The “first” concept for the “fully autonomous” harvesting and feeding of fresh grass has been unveiled by a global producer of robotic milking and feeding systems.
Lely Exos, launched by Lely, allows dairy farmers can use a large part of their grassland to produce fresh feed.
As a result, they use the nutritional value of their roughage more efficiently, and can produce more milk from their own grassland, according to the company who noted that the system saves on labour and feed costs.”
Korstiaan Blokland, Head of Innovations at Lely, said: “Good roughage has always been important for the health and milk yields of cows. The Exos is a new breakthrough in exploiting grassland.”
“A dairy farmer can now use the raw materials available optimally. The nutritional value of fresh grass is 10 to 20% higher than that of silage grass, because there are no significant losses during harvesting, conservation and feeding.”
“This unique system is based on an electric vehicle that autonomously mows, loads and dispenses grass in the barns.”
“Exos provides fresh grass frequently, day and night. This improves the taste and intake of fresh grass. Manually feeding cows in the barn with fresh grass is based on the same principle, but the options are limited and it’s very labour-intensive.”
This system operates 24-hours-a-day, so it is not limited by manpower or time.
“With Exos, Lely is introducing an innovation that is fully compatible with the transition to sustainable and circular dairy farming.”
The benefits of fresh grass
Automatic feeding with fresh grass results in “considerable” savings, the company added.
“If a dairy farm uses more fresh grass, it needs less silage and can save on concentrates and other feed purchases.”
Experience at test farms has shown that a dairy farm can meet half of its roughage requirements with fresh grass during the growing season, from early spring to late autumn. The savings can reach more than 2 cents per litre of milk, according to Lely.
Redesign of technology in the field
This completely new approach to grass was an opportunity to redesign mowing and harvesting technology.
“The system is tailored to the daily needs of cows, and designed to make the most of the long grass-growing season.”
The low weight and soil-friendly technology of this machine means it can mow from early spring to late autumn.
In combination with the Vector
The Exos operates in tandem with the Lely Vector automatic feeding system. Both systems, they added, provide, alternately, fresh grass and other feed components.
The Exos constantly monitors the percentage of fresh grass in the ration. The system also collects data in the field, so that the farmer can respond immediately to the grass supply at any given moment.
The next steps in automatic mowing and feeding
One of the things Lely is investigating as a next step is using the system to dose a specific amount of liquid fertiliser adapted to each location. This is an extension of the Lely Sphere system, which creates valuable circular fertilisers.
The first prototypes of the Exos are already operational on test farms, whereas much information as possible about the autonomous harvesting of fresh grass will be generated by extensive testing in daily practice.
In the coming years, Lely has confirmed that it will further develop the system so that it can be sold commercially.