Travelling irrigators do not suit every farmer’s farm, but the Ocmis irrigation system has allowed Alex Wray of AJ Boerdery’s farm to reach new heights. Thanks to Irrigation Unlimited who imports these machines from Italy, Alex’s calves can enjoy nutritious, juicy green grass.

Alex has been farming on his farm near Tarlton in Gauteng for 20 years now. It is mainly a cattle farm and feedlot, but they also plant pastures and 200 ha of maize each year for silage.

Alex farms with Bovelders, but for the feedlot, they buy light calves of any good breed. “We always try to keep about 2 000 animals in the feedlot, and about 1 500 in the background,” Alex explains. They also buy sheep for fattening, mostly Ile de France, Merino or other meat breeds.

When Alex was thirteen years old, he moved with his parents from Zimbabwe to South Africa. Although family members are involved in the farming enterprise, it is not a family farm. “My father is an accountant, so he initially went to work on the mine,” he says. “My passion for farming has come a long way. My grandfathers were cattle farmers in Zimbabwe. There are challenges in farming, but I’ve always said this is what I want to do.”

After school, Alex went to an agricultural college where he obtained his diploma and then he farmed for someone for two years. “I then started speculating with the cattle and used the money I earned from it to buy land and fatten cattle.

After the feedlot was established, he systematically expanded the farm by purchasing farms. The motivation was to use the additional land to plant silage, but it was still too expensive. This prompted Alex to move first to high-pressure and later ultra-high pressure grazing systems.

“When I initially made the calculations of making an income solely from the feedlot, I realised it couldn’t work that way, because as a price taker you were too dependent on the market price. We started planting silage because it is our biggest source of energy. With this, we were able to purchase 60% less feed and thus reduce our costs, but there was still room to cut costs. That is when we bought the other farm for irrigation,” he says.

Further improvement included buying only light calves for fattening and having a breeding herd producing around 500 to 600 calves per year.

After the silage is cut, the fields and maize residues also form part of the pasture where breeding flocks are put out to graze. With this approach, Alex also has lower expenses for weed control, because the cattle eat all the green leaves on the field, except for the poisonous bushes from which they must stay away.

Alex Wray of AJ Farming at one of his Ocmis travelling irrigators.

From soil to mouth with Ocmis travelling irrigators

In the middle of the pandemic’s restrictions, Alex started a butchery as there was a need for meat in the area. They provide the meat for the butchery from the feedlot. “When the cattle go to the abattoirs, we use a portion of the meat for the butchery and the rest is marketed back to the abattoirs,” he says.

“Our motto is know what you eat. That is why you can follow up where the meat comes from at any stage – that traceability is important to us,” says Alex.

“We started small, but now we have to build a bigger butchery. Where we initially only sold in Randfontein, we now also drive to Roodepoort and Krugersdorp. We even have delivery vehicles and inquiries about franchises.

“Processing and selling your own meat are important aspects of adding value to your own product.”

The ultra-high pressure grazing system works by herding the cattle into small camped-in areas on the pasture. The cattle then eat the part clean before being moved to the next row. The grazed part is then irrigated again with the Ocmis sprayer.

Success with Irrigation Unlimited’s Ocmis sprayers

The ability to market so many cattle per year is made possible by the Ocmis travelling irrigators purchased from Irrigation Unlimited. “We have two R1/1-75/220 Ocmis sprayers that have taken the ultra-high pressure grazing system to new heights. One sprayer can run in front and irrigate, then the cattle graze in the middle and the other sprayer runs behind to make the pasture grow again,” explains Alex. “We plant 100 ha of pasture every year.”

The green fodder crops that Alex plants depend on the season. In winter they plant Agrilife 2 and in summer Agrilife 12. This is because these seed mixtures contain important minerals and proteins during specific times of growth.

Alex’s journey with Irrigation Unlimited began at NAMPO in 2018, and in 2019 the sprayers were delivered. “We have made calculations for a long time before I decided to buy two. The Ocmis units are affordable, so we could invest in two to see if they fit into our system without costing an arm and a leg.” The low maintenance costs are a bonus for Alex.

“I wanted the irrigator’s pipe to be able to pull out 250 m, but it is already spraying 35 to 40 metres away. Therefore, we decided on the 220-metre machine,” he says. “I told Tobie from Irrigation Unlimited what the water requirements were and he determined the rest of the technical requirements and suggested a 75 mm pipe.” Each unit can be customised according to your needs.

The advantage of the Ocmis system is that it is portable. You can move it to where it is needed — even another farm! When an unforeseen event sneaks in like a pump that breaks down, Alex and his workers can quickly move animals to other camps and take the irrigation unit with them. “A small tractor moves the little guy effortlessly,” he adds.

With these two sprayers, AJ Boerdery irrigates 80 ha.

The machine itself is water-powered and uses no electricity. On Alex’s farm, the boreholes pump water into two storage dams and one irrigation pond. There is a pump room where Alex has a variable speed drive (VSD) to control the delivery of water from the irrigation dam to the traveling irrigators.

“Loadshedding is a challenge with the pumps, so we intend to purchase two more sprayers of the same model soon.”

Alex has been impressed with the results these irrigation units produce. “In all honesty, I initially doubted my decision, but after only a week, I admitted that I would never use anything else again. We removed the pivots we had previously because this irrigation system suits our needs so much better.”

Because the traveling irrigation units are movable, Alex can worry less about theft. “We can lock the Ocmis units away in the barn when we go away for a weekend or even when they are not in use during the rainy season. It also doesn’t have parts that attract thieves,” explains Alex.

These two sprayers have been working hard for AJ Boerdery for three years now. “In that time, the machines have not broken down once and Tobie has not had to do repairs once. He just showed us where the parts needed regular greasing.

Unlike a centre pivot tower that blows over when the storms gather, the Ocmis units stay put.

To control the travelling irrigator, the machine’s speed is set according to a table that shows how many mm of water it delivers at what speed. If you want to spray more water, you change the speed with a higher gear or a larger nozzle.

The instructions on the machine are simple and any operator can control the machine in three easy steps.

What makes the machine so efficient, is that you can adjust the angle at which the sprayer works to avoid wetting parts of the field that will be trampled by the cattle.

“I will definitely recommend these travelling irrigators, especially for farmers who also use ultra-high pressure grazing systems.

“Tobie’s after-sales service is excellent. At the beginning I was unsure how to use the tables, but he always helped. He also stopped by several times to make sure we had no problems,” explains Alex.

Call Tobie van den Heever of Irrigation Unlimited at +27 82-658-6054 or +27 12-736-2121 to obtain your next irrigation unit.

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