The way livestock farmers pay for their silage work could be set to change after the introduction of a new monitoring system for forage-harvesters.

John Deere’s HarvestLab dry matter sensing system will be demonstrated for the first time at this year’s Grassland and Muck event on 21 and 22 May at Stoneleigh.

This set-up uses a near infra-red (NIR) unit that fits on the forager spout and provides an easy-to-use, fast method of checking dry matter content and forager throughput on the move.

It allows the operator to view and record continuously updated moisture and yield information on the cab’s display. This can then be downloaded and could be used to allow contractors to charge by the tonne of material harvested.

Potentially, this could provide a fairer pricing structure for both contractor and customer, doing away with the fluctuations in yield/acre for first, second and third-cut grass harvests.

By using HarvestLab in combination with the forager’s AutoLOC system, the operator can preset the forager to automatically adjust the length of cut on the move, depending on the dry matter content of the crop being harvested.

The hardware can be easily removed from the forager spout and used for stationary feed analysis of different forage ingredients. By providing accurate analysis of silage dry matter, says Deere, the HarvestLab system allows dairy farmers to calculate the precise amount of dry matter that is ultimately fed to their animals, which should mean increased yields and improved animal health.

Visitors to Grassland and Muck will see Deere’s 7750i self-propelled forage harvester, complete with a new Kemper 460 Champion maize header in action.

The header is a 6m (eight-row) row-independent unit designed to handle tall plants and laid crops. It also has optional automatic header control, designed for undulating ground.