february - Practical Farm Ideas
Editor’s Notes
Hedge trimmer is self propelled and mounted in front
Trailer lighting board testers
Coach bolt clamp makes beet harvester work easy
Front fork guard covers buck rake tines
Trailer with diesel powered HIAB keeps seed drill going
Tipping trailer converted to carry rubber tracked digger
Levelling bar on improves seedbed and work rate
Easy hook-on ATV implement ball hitch
Gehl grinder-mixer easy loading with molasses applicator
Implement trailer has break-back for easy loading
Dual Mass Flywheel problems might be solved
Sheep snacker has sheep crate on back for sick stock
Believe my Signals sign warns motorists, helps road safety
Trailer lights fitted in protected side position
Home built front linkage designed for furrow press
Front press is based on ancient W Wilder machine
Trailer has hydraulic tail section for roll-on loading
The damage of Farm Business Tenancies
Roll-over telecom contracts now illegal
The farm as a teaching and learning resource
French farmers pay to use farm saved seed - new
New JCB Android phone is indestructible
Tips for extending the life of Rubber Tracks
Pay-as-you-use bore-hole water deal for farmers
Agribuggy replaces Bateman
The need for goals and strategies
Techniques at LAMMA for raising soil fertility
Soil analysis gets more logical
LAMMA competitions
Machinery - Terratech cultivators and Emily feeders
Volume 20, Issue 4
February - May 2012
Go to www.farmideas.co.uk
and click on subscribe
PFI, 11 St Marys St,
Whitland, Carmarthen, SA34 0PY
Cheques to MIDO Publications
01994 240978
(from 1992 - approx 8 out of print)
Total approx 64 issues
4,000 workshop projects
(Includes Innovations Wall Poster
& CD Index of Articles)
Index of Articles CD: £2.75
With Nigel Whitcombe, Somerset
Mobile cattle handling system
Dog bed for tractor cab
ATV dog carrier
Spare parts built trailed ATV sprayer has 4 metre boom
Chinese toilet has integral hand washing
Suitcase makes great store for plumbing parts
ATV gun carrier
Old cattle crush has clever yoke
Micro farm workshop has honesty box till
One man potato line grades and bags 1 ton / hr
Yard Mate hand tool carries opened round straw bales
Timber grip holds logs, and pallets
HIAB crane remounts from trailer
Gantry adds electrical safety in farm workshop
Mike Donovan
Graphic Design
Dunstan Baker
11 St Marys St., Whitland
Carmarthen SA34 0PY
tel & fax: +44 (0)1994 240978
e: editor@farmideas.co.uk
Website: www.farmideas.co.uk
Blog: www.farmideas.blogspot.co.uk
Twitter: www.twitter.com/farmideas
Practical Farm Ideas publishes newsworthy
farm ideas and products as a service to
readers, but cannot accept responsibility for
the proper application of techniques or the
proper safe functioning of projects resulting
from information published. Except for the
extent that Section 2(1) of the Unfair Contract
Terms Act 1977 applies no liability is
accepted for any loss or damage of any kind,
howsoever caused or arising. Practical Farm
Ideas attempts to verify products claims in
reports, and adheres to rigid standards, but
cannot assume liability for the accuracy and
validity of claims.
© MIDO Publications Ltd. 2012
All rights of reproduction reserved
ISSN 0968 - 0136
he past three months have been busy with increased advisory work for farm businesses and some good
evening talks to farming groups. Farmers are becoming increasingly interested in getting advice before
making major changes and investments. A few ££s of independent opinion coming from outside the business
and away from their immediate locality can save many ££thousands later on.
This, our 80th issue, includes pictures from a farmer's mobile phone camera on pg 24. What staggering leap from
our first issues which needed each image to be screened into dots before being printed in black and white. Farmers
who are doing projects in the workshop are invited to do the same - it makes great editorial for us, and is easy to do.
Thanks again to all who contributed their projects, either by post or allowing me to visit their farm and be inquisitive.
The time taken is appreciated by the many thousands who read the magazine in the UK, together with a
new group of readers in Australia and New Zealand. Welcome!
