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Giant “Hay Robot” Harvests And Also Feeds Cows
Lely’s giant new hay robot harvests grass, carries it to the barn, and feeds it to cattle. No human labor is required, and the fresh grass is 10 to 20 percent higher in nutritional value than if the grass was fed later as silage. The experimental system is currently under development by Lely in Europe.
“The first prototypes of the Exos system are operational on test farms,” says Niels Borneman, Lely. “As much information as possible about the autonomous harvesting of fresh grass will be generated by daily practice.”
The Exos is a fully electric system. Details and specifications have yet to be shared by the company, although images suggest a box on wheels, perhaps 9 ft. wide and 15 ft. long.
Korstiaan Blokland, Lely head of innovations, describes the Exos as a breakthrough in use of grassland. Test farm research suggests that a dairy farm can meet half of its roughage requirements with fresh grass from early spring to late autumn.
To be effective at maximizing that potential, the Exos will need to be in constant use. Blokland describes it as providing fresh grass 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 labor-intensive. This system operates 24 hours a day, so it’s not limited by manpower or time.
This means operating in all types of weather conditions. Avoiding compaction of wet soils will be a key priority. A company video shows extra wide tires and semi opaque sides. The company describes the harvester as low weight and soil-friendly technology.
The bulk of the vehicle is devoted to a holding tank for harvested grass. A conveyor belt for dispensing the fresh grass to the cattle is positioned at the corner of one side. The company video suggests the Exos operates in one direction when mowing and collecting and in the other direction when in transit and dispensing.
Borneman cautions that changes can occur, as field testing continues and no pricing has been revealed. Likewise, no date has been set for introduction in Europe or North America.
“Our goal is to further develop the system during a couple of grass growing seasons for it to be sold commercially,” he says. “We are convinced the system will have an added value for the North American market.”
In addition to harvesting and dispensing grass, the robot will also collect data. The Exos will constantly monitor the percentage of fresh grass in the dairy ration and share that information with the Lely Vector automatic feeding system for a complete ration. It will also collect data on grass supply for planning and response.
A next step for Lely is investigating using the system for precise fertilizer applications. The concept incorporates fertilizer collected from the dairy herd by the newly introduced Lely Sphere system.
“With Exos, Lely is introducing an innovation that is fully compatible with the transition to sustainable and circular dairy farming,” says Blokland.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Lely North America, 775 250 Ave., Pella, Iowa 50219 (ph 641 621-2700; toll free 888 245-4684; marketinglna@lely.com; www.lely.com).

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2021 - Volume #45, Issue #1