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    Novel Ways staff are working on a new software program called GrassTrack to bundle with the GrassMaster Pro, and also support older GrassMaster I and II drymatter instruments.

    This new software will read in data from RS232 and USB ports, will automatically find the USB port addresses on new computers, and will be fully supported in the years to come. The graphing functions are also more useful. It has a very recognisable Windows look, as it is written in C Sharp.

    Both software packages are provided at the moment, and we are handling any minor teething issues as they are advised to us. The GrassTrack program automatically advises when an update is available, if the computer is connected to the web at the time it is started up. Ongoing work will be carried out over the summer break.

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    Here is a very interesting mini-trial carried out with a GrassMaster II drymatter instrument pitted against a Rising Plate Meter on a mixed paddock of chicory and ryegrass, with some clover, around Hamilton early in 2012. Ten quadrat plots in the paddock were measured by both instruments, then cut, weighed and dried.

    You'll see that quadrats had various covers, and three plots were measured after the animals has grazed it down. So this was a real-world comparison, on one paddock, on one day. Many of the usual temperature, soil moisture, forage density, operator error and other factors were thus removed. As the GM II and GM Pro have a smaller sample area size than the RPM, the GM II was used to take readings on each quadrat nine times (spaced) and then averaged. The RPM had only one reading, but the quadrat position was chosen to help get good data (little pugging or other issues). The plotted data shows the actual CWD against instrument readings, with a calculated y=mx+c linear equation fitted to the data by Excel.

    The GM II, on that paddock and on that day, produced nearly perfect results! A correlation of 0.9953 is very impressive.

    It means that on a given day, our probe can very accurately grade paddocks, if the conditions are similar through the paddocks, and that if we can predict a suitable equation to use on the day, we can also come up with very accurate drymatter contents in kgDM/Ha for each paddock.

    By comparison, the RPM had an error of up to 660kgDM/Ha in each quadrat, while the GMII had a worst error of just 100kgDM/Ha.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  3. 22nd October 2014, 08:24 PM

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    The latest version of GrassTrack (V1.0.2) has been stored on our website downloads page.

    This is a small code enhancement to allow GrassMaster Pro operation on Windows 8 platforms, an issue that was pointed out to us. Remember that whenever you are running GrassTrack while the computer is conected to the web, GrassTrack will search for the latest version on our website and offer you an immediate upgrade. No data will be lost from choosing that, and generally it's a good idea to have the latest version. GrassTrack is designed to work with all models of the GrassMaster drymatter instrument.

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    We are working on a revision of the GM Pro manual that helps with GrassTrack operation. We have some exciting code upgrades planned. New research data coming in from Australia and NZ confirms the often uncanny accuracy of our probe in measuring standing forage drymatter in pastures.

    With high land prices over here, farmers have to use precision in their operations, especially when output prices drop in world markets, subject to intense competition. Here's a very relevant article for dairy farmers.

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    The latest update to the GrassMaster Pro code was completed a few weeks ago. The code version is now V3.03, and is available on our website downloads page. The GM Pro manual has also been updated to reflect this. All code upgrades to GrassTrack and the Indicator now work fine with no hitches from V3.03 onwards, but if you have older code installed, we might need to do the free upgrade for you, one last time. After that, the free upgrades will be automatic via the web.

    The new code gives a preliminary implementation of our patented calibration estimation technique for standing drymatter instruments. The operator can estimate and probe the forage cover within two small 0.2m2 quadrats or areas, and use this to define the linear equation in use on the instrument for that forage type, on that day of the farm walk. It's a process that takes just two minutes before the main farm walk.

    Let's say the farm is using rye/clover pasture mixes in most paddocks. The main calibration is done on that forage type, but the instrument will also know which paddocks are Chicory, Lucerne, Plantain or herb mixes etc, so will prompt the user for another calibration on those special paddocks when the operator gets there, and will revert to the main equation on all rye/clover paddocks.

    In this way, by not allowing the equation to be too rigid, the instrument is far more likely to be correctly calibrated for different conditions and forages, in any country and pastoral situation throughout the world.

    Which is just as well, because we are sending the GrassMaster Pro units to customers in Peru, South Africa, Japan, USA and Australia, just within the last two weeks!

    We all know that one of the big secrets to profitable pastoral farming is growing and utilising more forage on-farm. We think we have the world's most accurate standing drymatter instrument already, and it'll only get better.

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    This evaluation of the latest Grassmaster Pro unit is courtesy of our development partner for the product, Roger Martyn, BAgSc.

    GrassMaster Pro developments: September 2015. By Roger Martyn, GrazeTech, Tasmania, Australia.

    A significant update to the GrassMaster Pro pasture probe operating system has been released in the last couple of months. This has been the culmination of over 3 years of ongoing R&D that has taken place since the 'Pro' series replaced the GrassMaster II series in 2012. It is in fact now 20 years since the introduction of the very first GrassMaster pasture probe, all of which use the capacitance technique.

    In essence, the new GrassMaster Pro operating system makes it a lot easier to use, and it now incorporates a very innovative means of recalibrating the unit as pasture dry matter content changes throughout a season.

    Trials I have carried out here in Tasmania show pasture dry matter percentage content (DM%) will range from as low as 10% in the very early flush of spring to up to 55% in late summer, when conditions are dry but pastures are still actively growing. The DM% differences over the season can result in up to two-fold variances between device readings and actual kg dry matter per hectare (kgDM/ha) content as measured by Cut Weigh and Dry (CWD) means.

    These DM% changes coupled with seasonal changes in pasture plant morphology - as pastures change from their vegetative to reproductive phases effect the accuracy of ALL types of pasture measurement devices currently commercially available, including plate meters. This is something few actually appreciate. While these differences are indeed very large, the good news is that for a good deal of a pasture's seasonal growth, the DM percentages tend to fall within the 18% to 25% range, the same band pasture measurement devices generally have default calibration equations set to.