Where is Müller finding the £279.5m it
is paying to Wiseman? We’ve heard a great
deal about synergy, ‘strong commercial
and strategic sense’ (from Robert Wiseman
himself), and other positive comments
like ‘complementary positions’, ‘exciting
phases’, ‘similar roots’ but few of the people
involved spell out exactly the financial
consequences of the deal.
Müller appears to be paying a handsome
price for the Wiseman company - the
business noted for its cow painted trucks.
The offer of 360p per share is a handsome
premium over the current 250p that
Wiseman has been trading. Wiseman profits
fell 42% to £11.8m in the six months to Oct
1, after the company raised the price it paid
farmers. Müller has global sales of £2.56bn
which compares with Wisemans £917m, and
staff of 16,000 compared with 5,000.
I have discovered that the cash is coming
from a 250 million euro (£207m) letter of
credit from Deutsche Bank, though can’t
find out the rate. If it’s a reasonable 5%,
just the interest on the loan adds £10.3m
to the cost of operating Wiseman, which
might well add to the financial pressure on
the company. Take overs can provide long
term benefits, but will often add to short
and medium term costs as restructuring,
integration, funding and finance are
Wiseman has few opportunites to cut
costs. The 5,000 employees are mainly in
low wage jobs, driving and operating plant.
Wiseman is unable to increase its prices,
as the business of milk processing and
distribution is highly competitive and returns
determined by supermarkets.
It looks like the dairy farmer might be
paying the cost. Müller cut the price it
paid to the 150 dairy farmers supplying its
factories in Shropshire by 0.5ppl from 1
February, to much farm sector criticism. The
burning question for Wiseman suppliers is to
what extent they will be asked to help fund
the acquisition.
Milk market facts:
Total production: 13,660m litres of which
6,859m (51%) is liquid; 3,557ml (26%)
cheese; 1,366ml (10%) condensed and
powders; 250 - 300ml (2%) each fro
cream, butter, yoghurt; exports 3% and
other uses 3%.
Market shares: Dairy Crest (Cathedral
City cheese, Country Life butter, milk for
Waitrose and M&S) 2,185ml; Arla (Liquid
for Asda, Tesco, Anchor and Lurpak)
1,900ml; Wiseman (Liquid for Co-op, Tesco,
Sainsbury) 1,770ml; First Milk, farmer owned
(processors, own label cheese) 1,730ml;
Milk Link farmer owned (own label cheese,
processors, milk drinks) 1,440ml; Meadow
Foods 580ml; Caledonian Cheese (Serious
Strong) 335ml; Müller 240ml (yoghurt).
It looks increasingly like the only
mal-function in the Costa Concordia disaster
was Captain Schettino himself. Put in charge
of a hugely expensive piece of kit, with a
few thousand lives involved, he decides to
do things his way. That means going off
course so he can show off to friends and
colleagues on shore.
Thank goodness these events are rare in
shipping, and remain so in air, rail and road
transport as well. Yet the question in my
mind is - are they more common in farming?
The scale is hugely different, and the
consequences less. But how about attitude?
Do farm workers, tractor drivers and others
get so enthused by their new machinery they
take risks in showing off to others? If they
do, there’s a calamity waiting to happen.
When accidents involve only damage
to farm machinery, and not lives, many
farmers post the pictures on websites and
in magazines. Readers and viewers are
asked to add a witty caption, the winner
getting a prize.
In my book there’s no humour in any
accident. There’s a whole world of difference
between bumper cars and tractors, and
there needs to be no confusing the two. The
accident or near miss on the tractor should
never be laughed off.
Accidents are more than insurance
claims. Lives are always put at risk,
if only those of the idiot drivers. Work
is disrupted, delayed and costs go
up. Insurance claims result in higher
premiums, not just for the policy holder on
renwal, but the whole class of risk.
We can all learn a lesson from Captain
Schettino. He was probably quite used
to taking his own course and driving the
huge cruise ship in an exuberant way, and
doubtless this was known in the company.
He was, in the parlance, a ‘disaster waiting
to happen’, and the company directors
who did nothing to re-train him or remove
him were in effect waiting for it to happen.
Tractors, combines and farm handlers - just
like cruise ships - need captains who are
timid and risk averse.
Is it under warranty? On any farm
there things that are covered, either by the
manufacturer or by an extended warranty
insurance, and others where the warranty
has expired.
