Friday 28 October 2016

Machinery: Taking the guesswork out of silage-making

The 2016 Lamma Show took place recently, with a huge range of equipment on display. Lamma is Britain's largest farm machinery event, and the show attracts over 40,000 visitors, with a growing number of Irish punters making the trip each year. This week we feature some of the highlights.

Derek Casey

Published 03/02/2016 | 02:30

Andy Strzelecki, inventor of the SilaScale system.
Andy Strzelecki, inventor of the SilaScale system.

A clever new innovation which overcomes a problem that has beset the forage-making industry since silage additives were first introduced was unveiled at Lamma.

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The SilaScale comprises a robust system of load cells fitted to one trailer, the 'master trailer', within a fleet of silage trailers. This continuously measures the weight of forage harvested, and communicates the information via bluetooth to the digital flow meter of the additive pump, adjusting the flow of product on a second-by-second basis.

Designed and trialled by forage preservation specialists Kelvin Cave Ltd, the SilaScale gives complete accuracy of additive delivery, avoiding both under- and over-application, which could both compromise forage quality and increase costs of production. Remarkably, until now there has been no system available to ensure the accuracy of additive delivery, with most farmers and contractors basing their application rates on guesswork.

"The operator guesses the throughput of the forage harvester; guesses the weight of crop in the silage trailer; and often guesses the output of the additive pump," said Andy Strzelecki, technical director for Kelvin Cave Ltd and inventor of the system. However, once the SilaScale is installed and the desired application rate selected, the equipment will continuously adjust the flow rates according to the fresh weight of forage entering the trailer. This means dry matter changes during the course of the day which influence the weight and density of the load will be continuously reflected in the additive delivery rate.

"When the master trailer is full and breaks away from the forage harvester to go and tip its load, the flowmeter fixes its flow rate at the average for that load and continues to apply at this rate as subsequent trailers are filled," explained Mr Strzelecki. "When the master trailer returns, the wireless connection is re-established automatically, and as the trailer is filled, the flow rate from the pump is recalibrated."

Prices will vary depending on trailer design, but the SilaScale system will retail at between €9,250 - €10,500 for a complete system.

"Applying silage preservatives and additives can have a major influence on forage quality," said Mr Strzelecki. "Applying too little will often mean the product will not produce the desired effect but applying too much rarely results in an enhancement over and above that achieved with the recommended dose rate."

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