    For the record, pasture growth beginning mid spring and into the summer and on until pastures start 'going to seed' typically fall within the 18% to 25% DM range. After that, DM%'s steadily climb to as high as 60%; the timing of which is determined by weather conditions and soil fertility. Early spring and early autumn conditions, however, can see DM percentages plummet to as low as even 8%, particularly in overcast weather and in nitrogen boosted conditions. Winter-time tends to see stable DM content of around 20%. The important thing to appreciate though is that the big swings in DM% content tend to coincide with critical animal feed management times, such as when dairy cows are commencing their lactation. In Autumn, after cows have been dried off, they often need extra DM allowance to improve their condition, just when farm pasture covers are lower. Getting this right at such times can greatly improve the success of the remaining season, in terms of animal production or the farm feed situation.

    This is why it is important to be able to easily recalibrate your pasture measurement device if needed. For most, this simply does not happen, due partly to a lack of really knowing which calibration equation to choose, even if the manufacturer's manual suggests one. Alternatively, you could do a more accurate CWD calibration, but for most this invariably ends up simply not happening. This is because CWDs can be time consuming, and for many are overly complicated and confusing to bother with.

    What the GrassMaster recalibration system does, is it allows the user to very easily and quickly recalibrate and improve the machine’s measurement accuracy, significantly. While the calibration will not to be as accurate as a full-blown CWD calibration, it will be much better than doing nothing at all, and for many surprisingly so. And here's why.

    The logic behind the new recalibration system is based on the following.
    Trials in dairy and sheep and beef research have repeatedly demonstrated that experienced pasture managers can assess pasture mass (kg DM/ha) to levels similar to those of actual CWD assessment.

    The GrassMaster Pro has very highly correlated machine readings against actual pasture mass i.e. the machine readings taken before the equation calibration converts them into kgDM/ha readings have a very tight relationship with CWDs on a given day in similar forage and nearby locations.

    By introducing a procedure into the GrassMaster Pro whereby an experienced pasture manager can sample a 'short' or low cover area of pasture, and scroll or key in his/her visual estimate of the same sample area, and repeat again for another 'long' or high cover pasture sample area, it is possible using the GrassMaster Pro's processing power to create a specific calibration equation. All the hard maths gets done behind the scenes. The operator simply has to scroll in how many kg DM/ha he/she thinks are present in each imaginary sample area.

    And this is what we've done. It is extremely quick to do, and dead easy. We refer to it as the 'Quadrat estimate option”.

    The net effect is that an experienced pasture manager can quickly visually calibrate the GrassMaster Pro, and then hand over the unit to a less experienced staff member to continue measuring the farm, confident the day’s data has good integrity, and certainly a whole lot better that what it might have been if no alterations were made. We believe this new feature to be a huge advance in modern pasture measurement technology.

    Since the GrassMaster Pro retains the raw data for each paddock reading, should an operator choose to do CWD's at the same time, the paddock readings can all be retrospectively changed after download. A future version will allow this to be done on the actual GrassMaster Pro as well.

    The GrassMaster Pro offers the Quadrat estimate as a preferred option, or it offers a chosen equation option. The unit facilitates up to 9 different fixed equation selections, each of which is fully adjustable. This might be useful, for example, if a farm has several pasture types that justify different equations- say ryegrass in one paddock followed by pure chicory stand in the next and so on. However, the quadrat estimate technique can be used on any forage and during any conditions, so it is capable of generating hundreds of equations to suit the environment.

    The GrassMaster Pro also now incorporates 'accelerometer' measurement triggering technology. An accelerometer is that bit of technology present in modern smart phones and tablets that allow the screen to know when to flip from portrait to landscape. The technology is also used for apps, such as in games, or in recording the number of strides one walks in a day. The GrassMaster Pro utilises the same technology to sense when the probe has hit the ground, to trigger a measurement. This is facilitating much quicker measuring with less forced errors, allowing the device to be used, for example, off the side of a quad bike without outpacing itself. This is a real boon for large farms and trial areas.

    Another very significant development is that this latest version (V3.03) now facilitates system upgrades via the internet. This will accelerate product development in the future, and greatly extends the technological life of the purchase.

  8. Default Great Scott!

    Today, a standard model GrassMaster Pro drymatter instrument was calibrated on just two 0.2m2 quadrats (low and high cover), using averaged skilled eye assessments supplied for the "actual" by several trained agronomy professionals. There was still dew on the grass, largely rye and clover mix throughout the farm, the soil was damp. About 16 readings were taken in each quadrat, spaced apart and averaged. The resultant linear equation was used to follow behind two highly skilled whole paddock assessors, over 15-20 paddocks. Of the paddocks that were compared, the calibrated GM Pro gave very similar average covers, within 200kgDM/Ha of the average between the two assessors. Often the agreement was within less than 50kg. The paddocks ranged from an estimated cover of 1,300kg to over 4,000kg.

    The research establishment must not be mentioned, because we were just tagging along behind as we had requested. But I was very pleased with those results, especially since the conditions were not perfect for GrassMaster use. In some paddocks only 25-30 samples were taken towards an average, when more would have been preferred. An RPM unit was used on quadrat cuts, but not used on the paddocks.

    We'll make a few small improvements to the GM Pro code so that we are working at the same speed as the eye assessors (we weren't a great deal slower), and try out some ideas for cleaning the probe quickly during a farm walk.

    Summary: A very promising day. I don't think there has ever been a drymatter instrument used anywhere in NZ that has been as accurate as that, over a range of paddocks.

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