Each machine which has a warranty
needs to have a sticker inside the cab or on
it somewhere giving the expiry date, the hours
or mileage limit, plus phone number or address
to initiate a claim.
Repairs are always expensive. And
faults often develop over time. Few drivers
want to make a fuss, and so get used to
a faint judder in the gearbox, overheating
in the gearbox or back end of the tractor,
or maybe a strange noise. If the machine
is under warranty the problem needs
investigating as soon as possible, while the
warranty is valid. Remember that warranties
expire by usage as well as date, and go
over either makes it invalid. Working solely
on the date of expiry is not sufficient.
That’s why we suggest having a
prominent sticker in the cab showing the
expiry terms of the warranty.
For the past three years the 60
year tradition of the Oxford Farming
Conference (OFC) has been challenged
by an alternative event - the Oxford Real
Farming (ORFC) Conference, held on the
same days and based in nearby Magdalen
College. The senior event has, of course,
developed a well earned reputation for
looking with some accuracy at the future
at global and national issues, and over the
two days provides a platform for ministers
and government opposition speakers to join
established experts in providing informed
and knowledgeable opinions.
Over time the Oxford Farming Conference
has moved from being an event for farmers
to one for the industry, and there are as
many delegates from the farm supply trade
and official bodies as there are from farms.
A good many delegates would be unable
to operate a modern tractor, harvester or
milking plant, and the everyday dress for
the majority would be a suit, and not of the
boiler variety.
Despite the prominence of agribusiness,
Oxford Farming Conferences have been
designed to provide a balance of opinion,
and the organisers have given a platform
for ecologists, animal rights campaigners
and others. But the overall direction of the
conference is generally one of applauding
size and science, including GM.
It would be easy to say that the upstart
conference is more sandals and beards
in comparison with the brogues and silk
ties of the established event, that the new
event has an agenda and ethos which is
opposed to agribusiness and large scale
farming. Many of the well known eco
campaigners are involved in the new Oxford
Conference - Graham Harvey is a script
writer and previous agricultural advisor to
the BBC Archer’s programme (and author
of many books), and he was speaking on
issues such as the need for better grassland
farming, soil and health. Peter Melchett is
policy director of the Soil Association, a
former Labour government minister, Director
of Greenpeace and also an organic farmer
with 360ha with pigs, beef and arable.
Comparing the events is fascinating, not
least because all farmers are well aware
of the divisions between them. For OFC
the future is a mixture of science and
technology, the desire to grasp commercial
opportunities and build bigger and more
profitable farm businesses. Down the road
at Magdalen the Real Farmers were being
inspired by people such as Tony Juniper
- sustainability and environmental advisor,
Julia Wright - deputy director of the Centre
for Agroecology at Coventry University.
Some speakers, like Peter Lundgren from
Lincs, have a direct farming background,
but Rona Amiss, a new entrant to farming
on a Devon CC smallholding was the
exception and star of the show. She,
among all the great and good from
organisations across the UK, is getting
her hands dirty rearing ducks and geese,
beef cattle, sheep and goats, and selling
them directly to the public. Young, bright,
determined, her mission is to succeed
with a business that’s independent of
grant funding from government or other
bodies. Their business plan is economically
sustainable, relying entirely on the sale of
produce and not the completion of forms,
the successful application for bursaries of
one kind or another.
What a pity it is that the farming
TEL: 01994 240978
debate has become so polarised to have
competing events in the same location at
the same time, creating greater division
and underlining the incompatibility of both
sides. With the two events running side by
side there is increasingly less chance for
agreement, and the result is that farmers
will be forced to position themselves. Yet it
is the middle road that’s undoubtedly the
one which farming really needs to take. And
while both camps work hard at developing
policy, with the outpouring of bold
statements, there’s a crying need for some
practical ideas as well, such as those put
forward by the inspirational Rona Amiss.
Recent headlines concerning
government waste have included the money
spent on the farm sector through fines from
the European Commission on the Rural
Payments Agency for the delays and
inefficiency in its operation. Coupled with
huge over-budget computer systems, the
RPA is placed at sixth highest waster in a
major survey undertaken by The Times.
