other heat-stressed cows, with flies annoying them as well. Only some feedpads and yards are under cover, most are not.

In Australia, where average temperatures are often higher, they tend to sprinkle water on the yard before the cows turn up, using a timer. The shed may have an overhead sprinkler to keep flies out of the milking area. Water jetting electric fans are another idea gaining hold. Misting the yard and cows with water during milking can cool the cows down, but when an airspeed of over 1mtr/sec is used as well, the effect is three to four times more cooling. This system can also be used to increase the efficiency of vat chillers.

(http://masterkool.co.nz/default.asp?sid=87&cid=557826177&aid=)In effect, large numbers of otherwise healthy cows that don't move out of an eaten paddock unattended, when they get the chance, are telling the farmer something. There is something wrong with the conditions at the other end of the race.

Roger Martyn (now owner of www.GrazeTech.com.au) researched heat stress in the 1990s and sent me this item.


Summer Heat Stress
by Roger Martyn


With the summer upon us, heat stress can take its toll on stock, pastures and farmers alike, but there are some things we can look at to minimise its effects.

Pastures
Avoiding the overgrazing of summer pastures is as important to pasture management as avoiding pugging in winter. This is especially so for those on the rolling and hillier country whose sidlings tend to dry out much more quickly and stock tend to graze them more closely.
Leaving a sufficient pasture residual after grazing insulates the soil against high soil temperatures and moisture loss and helps maintain active soil life and plant growth. When soil temps rise much above 25 degrees Celsius, rye grass stops growing and flat weeds, paspalum, poa and other summer grasses move in and thrive. For those of you who are finding their pastures are running out and reverting to paspalam in only a matter of a few years after grass renewal consider if you overgraze these pastures in summer. Try a simple trial at home and 'overgraze' your lawn by mowing it a couple of notches lower than usual. Then watch the paspalum and weeds creep in over the following summer months
To avoid summer overgrazing consider on/off grazing of prone pastures onto summer crops or even consider selecting a paddock to sacrifice for on /off grazing and grass to grass this later in the autumn. Feeding out maize and grass silage supplements onto the sacrifice areas avoids the pasture burning effect that maize silage in particular has and the new grass will benefit from the fertility transfer of cows emptying out.
Hot wire electric fence off the sidlings if they're already short coming into the next round. Cows will otherwise happily overgraze what's left for very little extra feed but cause considerable damage. In the autumn and early winter months, fertility can easily be transferred back to these sidlings with on/off grazing practices in reverse.

Water
The most precious feed in summer is water. As the pasture dries and the digestibility falls, lack of water can become more limiting to milk production than the amount of dry matter available. The water supply needs to copious, palatable and accessible. Troughs are better in the centre of the paddock than split between two paddocks as this allows more cows to drink at once. Troughs under fence lines are more likely to suffer electric fence shock problems. Troughs want to be large to serve more cows at once, and two are better than one in a paddock so that there is less distance for cows to walk. Cows have a very defined social pecking order and an older cow will stand and drink at leisure while a younger thirsty cow waits. If the younger cow can get to the opposite side or to another trough in the same paddock, this might not be such a problem.

Afternoon Milking
The afternoon milking is when the stress can really come on. Chasing the cows to milking in a tight mob is hot work for all concerned. This time of day has been identified as a primal cause of cows losing their calf embryos to return empty. Once the cows are in the yard, wash the yard down with water to take the temperature away. I have been advised that wetting the yard prior to the cows entering the yard causes them to 'empty out' unduly. Rig a fine mist sprinkler system over the cows during the milking. A fine mist droplet size cools more efficiently and provides a pleasant environment for all to work in. A happy milker usually means happy cows.

Shelter
Having shade trees in paddocks provides shade and cooling air currents. Deciduous conical shaped trees planted every 30 to 40 metres are best. Shelter belts can cause undue fertility transfer.

