Huge pressure on slurry and grain storage facilities
Massive pressure was placed on slurry storage facilities this year with capacity inadequate for the prolonged winter on many farms.

What felt like the never-ending winter of 2018 will be etched in farmers’ memories for a long time to come. Slurry storage capacity was under pressure on many farms because housing went on longer than planned. Expansion in herd numbers exacerbated the issue. Many farmers had to find out the hard way that storage was not up to spec on their farms.

Now that the tough spring is behind us, maybe it is worth looking at slurry storage capacity on the farm. It may be a good idea to sit down with your adviser to discuss the capacity requirements and put a plan in place to ensure you do not get caught out in the future.

As the old saying goes, it is better to be looking at it rather than looking for it. It doesn’t always have to be a case of building a new store, there are other options.

Some farmers will rent a shed for the winter or put their cattle in a B&B arrangement. Some might consider reducing livestock numbers over the winter period if it fits their system.

Where other arrangements are not feasible, increasing storage on the farm should be considered. Tom Ryan from Teagasc and the Irish Farmers Journal have outlined three popular options for storing slurry on farms:

  • Slatted tanks
  • Lagoons.
  • Circular tanks.
  • The costs and some of the specifications required for these options are covered here. It can be used as a starting point when gathering information to choose the best system for your farm.

    Stephen Robb has also looked at weighing system options for grain storage in this Focus, which offers a useful guide to what’s on the market.

    Zetor launches new tractors at its home show
    Zetor launched some upgrades and two new tractors at Techagro in Brno.

    Zetor launched some upgrades and new tractors at Techagro in Brno, Czech Republic. The biggest attraction was the upgraded Major model series featuring a new design. The design, developed for Zetor by the Pininfarina studio of Italy, emphasises the dynamics and power of the tractor and shows that design can be both attractive and practical.

    The relocated front headlights now illuminate a greater working area in front of the tractor and the unique hood angle ensures greater visibility of the working area around the tractor, providing the operator with a better view during loader work.

    The tractor features an upgraded braking system and now comes with a sensor that disengages the PTO when the operator leaves his seat. All seats are equipped with safety belts.

    The tractor cabin is also more comfortable – the air-suspended swivel seat takes operator’s comfort to a new level. Customers can look forward to the launch of the MAJOR HS and CL in summer 2018.

    Utilix and Hortus

    The new Utilux and Hortus tractors made their Czech debut at Techagro. These 40hp- to 70hp-range tractors were added to the Zetor portfolio in late 2017.

    Their size makes them ideal for agriculture, farms, municipal services, plant cultivators and garden centres, as well as hobby farmers. Sales of the tractors will begin during the second quarter of this year.

    “Machines in this power range account for 20% of total European sales. This is why Zetor has launched two new tractor models in four specifications – the Utilix HT 45, Utilix HT 55, Hortus CL 65 and Hortus HS 65,” said executive director of Zetor tractors Marián Lipovský.

    The new products are compatible with Zetor system front loaders, which were also on display at Techagro, including the ZC series designed specifically for the Utilix model series.

    The little and large of autonomous tractors
    Case Nwe Holland, through its two main brands, is starting to field test autonomous technology in the United States. Alistair Chambers reports.

    The little New Holland

    New Holland Agriculture is partnering with E & J Gallo Winery, the largest family-owned winery in the world and customer of New Holland specialty tractors, in a pilot project testing its NHDrive autonomous technology applied to T4.110F vineyard tractors. This collaborative pilot programme is focused on gathering agronomic and operator feedback on the use of this technology in everyday vineyard activities, with the ultimate objective of delivering autonomous solutions that are driven by the real-world requirements of winegrowers.

    The programme is the latest step in the New Holland autonomous vehicle programme and its exploration of the various applications that can benefit the most from this technology.

    The brand unveiled its NHDrive autonomous solution in 2016 at the Farm Progress Show and, to date, has previewed it on the T7 heavy duty and T8 tractor series to illustrate possible row crop applications.

    The T4.110F programme demonstrates that New Holland’s autonomous solution is applicable to the brand’s entire offering of tractors, from high horsepower row crop all the way through to its specialty ranges.

    New Holland Agriculture brand president Carlo Lambro explained: “Sustainability and innovation are in New Holland’s DNA; that’s how we help our customers to farm efficiently and profitably today – and anticipate the way their needs will change. We believe that specialty operations, and in particular those in the vineyard environment, could significantly benefit from the introduction of autonomous technology, in terms of productivity and sustainability. Our partner in the pilot programme, E & J Gallo Winery, shares our commitment to innovation and sustainability in viticulture, as well as our objective of providing an autonomous solution that will benefit winegrowers around the world.”

    The big Case IH

    In 2018, Case IH is collaborating with Bolthouse Farms on an autonomous tractor pilot programme. The goal of the programme is to understand how new autonomous technology can be used and how it meets real-world, on-farm requirements.

    As one of the largest carrot producers in North America, Bolthouse Farms is a year-round operation that farms extensive acreage across four states and Canada. The company’s focus on and openness to advanced technology, coupled with its desire to improve productivity, makes it ideal for the pilot for the Case IH autonomous and automation programme.

    The pilot programme will focus first on primary tillage and deep tillage — both highly repetitive tasks Bolthouse Farms conducts year-round — and a small fleet of autonomous Quadtrac tractors pulling a True-Tandem disk harrow or Ecolo-Tiger disk ripper will be used. This will help evaluate autonomous machine control in a variety of tillage applications, soil types, meteorological conditions and sensing and perception activities.

    “One of the primary goals is to receive agronomic and operator feedback on the use of autonomous technology in real-world farm conditions, so Case IH can further develop and refine our technological control and machine optimisation systems,” Case IH global product manager Robert Zemenchik said. “Additionally, we will be able to learn from Bolthouse Farms what uses it envisions for automation and autonomy that we might not have already thought of.”

    Bolthouse Farms vice-president of agriculture Brian Grant views the autonomous tractor pilot programme as an opportunity to find new ways to make the company’s operation more efficient and deliver high-quality food for the growing population. “We’re just now starting to play the what if game – where we’re asking ourselves and the Case IH engineers the questions about what autonomous tractors are capable of,” he said. “And the answers to these questions are not if. They are when.’”