In the past two years an amazing £31
billion of taxpayers money has been wasted
according to The Times research which
analysed more than 70 reports from the
National Audit Office NAO. The waste is
twice the extra cuts (of £15bn) announced
by the Chancellor, and 35% of the cuts
needed in this parliament. While £6bn has
been wasted in delayed or defective defence
projects, and £10bn in uncollected income
tax, billions more are being overspent on
inefficient or abandoned computer systems,
transport and capital projects.
Farming, through the Rural Payments
Agency, with the failure of the £350m
computer system designed to manage
subsidies, resulting in £628 million in
‘unforseen’ costs to the taxpayer, comes in
for heavy criticism, as this total includes a
staggering £175 million in fines imposed by
the European Commission for inefficiences
in distributing subsidies to farmers in
2007/08/09. Correcting earlier mistakes has
cost £119m. By 2009 the admin costs of
the SFP were £305m more than budgeted,
and the NAO remains concerned that the
Agency has yet to get its act in order.
While the blame rests with the
government department, the mud flies
wider. Questions are asked about the need
and effect of rural subsidies in the UK and
Europe, and how this spending squares
with the currency crisis.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of policy,
it seems reasonable to suggest that farmers
will be happy with less focus on the Rural
Payment Agency and its inefficiencies.
Worldwide, BMW are pulling in
235,000 Minis (30,000 in the UK) to fix a fault
in the electric water pump which could lead
to a fire. How extraordinary to wait for so
long before reacting. Some years ago there
was a question over the Mini power steering
pump which was prone to overheating. Cars
caught fire, but the company avoided a
The need for recalls is greater now than
in past years, when product quality was more
variable. Long gone are the days when you
bought a Friday car or a ‘good ‘un’ made
on a Wednesday. Today vehicles are largely
made by machines. So if one has a pump
which can overheat, there’s a good chance
that every owner has the potential of experiencing the problem. It applies to tractors and
other machinery.
How extraordinary that a company as
savvy as BMW should not react quicker.
Dealers can often do more for their
customers, and get tough with their supply
companies when things go wrong. All too
often they seem to get protective of their
franchises, and try blaming the farmer,
saying they have never seen the fault before,
offering some 50% fix for the problem.
‘Anonymous’ posted this comment
on the failure of small family farms and their
He says the loss of small farms is a
sad situation for the traditional agricultural
contractor, who does regular recurring work
for small farms, and provides seasonal work
for the sons, and daughters, of the small
farm, who bring with them skills which can
only come from living and working on a
small farm. It was a win win situation.
He says the traditional contractor is being
supplanted by the large well machanised
farmer who takes on outside work to spread
the financial burden of his equipment. These
large farmers put the small agricultural
contractor's role into the last century. With a
large Single Farm Payment, plenty of acres
and men, this new breed of contractor can
take or leave the job as it is all additional
to the farming business, and not essential.
His farm covers the risk of buying large
equipment, his SFP is guaranteed and he is
not reliant on the customer. His price cutting
can be brutal.
Anon says it’s a sad state of affairs, and
he thinks that the Single Farm Payment has
done damage to the farming community.
In use for the past 12 years, this machine has transformed the job
maintaining the hedges on a 1,100 acres Worcestershire farm.
After a few days using a rear mounted trimmer on a tractor
Matthew Stone was ready to spend time making something
which was much easier to drive. He mounted a Spearhead
hedge trimmer on a worn out John Deere self propelled
The conventional tractor mounted hedge trimmer needs a
flexible operator who has no difficulty in looking over either
shoulder while working the controls of both the tractor and
the cutter itself. Whether brand new or second hand, every
hedge cutter still has the operator looking backwards as he
works, and many people find it a physical strain.
With the millions of miles of hedges in the UK, there’s a
clear place for a trimmer that is easier to operate, yet this is
the first machine of it’s kind we have encountered in the 20
years we have been publishing Practical Farm ideas magazine.
It is easier to drive with a one-lever hydrostatic transmission
which allows the engine to rev at a constant speed while the
vehicle speed and direction is changed with one hand. These
features create a machine with a better work rate compared to
a regular tractor. Savings in fuel, working hours and, on the
highway, traffic hold-ups are all positive features. Add to
this driver comfort, and the ability to put in longer hours while
feeling comfortable are a further benefits. When the machine is
based on a low cost (approx £4k) machine which doomed to
be broken up for scrap, the attractions are even greater.
