Using sun power to open gates

These portable, solar-powered automatic gate release timers are allowing farmers to graze cattle faster through smaller paddocks, while decreasing labour demands.

Neil Dennis could see the advantages of intensively grazing small paddocks by moving his cattle often — but going to the fields every two hours to move the herd was time consuming.

Now he gets the sun to open those gates for him with the help of a portable solar-powered automatic gate release timer sold by Batt-Latches.

“These Batt-Latches are what has turned the farm around for me,” said Dennis, operator of Sunnybrae Farm near Wawota, Sask.

“I could see that moving the animals more often was making a difference on the land in terms of animal impact, but it was a lot of work to get out to the field every few hours and move the gates,” he said.

Having the ability to expose new paddocks at any time of day or night often allows producers to decrease the size of paddocks, while increasing the rotational grazing process.

“These save me a considerable amount of time. I used to have to go out to my fields every two hours to move the cattle and now I just spend two hours in the morning when it is still cool setting up all the releases for the day,” said Dennis.

Developed by Novel Ways, an electronic product development company from New Zealand, Batt-Latches are the world’s only portable, solar-powered automatic gate release timers.

The technology allows farmers to move cattle more frequently with less labour, while enabling an increased stocking rate.

“Our timer is a specialist product, and I understand there is a growing interest in cell grazing in the U.S. and Canada,” said Graham Lynch, owner of Novel Ways. “In New Zealand, the main use is to allow a herd of cows to move to a feed pad or the dairy platform at their own speed, at any hour of the day or night required.

“This saves up to an hour of work per milking, and about 70 per cent of lameness issues disappear. This gives a net value per timer, per year, of about $20,000 when compared with normal farming methods,” said Lynch.

The electronic locking device incorporates a timer that can release the gate latch at a specified time to open the gate to another paddock.

“Using these Batt-Latches allows me to move my cattle into new paddocks without having to come out to the field. I can move them more frequently, give them better feed, which increases gains, without any added labour,” said Brian Harper, owner of Circle H Farms, located west of Brandon.

“I consider them to be an income-generating investment. They are very durable and easy to use. The setting of the latches allowed us to have better control of the animals and timing of our grazing. This aided in protecting the recovery time on the regrowth, short graze period followed by a long rest period,” said Harper.

The latches can be used on any gate system and have been designed with a waterproof polycarbonate body that enables the tool to endure all weather conditions.

Release times can be set up two weeks in advance and offer the flexibility to store four release events at a time.

According to Lynch, a number of farmers has also reported reduced bullying as the unattended gate release allows animals to move at a more leisurely pace and retain herd hierarchy.

A single Batt-Latch costs approximately $400 but those who use the system say the cost is quickly recouped through saved fuel and running costs.

“With the animal control and timed grazing, we have doubled the capacity of our system in the first year of use, while at the same time increasing our stocking rate by 63 per cent over the previous methods we were using, which for the most part was a twice-over system,” said Harper. “The extra beef produced per acre in the first year easily paid for the Batt-Latches.”


Neil Dennis (l)  and  Brian Harper (r), experienced cattle grazers, shared the benefits of using Batt-Latches at a recent field tour at Circle H Farm near Brandon.
Neil Dennis (l) and Brian Harper (r), experienced cattle grazers, shared the benefits of using 
Batt-Latches at a recent field tour at Circle H Farm near Brandon. photo: Jennifer Paige

About the author


Jennifer Paige

Jennifer Paige is a reporter centred in southwestern Manitoba. She previously wrote for the agriculture-based magazine publisher, Issues Ink and was the sole-reporter at the Minnedosa Tribune for two years prior to joining the Manitoba Co-operator.



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