Striving for business efficiencies has helped one Gippsland contractor reduce costs and embrace new technology.
All while keeping fodder quality front of mind.
Wayne, Kerrie, Hayden and Chelsea Bowden operate Bowden's Agricultural Contracting at Yarram.
Quality and service underpin their operation which includes fodder production, drilling, spraying, paddock cultivation and sowing.
For more than 30 years they have searched the globe for machinery and products to improve how they conserve fodder and enhance their business.
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"Our philosophy is to do the best job we can and try and provide the best machinery and have good service and back up and do what we can do comfortably," Wayne said.
"I don't want to do everyone's work, but what we do want to do is all our work properly."
The Bowden's haven't altered their fodder contracting prices for several years, instead, they've chosen machinery, practices and equipment which helps save money.
Or as Wayne put it "we are spending money to make things quicker".
One significant improvement was upgrading to larger mowers.
"We found when we went to bigger mowers, we could have one man, one tractor and basically the equivalent of three mowers," Wayne said.
"This cut our wages by two-thirds and fuel consumption by probably half and it cut our tractor requirements by two-thirds."
Larger tedders and rakes, plus more balers have also joined the Bowden's fleet and they have bolstered their chopped silage cartage speed and capacity.
"We now have six hauling vehicles for people who want to cart chopped silage further," Hayden said.
"With our balers, we run two, to get over the job better. We are always looking for ways to save money.
"We are making money by saving money and doing a better job."
Most recently the Bowdens have considered investing in world-leading technology to increase efficiencies while boosting fodder quality.
The latest piece of machinery under consideration is a merger, a machine that completes the same task as a rake but maintains the integrity of the pasture or crops.
"One of the biggest issues with a rotary rake is that you are dragging the grass across the top of the ground," Hayden said.
"So inevitably, if you get into wet or dirty conditions, you are going to be bringing a lot of mud in.
"We are going to try and get away from that to improve the quality of the hay and silage we are producing.
"Also, the ground speed on the machines is about half as fast again, that's where we get our efficiencies."
A new spray unit that strategically targets chemical applications according to drone mapping of a paddock and changes nozzles and rates while in operation will soon be added to the Bowden's business as well.
Adopting new technology and machinery has ensured Bowden's Agricultural Contracting remained at the forefront of fodder conservation.
The family has run a base station to guide their tractor's autosteer and section control for the past six years, to guarantee accuracy with paddock cultivation and have never shied away from investing in better machinery or technology.
"We don't want to be the cheapest, we want to be offering the best service and we are always looking at stuff around the world, like the merger," Wayne said.
"There are none of these specific ones, we are looking at, in Australia.
"We have three machines here that were first in Australia and it's because we go looking for them."
This mindset of investing in quality and efficiency extends to crop packaging.
As long-term Tama Australia customers, the Bowdens know that plastic and netwrap play a huge role in the value of conserved fodder and its longevity.
Wayne said they made silage bales 18 months to two years ago and there's been no degradation of the plastic.
"That tells me we are getting supplied good plastic," he said.
In recent years they have used Tama's Trioplast net replacement film on silage bales.
"It does two things, one you can put more on the barrel of the bale with net replacement film and the more you put on, the tighter it pulls the bale, and the less oxygen is in the bale," Wayne said.
"That means better quality silage. Also, when you use net replacement film, and if you get a little hole in the outside plastic because the plastic is so tight, the silage doesn't degrade like it would if it didn't have as much plastic on it."
Both Wayne and Hayden said the netwrap replacement was initially "hard to deal with" but now they have the hang of it, they would not trade it.
"Think of it as a rubber band as opposed to like cling wrap," Hayden said.
"The plastic you put on around the outside stretches like cling wrap somewhat.
"Think of the stuff that goes around the bale, the net replacement film is like a big elastic band."
"It stores better, and you get better quality."
Hay bales are made with TamaNet and the Bowdens make sure they use four layers and stretch it 12 to 14 per cent.
Hayden said tight bales help the hay to shed water and enable easy cartage.
As this silage season approaches the Bowden's expect local farmers to again concentrate on making and storing feed to take advantage of the favourable season.
Looking ahead, Hayden anticipates fodder will play a larger role on farms for many reasons.
"Farmers are worried about the weather but also farm sizes are growing and they can't walk cows across the entire farm," he said.
"Then there is the labour issue, people can't get labour on farms.
"Yes, it is more expensive to feed fodder than graze, but it is just one person on-farm instead of having heaps of people to shift cattle. It can be more efficient."
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