Top: look forward to work and
simple to control, the machine is
easy to manoeuvre at constant
revs. Right: Matthew’s son John
with his hand on the Spearhead’s
joystick control. The red lever by
the steering wheel controls both
direction and speed in the 4 x 2
gearbox. Far right: transport
width has the machine tucked
nicely in the width, while the
view from the cab is more than
The machine is one which will attract favourable comments
from all who spend time on standard trimmers, and is very
likely to be the inspiration for other similar machines across
the UK and Ireland, and further afield. The problems of the
conventional machine are:
back window
to be comfortable facing directly forward
changing forward gears and moving from forward to reverse
leaving the flail arm in the same position
- it moves out as the tractor turns in
addition he strengthened the frame of the machine, and also
replaced the original diesel tank which was under the cab floor
with a combine tank fitted on top, so providing easy room to
work on the drive mechanism.
This change of use of a 1976 150HP John Deere forage
harvester helps solve all these operating problems. The
machine has been used as a hedge trimmer with no problems,
and has made it a far more pleasant job, as well as achieving
more in each hour spent on the machine.
The project involved some major alterations to the forager,
and also the hedge trimmer itself, but few which would cause
an experienced farm engineer many difficulties.
Fitting the PTO
The mechanical PTO drive uses the triple belt pulley that used to
drive the forager’s chopping cylinder. Matthew built a cross shaft
with a 90 degree box to drive a PTO shaft fitted to the front of
the machine, driven by a slave pulley. The pulley still uses triple
belts, and he fitted a tensioning pulley on the back of the belts
which is tightened with a hydraulic ram. The pulley puts the
PTO in and out of gear, allowing the engine to be started with no
load. The drive from slave pulley to the 90 degree box has a flexi
joint to take up any misalignment or vibration. He set the PTO
up to turn at 540 as he was planning to use a 540 scrub cutter on
the front in place of the hedge trimmer.
“Taking the power down one shaft to a pulley, through
triple vee belts to a second cross shaft and a bevel gear may
not be very pretty in engineering terms, but using the existing
shaft and pulley saved expense. It also allowed the PTO to be
easily positioned under the transmission and meant there was
no need to alter the existing gearbox, and it all works without
a problem,” says Matthew
Adapting the John Deere harvester
The machine needed two main changes
1. a mechanically driven clockwise turning PTO in the centre
front of the John Deere and
2. a 3-pt mounting system for the hedge cutter itself. In
Adding a 3-pt linkage
The front 3-pt linkage is built on a new frame he made to go
across the front of the machine. There are a pair of lift rams,
a top link clevis and stabiliser bars, so the hedge trimmer is
mounted in exactly the same way as it might be on the rear of
Top left: the arm can be rotated through 180
degrees using a ram at the base of the main
square box section mounting pillar which is
located to the frame with two substantial clevis
pins. Top right: the engine runs cool as the
rad is large and the work load light. Could do
with an electric or viscous fan, or a smaller rad
in front of the existing continuously driven one.
Right: despite its age the Deere harvester
has been reliable. Main problem was with the
hydrostatic drive pump which packed up - and
replaced by one from a Massey forager, which
was luckily identical. Far right: the triple
drive belt is behind the cover.
TEL: 01994 240978
a tractor. The PTO drive is in the centre and so
lines up easily. Strengthening the frame
Closer inspection of the frame showed it had
cracked and been welded in some places, while
some other cracks needed treatment.
“My guess is trailers were hooked to the
harvester - maybe even loaded ones being
brought back at the end of a day - which added
stresses the frame wasn’t designed to take,” says
“While modern harvesters have hitches, they
were’nt fitted to these old ones, and perhaps
you can see why.”
The damage made him slightly concerned
about hanging a heavy hedge trimmer on the
front, and so he decided to add extra strength
to the frame for the front as well as the rear.
Adapting the hedge trimmer
Fitting the unaltered hedge trimmer to the
front 3-pt has the flail head facing backwards
- so it needs to be turned around. Matthew
altered the dipper arm and not the head itself,
turning it around to face the other direction, so
the head mounting was therefore untouched.
