Since its introduction in 2012 various updates have improved the Lely Vector automatic feeding system in terms of hardware, software and user friendliness. With the most recent update it offers dairy and beef cattle farmers more insights and control over their feeding process and results. The entire software redesign is based on user experience. Let us have a look at the highlights.
To achieve synergy with the Lely Astronaut and for easy understanding, the names for Feed group and Feed location have changed.
Location (formerly Feed group) is a location in the barn with animals that all have the same ration.
Fence (formerly Feed location) is a certain feed fence in a location. A location may have multiple fences, but only one ration. In figure 1 you can see an overview.
Occasionally it may be the case that the Lely Vector was not able to feed according to need at the feed fence due to, for example, filling the feed kitchen. When certain fences are low on feed you can now manually combine these fences and give them priority. The precondition is that these fences have the same location and ration. After feeding these fences with priority, the Vector goes back to normal settings. In figure 2 you can see how to set manual tasks. In the manual task menu, you can choose between a feed or scan task. After selecting a route you see all fences available on that route. Choosing a fence gives you an overview of which fences can and cannot be combined (the ‘-‘ symbol).
Counter knife – fixed settings
Off, short (<5 cm), medium (>5 cm - <10 cm) and long (>10 cm) are the fixed setting choices and these are based on the length of the feed types loaded into the Mixing and Feeding Robot (MFR). Based on a chosen setting, the counter knife automatically determines when (built-up force), how long and how often it is (in)active.
Fixed loading, random loading and concentrates
A well-mixed and homogenous ration is what we aim for at all times. This is to ensure that each cow gets what she needs and to prevent sorting as much as possible. A big part of this is the loading order and mixing procedure. Using the new settings you can fine-tune this according to local circumstances. Let us first define fixed and random loading.
With fixed loading the different feed types are loaded according to the set order: for example, first all the grass silage, then all the maize silage, etc.
With random loading the different feed types are loaded in turn until the set weight is reached. The feed grabber works systematically: for example, a grab of maize silage, grab of grass silage, grab of pulp, grab of hay, grab of maize silage, grab of grass silage, grab of pulp, grab of hay, etc.
It is possible to form three ‘layers’ in the MFR: a bottom layer, an in-between layer and a top layer. This could be of interest to farms with, for example, a relatively tough and dry ration. In the bottom layer you start with e.g. the maize silage and the hay/straw, as this requires more intensive cutting according to ‘fixed loading’. Then you can build the second or ‘in-between’ layer with the wetter and heavier feed types like grass silage. While the primary function is to compress the lighter bottom layer, this in-between layer also requires less cutting and mixing time. This is done with ‘random loading’. When needed, the top layer can be loaded with, for example, maize silage to create even more compression and mixing power, again with ‘random loading’. This way you can create a loading and mixing order suiting the available feed types.
In addition, the loading moment of concentrates and/or minerals is also of great importance for a well-mixed ration. If they are added too soon they sink to the bottom, whereas if they are added too late they are not mixed in enough. As no ration is the same, a % of the total loading volume (kg) can be set to indicate when the concentrates need to be added. Secondly, when loading in ‘random loading’ mode, concentrates can be added while the MFR is being loaded. This ensures that the feed grabber does not have to wait, thus decreasing the total loading and mixing time.
Interrupted feeding by default
The Lely Vector continuously checks whether certain fences can be combined into one route to increase efficiency. To do this, it checks the last available scan data for the fences. If no other fences require fresh feed, the Vector increases the minimum feed height by 20% to check whether other fences do then require fresh feed.
For example, the minimum feed height is set at 25 mm. According to the latest scan data there is a need at fence 1 (feed height <25 mm). However, fence 2 has 27 mm, so there is no need. The Vector then increases the minimum feed height by a maximum of 20%, so 25 mm becomes 30 mm. This means that there is now a need for feed at fence 2, since the latest scan data is now below the new limit. Due to this recalculation, fences 1 and 2 will be combined to increase efficiency.
Additional feed height
In the first instance, the Lely Vector automatically feeds according to the need; however, sometimes it may be the case that you temporarily want to increase or decrease the amount of feed at the fence. For example, when cows come back after grazing, or before cleaning and filling the feed kitchen, you may want to increase the feed quantity. On the other hand you may want to decrease the feed quantity before cleaning the feed bunk or when cows go out for grazing. The additional feed height can be set via Lely T4C (Vector > Fence settings) and is valid for the time period entered (figure 3), after which time it goes back to its default settings.
Dosing weight per feed fence
Up to now, the ‘feed height’ and ‘group limit’ settings have been calculating the amount of feed that could be fed at a fence. As a result of the update, these settings have been replaced by ‘dosing weight per feed fence’. This setting is programmed in Lely T4C, where the exact amount of feed (kg) per fence can be set, thus increasing its capacity and improving user friendliness, as seen in figure 4.
Time-out kitchen fill mode
The possibility of pausing the Lely Vector system already existed, for example for filling the feed kitchen or cleaning the feed alley. However, it is important to activate the Vector manually afterwards. Thanks to the ‘Time-out kitchen fill mode’, the farmer receives a message after a set period of time to remind him or her that the Vector is still not operational. This period can be set in the hand-held device (Lely Control) via the ‘Settings’ menu followed by ‘Max kitchen time’.
All in all, this update has a huge impact on user friendliness, daily routines, settings and analysis. Having Reports 76, 77, 78 and 79 available in Lely T4C together with all the new and improved settings greatly contributes to this. In an upcoming article we will discuss these reports further.