Technologies for Reduction of N Losses from Cow Urine Patches
Option 1: PRL’s direct approach with Spikey
Dr Bert Quin has now stood down from direct involvement in Pastoral Robotics Ltd (PRL) to devote more time to creating a broader perspective and deeper understanding of environmental issues among farmers, regional councils, recreational water users and lawmakers. As part of his efforts to assist farmers’ efforts to minimise adverse effects of fertiliser P on surace water quality, he has reentered the fertiliser market, becoming an importing wholesaler of RPR from Algeria.
Bert remains the second-largest shareholder in Pastoral Robotics Ltd, the developer of the Spikey technology for detecting fresh cow urine patches. This technology is now in commercial use on several dairy farms in the Rotorua Lakes district, this decision being based on the considerable benefits of increased pasture growth through increases in size and growth of fresh urine patches following treatment with the ORUN® spray developed by the company Advanced Agricultural Additives Ltd, now fully owned by Dr Quin.
Leaching of nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) from cow urine patches is the most serious threat facing the future viability – environmental and quite possibly economic – of grazed dairy farms in New Zealand, and ultimately in many countries around the world. Proposed solutions to this problem have largely focused on changing the fundamental basis of the year-round grazing model to one extent or another, all requiring increased capital expenditure on and maintenance of housing or stand-off pads, and capital and running costs on collecting and distribution of manure. Solutions that permit full-time grazing are largely focused on means of better matching the energy and protein ratio of the feed to the cow’s intake requirements, such as by different plant species, or mixes of crops and pasture.
All these will require much research, and new skills to be learnt by the farmer.
Spikey® urine-patch detection and ÒRUN® urine patch treatment
PRL first developed a working prototype 1.8m-wide Spikey® towed by a quad-bike. Spiked metal wheels on Spikey detected recent urine patches with a high degree of accuracy by measuring soil surface electrical conductivity (patent application 617342).
After this proof-of-concept phase, PRL went on to produce a 2.8m wide version (towed by a side-by-side or big-engine quad). This was successfully farm-trialled on several farms throughout New Zealand.
Spikey® is fitted with spray equipment to allow instantaneous spraying of each of the fresh urine patches it finds with ÒRUN®, a product developed by AAA Ltd which comprises a mixture of environmentally-safe products, all of which are widely used in agriculture. These include the urease inhibitor nbpt and the growth promotant giberellic acid (GA3). The importance of this development has significantly increased following the industry’s decision to remove DCD products (such as Ravensdown’s Eco-N®) from the market.
Click here for Trial Results with Spikey(R) urine detection and ORUN(R) treatment
PRL’s first commercially-sized pre-production Spikey® 8 adds foldable 2.7m -width wings to the Spikey 3 module, to give a total span of 8m. This pre-production version has been sold to a consortium of 5 dairy farms in the Rotorua Lakes catchment, where it has been further developed and trialled over the spring/summer of 2017/18. A host of minor improvements have been incorporated, and the first production model was sold to Landcorp (Pamu Farms) in mid 2018.
The Spikey option is particularly suitable for use on dairy farms and intensive beef farms in catchments with (i) higher rainfall and an associated high risk of urine-nitrate leaching during much of the year, (ii) topography or farm layouts that would make the use of small robotic vehicles for towing too difficult, and (iii) climates and farm layouts that do not lend themselves to the use of stand-off pads or lower protein-content forages.
The detection and treatment of fresh urine patches are two equally important components of the technology. All research undertaken with the ORUN® treatment has been presented by PRL in conjunction with independent scientists at technical conferences and published in the proceedings for all to see, downloads available for free, on Massey University’s ‘FLRC’ website. ORUN spray treatment is available solely through Advanced Agricultural Additives Ltd (AAA), a wholely-owned division of Quin Environmentals (NZ) Ltd. Alternative treatments such as Nitrostop may be made available from other suppliers in due course. Consumers are free to judge the relative merits of the published on-trial results if any of the various treatment options available for use, and decide for themselves which they want to use.
The technical success of the combined Spikey urine patch detection technology and ORUN spray application in providing a practical and cost-effective solution to the urine patch nitrate leaching problem is stimulating interest by other parties in alternative detection and treatment options; deservedly so, as this direct ‘detect and treat’ approach requires by far the least change to the New Zealand dairy farm system, and is perhaps alone in urine N mitigations in having the potential to be cost-effective in its own right.
Other PDF Downloads
Click on the files below to see the results of farm trial detection of fresh cow urine patches with Spikey®, and their simultaneous treatment with ORUN® spray.
FLRC 2016 Proceedings; Quin, Bates and Bishop