The top of the dipper arm needed to have
the breakaway ram positioned on the other
side. The head swivel ram is unaltered but the
top bracket of the arm changed around so the
link bar is the right way round. This was the
easiest way to modify the machine so it cut in
the other direction.
The advantages of a self propelled hedge trimmer
are no less than those of the self propelled
forager. There’s no comparing a self propelled
forager to a trailed one, and it’s much the same
with the hedge trimmer. Just as the forager driver
has the work directly in front of the machine,
so the hedge trimmer’s flail head is seen through
the windscreen rather than the back window.
The rear steering axle makes lining up work
easier, and the sharp steering lock on the John
Deere provides a tight turning circle. Reversing
to get into corners or to line up a swath properly
is no problem and can be done quickly.
There are major transmission benefits as
well. The ability to have a continuous change
of both speed and direction on a single lever
with an unaltered PTO speed is of as much
benefit when hedge cutting as foraging. The
benefits of hydrostatic drive is experienced
every minute the machine is being used.
The machine is used on the 1,100 farm,
and not out on contract - yet would make an
excellent contractor’s tool.
Top, left to right: the
main drive from the original
pulley has a hydraulic
operated tensioner; the new
shaft with a flexi-drive unit
and, on the left, the bevel box
which drives the PTO spline;
the front PTO and stabiliser
bars on the hedge trimmer.
Middle, left to right:
looking forward to the back
of the front plate made to
carry the 3-pt linkage. The
horizontal ram pulls the
tension pulley into drive or
idle; the front view of the
3-pt mounting plate showing
tops of the lift rams and
hydraulic outlets; the lower
part of the lift ram and frame.
Note the strut going back
under the machine.
Above, left to right:
a weak spot in front of the
engine bay where there’s
been welding and also
a gusset added; looking
towards the front of the
machine, showing the box
section struts added to stiffen
the John Deere chassis. The
PTO drive box is clearly seen;
the dipper arm head is turned
around ... and the breakaway
ram is on the other side.
Above left: the light tester designed and built at Holme Lacey College
has a socket for the trailer lighting plug and clips for the 12v power supply. Right: plug this into the lighting socket on the back of the tractor or
Land Rover and you can see if the socket is working properly. It’s better
than testing on a trailer.
The declining interest in farming led to a dramatic reduction
in the number of people wanting to do farming related courses.
Well established agricultural colleges threw in the towel as their
student numbers declined, and farm education became focussed
on fewer sites and institutions. Holme Lacey in Herefordshire
bucked the trend and kept up its involvement in the industry,
adapting what it had to offer to the changing circumstances of
the time. As every farmer knows, in the 20 years from 1990 to
2010 there has been massive changes in terms of farm size, the
level and technology involved in mechanisation, and also the
impact of safety and product legislation which has heaped a new
level of responsibility of those in the business. The Holme Lacey
courses were modified and adapted to reflect these changes, and
the result is a regional college with education that suits and
reflects the needs of today.
Richard Rudge is a senior lecturer in the agriculture
department, and he allows his interest in the practical side of
farming to percolate to his students.
“Solving farm problems needs skills - you need the ability
to do logical analysis and then the confidence to work with
a whole range of workshop tools. So while theory is clearly
important, the practical aspects of student development are of
vital importance as well,” he says.
Richard shows students the way by using the design and
construction of useful gizmos as class exercise. This way allows
all students to be involved in all of the various elements of the
job - and any who want to make a replica for their own farms
can obviously do this as well.
Trailer lighting is a source of regular problems and the
consequences of a mal-function are considerable. Farm vehicles
have an earned reputation of having poor lighting, but Richard’s
teaching should improve the lights on implements and trailers
in Herefordshire! The cause can be either on the tow vehicle or
the wiring on the trailer, and Richard Budge, with the help of
his students, has built two detectors which check the system.
Trailer light tester
Checking trailer lights without having a tow vehicle with a
fully operational lighting socket is useful for many farms. Being
able to walk around all the towed trailers and implements,
push the plug into tester and see an answer directly is far
better than relying on sporadic testing done when the trailer
is hooked up. By then there’s no time to do a repair. Richard
reckoned that many students would find the tester useful,
whether they were from farming families or were planing a
career in agri mechanics.
