Livestock fence invention operated by robots ensures ‘Freshgrazing’

Livestock fence TD Farm
FRESH GRASS: Cows love the clean fresh grass always before them with the Fresh Graze system.

EIGHTEEN-year-old James Dr-

umm and his brother Charlie, 17, were putting up an electric fence for strip grazing in the rain after coming in wet and late for football training.

OPERATE: Charlie Drumm using his iPhone to operate the Fresh Graze system.

Both boys play with the local Downs GAA club, Mullingar, County Westmeath, which had progressed to the County final.

They asked their parents, Thomas and Laura, if it would be possible to have a moving fence as both young lads knew there had to be an internet solution to make the boring but essential chore of moving the fence easier for busy and hard-working livestock farmers.

Indeed, many dairy farmers have expanded milk production post-milk quotas so they have bigger herds but are seriously short of labour so time is critical.

The boys’ father, Thomas, was a dairy farmer of more than 30 years and supplied Lakeland Dairies with both winter and spring milk.

He won scholarships which allowed him to study farming in Holland and New Zealand.

His wife Laura is a veterinarian in equine and livestock so she too has a keen interest in animal welfare.

Laura and Thomas encouraged both lads to check out the IT possibilities and the result is that the family now has patented “Freshgrazing”, a cyber-physical device which will revolutionise grassland production, milk yields and liveweight gain.

Their concept is Fresh Grazing – their prototype introduces Fresh Graze, an automated moving fence system using two robots to allocate fresh grass to livestock on a continual basis at a rate that ensures the entire sward is consumed before the fence moves again.

Their invention has been entered for an award and will be shown on their stand in the Innovation Arena at the National Ploughing Championship this week.

They have created a simple, reliable and robust system and a powerful tool for managing grassland.

Thomas believes that the payback for a dairy farmer could be within 18 months or two years of purchase.

After a suitable trial period and feedback from early customers their prototype should be ready for a market launch within two years to customers in Ireland, EU and worldwide.

The family have been working on this project for over three years and acknowledge the great assistance and encouragement they have received from Enterprise Ireland, Athlone and Tralee Institutions of Technology and Teagasc.

Thomas retired from dairy farming in 2014 when he was milking 80 cows and has been a part-time suckler farmer and working full-time on the FreshGraze project since then.

He says: “We are part of the fourth industrial revolution that can use digital, Internet of Things (IOT) and mechatronics to have an impact on soil, plant, animal, farmer, processor and consumer for the good of society.”

Benefits of Fresh Graze System:

o It saves a busy dairy farmer a lot of time moving fences and ensures that it is done at the right time as the software knows the stocking rate and grass availability;

o It prevents selective grazing and allows for more research into mixed species swards;

o These swards improve bio-diversity, soil fertility, animal and plant health and deliver a more wholesome product for the consumer;

o The cows don’t walk or contaminate the grass and pasture utilisation is much better;

o Freshgrazing provides flexibility and eases grassland management leaving decisions easy to implement, improving grass production and utilisation;

o It leaves a digital footprint for farm to fork traceability while effective utilisation of mixed species and clover swards promote sustainable agriculture production;

o Data from the milking parlour and grass measuring devices can be integrated with the Fresh Graze software to optimise milk production and liveweight gain.

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