Mineral supplementation.
As cows come under stress, due to either the hot or cold conditions, the requirements for minerals increase. Sodium (salt) in particular is important as it is required for maintaining cell fluid volume, pH, and various cell enzyme reactions as well as being an important constituent of blood plasma and saliva. Potassium levels in herbage often depress sodium levels. Potassium herbage levels are usually higher in the summer months just as sodium herbage levels are lower. Having salt available as a supplement helps stock cope better with heat stress and is particularly important if feeding out green feed maize or maize silage which is particularly low in sodium. Salt and trace element mixes are even better, as more of other minerals are needed during stress.

Flies
Flies can be a real annoyance to stock, sometimes driving them to distraction. Dung on their coats due to upsets in the shed or when driving the herd to close and too hard will attract flies. Cow health and coat quality has a part to play too. Last March an Otorohanga herd had half a dozen cows dried off and these were missing out on the salt and trace elements in the daily mineral supplementation programme.
Each of these cows were being annoyed by flies, while the remaining 225 cows receiving salt and trace elements were fly free. It was most noticeable how the half dozen cows no longer on salt and trace elements were dull in the coat while the other 225 cows still on the salt and trace elements had very glossy coats.

Graham
10th March 2014, 07:26 PM
Today we needed to repair a Batt-Latch timer which had been knocked fairly hard, the LCD smashed and some nasty nicks in the case. The PCB itself was still OK. The outer case was replaced, gearbox repaired, new LCD, and all for less than $150.

Apparently the timer in question had been dropped from a bike, later on it was potentially hit by a haymower, a tedder and a baler while it rested in a hay paddock, but it survived. The owner thought he should give it another chance!

Graham
3rd May 2014, 12:38 PM
We have good stocks of Batt-Latch timer kits leading up into Fieldays at Mystery Creek, 11-14 June 2014. We will have site M30, which is outside the front entrance to the main pavillion (opposite the old HQ site).

This year, we have some new products to show off, including a cellular modem add-on for the Batt-Latch. The latest circuit boards are ready to take a modem option, and by mid June the code will be ready to offer the upgrades.

With the modem installed in a timer, any farm worker with a cellphone and the Batt-Latch unit's number/password will be able to force the timer to release with a simple text, or delay the release time, check on the status, even speed up the release, change the clock or any of the job times. We have heard that sometimes everybody is running late for milking, and having the cows out in the race too early for anyone to handle them, can be a problem. So now you can text the timer to delay the next release by an hour or so. The Batt-Latch will also send you a text back to your mobile(s) confirming what is going on. The modem option will also be very useful for those with a second herd, because the second timer can be released at will, in advance of a backup release time.

Any Batt-Latch units can be upgraded if necessary, with an electronic controller board trade-in.

Here is the latest newsletter with more details. We hope to see you there at Fieldays.
http://www.novel.co.nz/Downloads/Fieldays_2014_Newsletter.pdf

Graham
26th October 2014, 10:26 AM
We have seen extremely good sales levels of the Batt-Latch timer since Fieldays, both in NZ and overseas. Our US distributors, Mike and Sharon Fries, Missouri, were in NZ scoping out Fieldays, and having a good look around the Waikato region. It was a pleasure having them here, and they also sell other NZ products to US cattle farmers.

I need to advise that the cellular modem Batt-Latch option for cellphone control of the timer, is not ready yet. We are testing the latest version of the code and range-testing the internal aerial. We hope to have this important addition to the Batt-Latch function ready within a few months, maybe even before Christmas.

On a happier note, we are holding good stocks of new timers, as we've removed a few supply issues. We are also repairing and refurbing older timers within a day or two of them arriving at our workshop. Always we get the messages of encouragement and thanks, the timers are saving a lot of hassles on the farm.

We usually have spare units available to loan out, if your timer being 'down' places undue stress on the farm operation. When farmers ring up and suggest they'll buy a new timer kit so they can get up and running faster, and keep the old one as a spare or additional timer use once it's repaired, we always repair the old unit for free, if it is recoverable. Worth remembering.