The result of the educational exercise is a box with a socket
for the lighting plug, and a series of lights on top that shine
when the circuit was made. There’s no need to go to the back
of the trailer to see the lights. Faults need investigating in the
normal way.
The tester has crocodile clips to go on any 12v battery, and
when the toggle switches are pressed the current is sent to the
different circuits, and the LED lights glow.
Building the tester does more than make a useful machine,
as it provides a practical application of theory, and a useful
start in designing and understanding vehicle circuits.
TEL: 01994 240978
Socket tester
Trailer light failure can equally occur on because the tow
vehicle is at fault. There are several 5v LEDs and 1000
ohm resistors inside this box. As the lights are tried the
corresponding led lights show whether the vehicle’s electrics
are working properly. On the top there is an extra connector
which can be used to conduct a resistance test on the earth
return to the battery. For this a multimeter is used.
Followup: Richard Rudge, Holme Lacy College,
Holme Lacy, Herefordshire, HR2 6LL
t: 0800 032 1986 e: enquiries@hct.ac.uk
Above: the removal clamp made for the job.
Left: workshop simulation - the coach bolt
head is locked by tightening the bolt at the
bottom, and the socket fits through the ring at
the top. Below: here’s the problem - coach
bolts that you can’t get to with threads that are
stiff with dirt and rust.
Here’s a nifty tool which will help anyone adjusting or replacing
the tines of a cleaning turbine or cyclone on beet harvesters
that use coach bolts to fix them. Suffolk farmer Richard Cook
struggled enough times to think of a solution to the problem.
The problem is that the bolt head is smooth and there’s no
means of gripping it. The bolts are dirty and rusty so the nuts
are hard to move at any point on the thread. When the job
needs doing there are generally a dozen or more bolts to undo
and replace, and each can be a labour of love and frustration.
For it takes more than fingers to hold the bolt, and mole grips
are not much use. Holding the bolt head tight into the square
with a finger or thumb is near impossible for one person, and
hard enough for two.
When the tine bolts are old and the square worn, the
problem of tightening becomes greater.
This tool solves the problem by pushing the bolt tight into
the square hole, and holds it there for the whole time you are
undoing or tightening. So the job is easy for the full length
of the thread - the bolt is locked tight and you just use the
normal socket spanner. When the nut is tight on you remove
the clamp with a few turns on the nut on the base, and move
to the next coach bolt.
Replacing coach bolts on cyclones or other kit becomes
easy, and therefore almost pleasurable.
The clamp is not too difficult to make. You need a short
length of thick plate with a hole in it, and a 12mm or so nut
and bolt, and weld the nut to the plate, then thread the bolt
on and weld another nut on the end and make a slight dish
in it with a sleeve which you weld on. The dish needs to
be shallow, just to locate the head of the target coach bolt.
Welding this edgeways on a short length of strap (so it fits
easily between the tines) you fit a ring at the top which goes
around the nut you’re removing, leaving space all round for
the socket to go in to. It’s easier to follow the picture!
An unprotected buck rake is a safety
issue, even if still remains a common
sight on rural roads in the summer.
Police in some parts of the UK are
taking the issue seriously, and are
stopping drivers and telling them they
can go no further. When there’s a busy
schedule with silage to be done on ten
farms at once, the delay caused is one
which any farmer or contractor can do
Paul Nixon from Central Scotland
has designed and built a cover for
his rake which can’t be faulted,
protecting motorists and satisfying the
local police. Not only does it go onto
the rake easily, there’s just a single
coupling to locate it solidly to the
buck rake frame. Apart from the law,
and minimising the effects of a bump
TEL: 01994 240978
with an on-coming vehicle, the guard
converts the rake into a useful carrier.
Paul made the frame with 2in box
and has a front bar of 6in channel
- this was the steel he had around.
Tube and box section form the sleeves
that cover the side tines. These are
important, as many accidents occur
right at the side - where the near
miss was just a few inches too close.
Unprotected side tines would have a
devastating effect when penetrating a
thin clad car.
Painting the guard brightly and
covering with safety tape helps keep
on-coming traffic away, and so far the
frame has not been tested. Long may
that continue! Nor have there been any
objections from the boys in blue - some
who have provided compliments.
