This year the European Commission Representation stand at the National Ploughing Championships will be all about letting farmers know what the EU is doing in the area of “Agriculture and Research” with a spotlight on new technologies in agriculture.

The Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission’s in-house science service will be on hand to provide information on their activities as well as some fun games.

Dairy farmers are always looking for ways to cut costs and boost production. An EU-funded project aims to help. Its new technology lets farmers combine pasture feeding with automated milking systems – for more efficient production and happier cows. Automated milking – where robots milk cows without human help – saves farmers time; pasture-grazing saves money on feed. They should be a perfect combination, but aren’t. This is because in automated systems it is the cows themselves that decide when to go to the milking unit, and it can be difficult to tempt them away from a field full of grass.

Researchers at the EU-funded AUTOGRASSMILK project are developing and implementing a cow movement system that overcomes this problem, along with supporting tools – allowing farmers to combine pasture grazing with automated milking. The cow movement system encourages cows to go past the milking unit at regular times in the day. To manage grazing more efficiently in this system, a handheld device called the ‘GrassHopper’ measures the grass across the farm and allocates areas for grazing, while a virtual fence sets appropriate boundaries within fields.

Project coordinator Bernadette O’Brien, from Ireland’s Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre (Teagasc), says: “Grass-based feeding has a positive impact on milk quality, increases competitiveness and animal welfare standards, and reduces the environmental footprint associated with milk production.”

You can see this project demonstrating the new technology live at our EU Stand No. 297 at the Ploughing Championships in Stradbally, Co Laois next week!