From about a year ago, we are converting the timer outer cases to the newer blue vented type, as we repair them. This allows us to provide a 6 month warranty on the repairs, and you'll have a new-looking timer when it comes back. Again, we don't exceed $150 +GST as a repair cost.

Graham
26th October 2014, 11:21 AM
Here is an article about Neil Dennis, our distributor in Canada. He runs a large drystock holding called Sunnybrae Farms, and is a consultant too.

http://holisticmanagement.org/holistic-management/case-studies/case-studies-sunnybrae-farms/

Neil uses our timers and some cleverly engineered gate arrangements, to move mobs of cattle frequently between small blocks. This cell grazing technique has been proven to work, in greatly enhancing the stock-carrying ability of his property.

Graham
9th August 2015, 11:45 AM
The impact of an over-stocking of milk powder and related products in China, with domestic production in many countries increasing quickly over the last few years, has inevitably impacted on the milk payout indications for 2015-2016 from Fonterra recently. I know that many dairy farmers had been expecting this over the last few months, but it's still bad news for anyone in the sector.

One of the core aims for Novel Ways is to help make farming easier and more profitable, and we have at least one flagship product, the Batt-Latch gate timer, that does this well. While we have not increased the indicated resale price of the Batt-Latch ($395 + GST) for several years (and do not intend to) we'd like to offer some sort of a deal which gets more NZ dairy farmers owning one timer at least. It's not just the labour-saving aspect of it, but the usually heavily reduced herd lameness, which we think will be very important over the next year or two. Herd owners will need to contain all costs, and lameness often costs in the region of $10,000 to $20,000 per year, per average herd. Our timers might save 70% or more, of that cost each year.

Recently I accepted a kind invitation to attend part of a SMASH conference at Karapiro. We have been proud to donate Batt-Latch timers to each of these conferences for the last few years. Noldy Rust and his team have done great work putting these events together, I can see that. When a spokesperson asked the farmers how many of them used our timers, I think about a third put up their hands. Not enough, I thought, these are small herd farmers who should be making the most of smart gear that has a low capital cost but usually a very high return on investment.

From now on, we will offer a 24 month warranty on the Batt-Latch timers, we'll be very lenient on any repairs outside warranty, just like before, and we'll offer a trade-in deal of NZ$250 + GST for a new timer swapped for any beaten-up Batt-Latch that isn't worth repairing. Units provided against a trade-in will be new timers with a 24 month warranty, with a strap and manual, but no gate fittings.

Please note that we don't charge more than $150 + GST for repairs on the timers, no matter what, as long as at least 50% of the timer is recoverable. Generally this means that the circuit board is repairable. If a farmer wants to buy another new timer kit at retail, any repair on one of their old units at the same time, is free. This would apply whether the farmer deals with us directly, or through a rural supply store or agent. Just let them know, so they pass the advice on to us. All the best for the season ahead.

Graham
9th August 2016, 08:00 AM
Our Batt-Latch timers are still in demand here and overseas, with extra interest in our modem units within NZ. The modem upgrade is $295 + GST for a 2G modem on a Vodafone plan, in addition to the timer cost. All of the latest timers can be upgraded, we can also arrange a PCB swapout for older units. This lets you force a timer to release anytime you want to, using a cellphone text. You can also delay or speed up the next release time, very handy if you're running late for milking! All of the commands and options are shown in the latest Batt-Latch manual. (http://www.novel.co.nz/uploads/76545/Downloads/2016_BL_User_Manual.pdf)


For overseas sales, we need to fit a 3G modem, and some of our agents are testing these out at the moment. Sounds good so far.

As the pressure comes on our farming systems from the dairy payout prices, we find more farmers doing more with less, and we know our timer gear can help a lot with that. Some relatively unused Batt-Latch timers are being dusted off, repaired at our premises for farmers, and are being pressed into use.