Farming is all about margins and Grass Technology Ltd.’s Grass Tech Grazer – the brainchild of industrial engineer and farmer Jim Barron – is the ideal solution for dairy farmers looking to maximise output from their herd and pasture while keeping production costs to a minimum. We travelled to Borris in County Carlow to find out more.
As designer and manufacturer of both the innovative Grass Tech Grazer and the all-new Beet Master, Grass Technology Ltd. can guarantee customers real monetary returns on their investment. Founder / managing director Jim Barron worked for Keenan for two decades before establishing Grass Technology in 2011 and he maintains close relationships with all his customers – before and after purchasing – constantly examining feedback and monitoring herd performance to see how the Grazer and Beet Master are performing.
Jim is passionate about ensuring that farmers are getting the most from every acre of land and is conscious of how zero grazing as a farming methodology can positively influence profit, with evidence showing that milk yields, milk solids and live weight can all improve by incorporating zero grazing into a livestock farming system.
Because it is designed and manufactured in Ireland, the Grass Tech Grazer is designed specifically to cope with the high fresh weight of grass typically found in the UK and Ireland. Grass Technology has designed a zero grazer that is robust, but also easy to use and which can be operated with lower-powered tractors typically found on livestock farms.
The Grass Tech Grazer – available in five model sizes (GT80, GT120S, GT120B, GT140 and GT160), making it ideal for use with herds both large and small – is designed so that weight is evenly spread to reduce soil damage and compaction. All hydraulics are powered using the tractor’s hydraulic system and the Grazer is fitted with an eight-foot mower, which has also been designed and built by Grass Technology.
From the mower unit, the grass is lifted into the Grazer via a high-capacity elevator that rotates at just 70rpm to avoid damaging the young grass, so ensuring maximum nutritional value is maintained. An elevator can be attached or retro-fitted to any of the machines. The Grazer features a robust, high-strength double-lined body, which is carried on a high-strength frame.
Meanwhile, the new Beet Master root washer, chopper and feeder bucket enables operators to quickly and easily wash, chop and feed roots in a single operation, all without needing to leave the cab, thus saving considerable time. The Beet Master bucket is available in 750kg or 1000kg capacity sizes and is ideal for use with both tractor-mounted loaders or telescopic handlers.
Specifically designed to help farmers maximise fresh grass and reduce production costs, the Grass Tech Grazer is one of the few machines in farming that actually earns the user money. Dairy farmers throughout the UK and Ireland who have converted to a zero grazing system during the spring, summer and autumn using a Grass Technology Grazer have found that they have been able to considerably reduce their production costs and improve productivity.
By changing to a zero grazing system from the early Spring through until late Autumn instead of a grazing-based system or feeding housed cattle silage all year around, some of the main cost benefits are: reduced concentrate use; reduced silage harvesting cost; reduced wear and tear on the TMR mixer; improved grass utilisation; improved land utilisation; and reduced fertiliser costs.
During his career with Keenan, Jim worked initially as an industrial engineer before joining the board for a number of years. He was involved in setting up international markets in Holland, Germany, Scandinavia, Chile, Argentina, etc. and found it to be “a hell of a company to work for”. However, while winter feed was concerned predominantly with four months of the year, he was more interested in how effective grassland management could help farmers maintain control of the other eight months.
Six years ago, Grass Technology Ltd. was born. “To see what could be achieved per hectare of grass if everything is done right – with the right grasses, the right treatment of grasses and using the right equipment – is phenomenal,” he notes. “Seven-and-a-half tonnes per hectare is the average usage and we are chasing 17 tonnes, which equates to an additional €1,800 per hectare. For a guy with a dry herd who is utilising 11 tonnes, we can give him an additional six tonnes of dry matter per hectare.
“It’s all about getting the right regime and you have to provide farmers with a service as well as a product because there is a reliance on the zero grazer. When you are zero grazing, you are using 90%+ of the grass and you can use slurry as your main fertiliser and grow from that. Another key is that you can get out a month earlier and stay at it a month longer, which is again increasing productivity and profitability.”
And any farmer who tells you it isn’t all about the bottom line is probably lying… “It’s all about margins,” Jim attests. “The machine is a substantial tool, which is robust and versatile and more than adequate – but we are interested in how farmers can get the maximum benefit from this tool. We have research farms throughout Europe and a test bull beef farm here, where we examine how the Grazer can best be incorporated into a system to maximise those margins. So, the Grazer is built to cover the job and we then provide the information on how to achieve the margins as well.
“All of our guys are Ag-trained and can provide each farmer with specific information on how best to use the tool to make money. By increasing the intake of fresh grass, this is the one tool that you can buy in modern farming that has a high impact on the three main costs, which are contractor charges, fertiliser costs and concentrates costs. All of these requirements are reduced.
“On our test farm situation, for example, we only spread fertiliser twice a year and still pull 17 tonnes of dry matter per hectare. We are getting five finishing cattle per acre and are finishing beef bulls at 16 months on 1.5 tonnes of concentrate. So we are making beef profitable and making dairying more profitable.”
Everything about Grass Technology Ltd. is totally customer-focussed. New premises have recently been built complete with a forage testing laboratory, where test bags of grass are analysed and farmers are advised on the best times to cut their grass. With customers in Germany, Holland and Denmark as well as the UK and Ireland – and men on the ground in all of these territories – turnover has doubled in each of the last four years.
Gainful employment is currently generated for a team of 31. “All the machines are designed and manufactured in-house, here in Borris, where we have a full suite of engineers and an excellent operations manager” Jim confirms. “A critical factor to note is that in the unlikely event of one of the machines breaking today, it will be fixed today, as we have service centres all over Ireland and the UK.”
Grass Technology Ltd.’s GT140 and GT160 are by far and away the two largest zero grazers available in Europe. “We have five variations of the Grazer and launched our new product, the Beet Master, last year,” Jim adds. “This is a totally unique tool which picks up fodder beet, washes it in one minute, chops it in one minute, and despatches it into the feeder all from the seat of the tractor. It can do a combined job and can be used again for dispensing concentrate.”
Which, again, means more savings for the farmer… “We provide tools that have a major influence on margins because grass and fodder beet are the two cheapest sources of energy on a livestock farm,” Jim concludes.
Grass Technology Ltd.,
Tel: 059 9157974
Mobile: 087 2794430
Email: [email protected]
Taken from Irish Tractor & Agri magazine Vol 5 No 5, July/August 2017