Ra-rake launch af­ter EU funds

Irish Examiner - Farming - - TECHNOLOGY FOCUS - Stephen Cado­gan

EU fund­ing of nearly €1m has gone into a re­search pro­ject in Italy which has re­sulted in a new dou­ble-wheel rake that re­duces dust con­tam­i­na­tion of for­age.

In drier coun­tries (or dur­ing droughts), dust con­tam­i­na­tion of silage or hay causes prob­lems of fer­men­ta­tion and bac­te­rial de­vel­op­ment in for­age. In 2016 in Hun­gary, it was es­ti­mated that 1,000 tonnes of fod­der was lost due to such con­tam­i­na­tion.

And con­tam­i­nated fod­der is linked with an es­ti­mated EU cat­tle mor­tal­ity of 2.5% due to clostridial bac­te­ria, and a 5% re­duc­tion in milk yield. The EU’S Hori­zon 2020 fund­ing for de­vel­op­ment of this im­ple­ment was also jus­ti­fied on the ba­sis that cur­rent windrow­ing ma­chines had se­ri­ous lim­i­ta­tions in terms of both pro­duc­tiv­ity and qual­ity of for­age.

Ex­ist­ing ma­chin­ery didn’t en­sure both clean for­age and high work­ing per­for­mance at an af­ford­able speed with low op­er­a­tional costs. Hence the EU fund­ing for Re­possi, an Ital­ian com­pany, which has de­vised the Ra-rake to col­lect hay with 75% less stones and dust and less ground dam­age, to pro­vide higher qual­ity fod­der for use in milk and meat pro­duc­tion.

Re­possi got an EU con­tri­bu­tion of €959,480 to­wards its costs of €1,370,685 in re­search and de­vel­op­ment of the new rake since July, 2017.

The Ra-rake is es­ti­mated to be 20% more fuel-ef­fi­cient than ex­ist­ing rakes. It rep­re­sents a mod­i­fi­ca­tion of orig­i­nal wheel rake de­signs which were lit­tle im­proved since the 1960s. Re­possi says the Ra-rake windrow­ing ma­chine re­sults in cleaner for­age (1.8% ash con­tent ver­sus 7.5%), works faster (over 20km/h, ver­sus 12 km/h), and with a 35% lower ini­tial in­vest­ment, com­pared to the best-sell­ing ro­tary rake windrower. Gabriele Re­possi, the in­ven­tor of the new ma­chin­ery, says the key de­sign fea­ture is two star-wheels of dif­fer­ent di­am­e­ters.

A pay­back for the EU es­ti­mated at €155m will come mainly from sav­ing an es­ti­mated 18,000 cat­tle from con­tam­i­nated fod­der, ac­cord­ing to the De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Sciences and Poli­cies of the Univer­sity of Mi­lan, which was in charge of as­sess­ing the ad­van­tages ob­tain­able from the Ra-rake.

“In com­par­a­tive tests, we have cal­cu­lated that those who work about 200 hectares per year (in the case of al­falfa, five cuts for an area of 40 hectares), if they use Ra-rake in­stead of the ro­tary, can save about €1,400 per year,” said Ja­copo Bacenetti, re­searcher at the Univer­sity of Mi­lan. “On a larger area, 1,000 hectares worked per year, the sav­ings are €4,900, while on 2,000 hectares, it is as high as €9,800”.

The cost per hectare has been cal­cu­lated by adding all the costs re­lated to the ma­chin­ery, in­clud­ing the ini­tial in­vest­ment, the hourly costs of the op­er­a­tor, and the out-of-pocket ex­penses for use and main­te­nance (diesel, oil and lu­bri­cant).

In Italy, some farm­ers col­lect al­falfa at night or early in the morn­ing to take ad­van­tage of the hu­mid­ity and to pre­serve the leaf, which con­tains most of the pro­tein.

The Ra-rake may en­able them to har­vest the for­age at dif­fer­ent times of day. Farm­ers in North­ern Europe will be in­ter­ested to see if the new de­sign could also be ad­van­ta­geous for them.

How­ever, dust in for­age crops is less of a prob­lem for them, and for­age crops are likely to much heav­ier than the al­falfa in which the ma­chine was tested in Italy. But north­ern farm­ers who de­pend on im­ported fod­der from the south due to drought or other prob­lems in the north will also ben­e­fit, if the Ra-rake brings about the hoped-for sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in for­age qual­ity.

The Ra-rake windrow­ing ma­chine made in Italy is the re­sult of a €1.37m re­search and de­vel­op­ment pro­ject with an EU con­tri­bu­tion of €959,480.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.