Pearce: New system improves on rinse-and-repeat for sprayers

When Dr. Jason Deveau talks about sprayer cleanouts, he knows it’s not a happy subject.

During the 2017 edition of Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show at Woodstock, Ont., Deveau, the application technology specialist for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) at Simcoe, spoke to farmers about a new continuous-rinse system.

In some European jurisdictions, farmers have lost the freedom to do sprayer cleanouts at their own discretion. With point source contamination threatening ground water sources, some governments have responded to the detection of farm chemicals, so legislation was enacted dictating that farmers must perform a cleanout before they leave a field.

“They weren’t allowed to leave until their sprayer held one or two per cent of the original tank concentration as sampled at the nozzle,” said Deveau. “Recognizing that a conventional triple rinse can take 20 or 30 minutes, that adds a lot of time to somebody’s day when they have to be clean coming out of every single field.”

In Europe, engineers realized sprayers typically have one pump to either spray from the boom, circulate spray or draw water from a clean water tank. Unfortunately, they can’t do all of those at the same time.

In a triple-rinse scenario, there can be five to 15 gallons of spray mix left in the lines, or the sump pump, or in the tank.

“If you introduce one-third of the clean water you’re carrying using the main pump through the rinse-down nozzle, you get slightly less dirty water, and that’s a dilution,” Deveau said. “Then you circulate that through the system as best you can, climb back into the cab and spray it out the boom. But again, you’ve left five, 10 or 15 gallons of now more-dilute spray behind.”

That step is repeated twice, with the remaining solution becoming more dilute each time. But has enough water been added to reach that one or two per cent?

European engineers found that using smaller amounts, rinsed through the system repeatedly, is more effective. To help, they added a dedicated low-volume pump for the water, creating a continuous-rinse system.

“It draws clean water from the tank and introduces it to the rinse-down nozzles directly, bypassing the plumbing and the main pump,” Deveau said. “The main pump can then be used to continually spray, and when it’s empty, you flip a switch in the cab and clean water displaces the dirty water rather than dilutes it.”

The good news is that it will drop that concentration down to that one or two per cent level, and do it in a fraction of the time — from 30 minutes for a triple-rinse, down to 10.

“Best of all, you never left the cab, so operator exposure is nil, and you’ve sprayed that rinsate out over the field where it can break down naturally down rather than having point source contamination.”

Deveau worked with HJV Equipment to adapt the system to a Rogator, which cost roughly $1,500. More recently, he worked with Green Lea Fertilizer and Application Equipment to install a similar system on a Case IH Patriot 4440 for about $2,000-$2,500.

That may sound like a lot of money, but considering the time savings, it pays for itself fairly quickly.

— Ralph Pearce is a field editor for Country Guide at St. Marys, Ont. Follow him at @arpee_AG on Twitter.

Fed cattle Fed cattle prices have seen a sharp price decline over the past couple of weeks. Current fed steer prices are averaging $150.88/cwt, which is a decrease of $11.55/cwt over the past three weeks. Pressure in May is typical following the spring high in the fed market. While barbecue season is just getting started, wholesale buyers have already purchased for the May long weekend demand and are looking ahead to the summer, where higher-priced beef cut movement slows. In addition, 2019 beef production is running 10 per cent higher than a year ago. The increased beef production is a result of fewer feeder exports in 2018 as well as increased feeder imports. Fortunately, beef exports have been strong to date. March data reported a 26 per cent increase in beef exports in March 2019 when compared with March 2018. The weakening fed cattle cash price has widened the cash-to-cash basis, currently at -$6.36/cwt under the U.S. market. [INFOGRAPHIC] Break-even prices on Grade A steers Cattle-on-feed numbers in Alberta and Saskatchewan continue to be higher than year-ago levels. Numbers reported for May 1, 2019 indicate the on-feed total in the two provinces was 10 per cent above last year, at 1,0002,993 head. The Canfax report also showed placements in April were 40 per cent above a year ago. However, the significant placement increase was primarily due to extreme cold weather and poor feeder prices in April 2018, which limited feeder placements that month. There were 151,123 head placed on feed in April 2019. Marketings through April contributed to higher beef production year-to-date in 2019. Exports of fed cattle, including cows to date, are up 35 per cent at 173,827 head. Fed slaughter is also higher than a year ago. Steer slaughter is up nine per cent to 527,896 head while domestic fed heifer slaughter is up six per cent to 364,336 head. Deb's outlook for fed cattle: In the very near term supplies remain manageable and feedlots fairly current, which should help to steady prices. However, moving forward, fed cattle buyers will gain more leverage as supplies increase and demand slows, which will lead to lower prices throughout the summer months. Beef exports to date in 2019 have been exceptional. Given that they continue to be high, they will limit some of the downside possibility in the sluggish summer market. Feeder cattle Feeder cattle futures moved sharply lower at the start of May, which contributed to pressure in the cash feeder cattle market. Light trade ahead of the May long weekend on average was under pressure on most classes of cattle. Volumes were light and quality and lot size were mixed. Lighter-weight 550-lb. steers the third week of May averaged $227.79/cwt, which is down $10/cwt from a month ago, but still slightly up from the week previous. The 550-lb. feeder price is still $1.75/cwt higher than it was one year ago. The average on 850-lb. steers is down $7.40/cwt from just four weeks ago. The current average at $177.69/cwt is still $3.44/cwt above a year ago. Although feeder prices have been under pressure, the cash-to-cash basis narrowed from -$17.27/cwt in mid-April to -$2.87/cwt the third week of May. Feeder cattle exports to date are 11 per cent higher than a year ago, with a total exported at 106,190 head. Deb's outlook for feeder cattle: Feeder cattle trade really slows through the summer as most cattle are either on feed already or out to grass. Good quality, heavier-weight feeder cattle should continue to increase in value throughout the summer, leading up to the yearling run in late August or early September. The grass cattle market has slowed seasonally and if the Prairies don’t receive rain in the coming weeks, pastures will deteriorate and some cattle that were headed to grass may be redirected into backgrounding lots. Look for a seasonal trend leading to higher yearling prices through the third quarter while lighter-weight feeders will experience mixed prices dependent on size and quality on the light volumes that will be offered in the coming months. Non-fed cattle Good calving conditions through much of the country over the past couple of months resulted in fewer losses and therefore fewer culls coming to market. The smaller supply of cows and good spring demand has pushed cow prices higher, finally surpassing the year-ago prices for the first time in 73 weeks. The D1,2 cow price the third week in May was $97.71/cwt (see infographic link below). The cow price has increased 18 per cent since the start of 2019. Cow availability has been smaller through the bulk of calving season, but slaughter numbers are still running ahead of last year. The total number of cows killed in Canada in 2019 to date is 206,738 head, which is six per cent higher than last year at this time. [INFOGRAPHIC] Market prices Butcher bull prices have not increased as steadily, experiencing some additional volatility week to week. The current average price is $106.07/cwt. Bull slaughter is down 15 per cent to date, with a total of just 4,775 head to date. Slaughter bull exports more than make up for the lower domestic slaughter, currently at 12,604 head, which is five per cent higher. Deb's outlook for non-fed cattle: Cull cattle prices should be well supported through the remainder of the second quarter as demand for trim and grinding products will remain high and cow supplies will be tight. Canadian slaughter cows are trading at a premium to their U.S. counterparts. However, the premium is much narrower than a year ago. Trim prices remain above a year ago to support the non-fed market as well. Highs in the D1,2 cow market generally are made in the second quarter, which should be the case in 2019. One concerning factor to keep an eye on moving forward is pasture conditions. Spring rain is needed in many areas across the Prairies.

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