GPS fertiliser spreaders can benefit dairy

Dairy farmers need to think more like the arable growers and embrace GPS-guided fertiliser application to save on costs, according to one milk producer.

According to dairy farmer Tom Rawson, of Evolution Farming, investing in a spreader with incorporated GPS will save him 5% on fertiliser a year, paying back the investment in one year.

With three dairy farms and a number of youngstock units, Mr Rawson calculated the business spread 3,600ha of grassland a year with six applications on each paddock. Consequently, he saw investing in a spreader and tractor as a worthy outlay.

“It was obvious to me we needed to get our own spreader, and it made sense to get one that brought advantages,” he says.

The spreader with incorporated GPS automatically establishes how big a field is and where in the field you are positioned. It then brings up a grid on the screen showing you where to drive in order to spread fertiliser with maximum efficiency.

“It cost £15,000 for the spreader with GPS, compared to about £10,000 for the spreader without GPS,” Mr Rawson explains.

“When you come to the headland at an angle, it recognises that you’ve already spread there and slows down the flow on one of the hoppers, as well as the rate at which the discs spin so it doesn’t spread it so far.”

Mr Rawson says this will result in a 5% saving in fertiliser a year, equating to 15t or £5,000 worth.

Although a relatively large farming business, he believes such a system could be relevant to most dairy producers. “There’s a lot of dairy farms with 160ha – that just means there will be about a three year payback,” he says.

He also suggests neighbours could work together to buy such technology to share the benefits.

“I’d argue GPS fertiliser spreaders are actually more relevant to dairy farmers as they haven’t got the tram lines to work to like the arable guys,” he says.

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