What was the challenge/ problem that was addressed? Why is it important for the partnership to solve the problem?
General challenge: improving the utilization of maize silage in cattle rations, reducing the number of fat and weak animals in free-range stables, and reducing the amount of manual labor on farms.
Detailed description: Cattle in the free-range stable usually have free access to the feeding table. When the farmer adds fodder, a bigger number of cows gather at the feeding table. By rank, weaker animals are withdrawn, and stronger animals come to the fore, which means that stronger animals consume too much maize silage and other high-energy components of the feed ration. As a result, one third of the animals in the group are usually too weak and one third are too fat. Both groups have lower milk production and reproductive problems due to the consumption of an inappropriate feed ration.
Optimally bred animals have more milk, a better quality of milk, animals experience less stress… The optimal feed ration results in better feed utilization, lower greenhouse gas emissions and lower water consumption per unit of milk/meat produced.
With a controlled feeding process, the amount of manual work on the farm is reduced.
How did you solve the problem? (Or if your practical case is still in progress how are you solving the problem?)
The farmer, Alojz Ferlan, was thinking about a solution for his problem (big number of fat cows on one hand and weak cows on the other hand, but most importantly low milk production). He came up with the idea of giving each animal its own nutritional components. He already had an electronic feeding automat for vitamins, minerals, and concentrates, but he was thinking about individually feeding animals with maize silage too. He connected with an advisor (Andrej Kastelic) and they applied for an EIP project. After the Slovenian government gave an option for partnership, Alojz went on several presentations, talked to different people, and shared his thinking. He created a group of people, who could help him to create a corn silage feeding automat. With innovative partnership and with financial support for European innovative partnership, he started to create maize silage automat.
This is technological innovation – a new way to solve problems in feeding corn silage; until now there was no feeding system for maize silage which could put maize silage individually to each cow, depending on its needs (milk production, phase of lactation, general condition of an animal,…). For optimal consumption and efficiency, especially when maize silage is limited, maize silage should be given individually, depending on the needs of an individual animals.
What are the success factors in solving the problem?
Above all, the fact that the farmer is by nature very innovative and motivated, as the whole idea of the project was his, but he was also very engaged and independently searched for and selected partners in the project to help him realize the idea. The support of the agricultural advisory service also contributed significantly to the success, and both the farmer and the advisors were motivated to participate in the project to achieve the following goals:
– higher milk production;
– rationalization of work;
– reduction of negative environmental impacts.
The expected results will be primarily beneficial for breeders, as more appropriate consumption of corn silage improves the production potential of the herd, which is also reflected in the economic efficiency of milk production. Beneficial effects are expected for the whole chain and consumers and consequently for society as a whole in terms of all aspects of sustainable farming (animal welfare, economic efficiency, and the environment).
Unexpected fails, if any
At the beginning of the use of the feeding automat, milk production decreased (this is a common effect when changing feed ration), but later increased with feeding optimisation.
If a farmer has an idea and motivation, he is able to create a big feeding automat from a lot of small components. Generally, he created an automat, which can feed three cows at the same time, each in its own space, protected from other cows. Cows can get six different feeding components, one of them is maize silage. The farmer learned how to use milking data to create an optimal feeding menu for cows, how to transmit data to automate and how to command feeding automat to feed each cow individually. We realized that each cow needs to have peace at the time of feeding. Some of the stronger animals forced the weaker ones to leave the feeding automat, so the farmer created a back site door to protect the cows that are in the feeding automat from other cows.
What role does the advisor or advisory service play within the practical case?
Advisory service: preparation of project documentation, project coordination, preparation of reports, meetings organisation, preparation of presentations, support to the farmer also in terms of encouraging the start of implementation at the beginning of the project… Advisory service is the leading partner of the project.
Can your approach be transferred and/or adapted for other innovation challenges and regions?
Estimated transferability on a scale from 1 to 5
(where 1 is easy and 5 very difficult)
For sharing the experience on the good practice, please contact Andrej Kastelic (andrej.kastelic[at]kgzs-zavodnm.si)