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Batt-Latch Feedback - Page 3
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    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....&p=171#post171

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    Here's a drystock farmer in Dakota, USA, using our gate timers to operate a mob grazing system.


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    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.

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    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.


    It's practised a lot in Ireland too.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.



    Feilding Farmer

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    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.


    Despite their initial intention being to treat urine patches, take soil samples, measure grass height, map growth rates, and observe stock remotely, 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.

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    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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 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.

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    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!

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