Top left: the buck rake guard
converts it into a kind of front
mounted link box, allowing safe
transport of useful big items
such as spare wheels.
Top right: the bright;y painted
frame, covered in warning
tape, stands upright for easy
mounting on the rake.
Middle, left to right:
there’s a single point to fix on
the buckrake, a link which goes
over the top and is held with
a pin in a clevis welded to the
frame of the buck rake; light
mesh at the back; side tines
are all in sheaths so no damage
caused by side swipes.
Above: it’s designed strong
enough - buck rake and guard
all lifted with a single pallet fork;
a neat way to stow and carry a
heavy link
This HIAB equipped trailer is particularly
useful when drilling corn, as the ex-road
trailer can carry 14 tonnes of seed at a time.
While there are few farmers today who don’t
cart seed to the field edge, most have to rely
on a loader of some kind being around to lift
the bags. In many cases the loader is useful
for other jobs, and it’s role in the drilling job
takes little time.
It all makes the crane fitted trailer an
ideal machine, and this one is even better
than some as the crane is driven by a diesel
engine and pump located under the deck. So
no need for a loader, and no need to hook
the crane up to the drill tractor’s hydraulics.
And with a crane of this strength, there’s no
need to have the drill hopper adjacent to the
trailer - it can handle a full one tonne bag
at full stretch. The result is more acres sown
with few interruptions.
The artic trailer has 10ft cut from the front
of the deck to make it easier to get into
gateways, and a high capacity drawbar fitted
to the front. This is anchored to the main
frame some distance behind the front panel,
and heavy struts hold the drawbar in place,
designed to resist the side forces which occur
when the trailer is asked to turn sharply. The
parking jacks stay where they were, and are
now right at the front of the machine.
The trailer was bought ready equipped
with both crane and power pack, which
made the conversion one of changing the
trailer design.
Top: look at the hefty drawbar
and the way it goes far back
under the trailer, plus the angled
struts which take the side forces
exerted when turning. The road
trailer is cut off so the jacks are
right at the front. Above left: the
diesel engine and hydraulic pump
remain untouched from its time on
the road, and present a unit that’s
far less attractive to thieves than a
Honda engine. harder to remove
as well. Above right: the high
capacity crane straddles the deck
of the trailer, has hydraulic legs,
and can load a one tonne bag at
full stretch
Left: this easy to load trailer makes real
sense for the farm digger which fits neatly
on the converted Marshall tipping trailer.
Above: the trailer was stripped down to
its chassis before the axle was removed.
Right: the chassi before boards were
added - they run lengthwise and rest on
the short cross pieces. Below: ready
to be loaded. The scrap Marshall has
another 20+ years ahead of it - all for
minimal cost
Moving rubber tracked diggers from site to site is a simple job
for David Muir and his father Jack, now that the machine is
driven onto this trailer. The Dumfries farmers use the digger
all over their farm, and it is useful to move it without wasting
time. Driving the 3 ton JCB 803 plus on its tracks was a slow
business, and adds wear to the tracks. Today they drive it onto
a trailer they made from a scrap Marshall tipper, and move it
around the farm at tractor speed.
The trailer was bought from a neighbour as scrap. They
stripped it down to the basic chassis before rebuilding into a
wider machine which loads the digger between the wheels.
The design meant adding a 6 x 3 channel to the sides of
the chassis and making the axle 18in wider, which allows
the digger to fit between the wheels rather than on a deck
TEL: 01994 240978
above. It makes the trailer more stable and the loading ramps
shorter. The added sides sections have an angled support
from the drawbar. The side channel and chassis are level at
the top (one way to do this easily would be to turn it upside
down after the axle had been removed). The front rest for the
original tipping body remains in place.
Five cross pieces welded between the chassis and the side
frames hold the decking boards that fit longways in the recess
that is framed by the steel sections.
A pair of ramps are made on the back from 2 x 2 angle with
2 x 1 box across the top. The ramps are held up with stays.
They hinge from lugs welded on the back plate of the trailer.
David and Jack added some mesh in the inside part of the
frame to carry spare drain tiles and draining rods and things.
Many box seed drills have been replaced by air powered
machines with hoppers that are easy to fill from a tonne bag.
They make the old box drill look relics from the past, yet as
Richard Cook says, they can compete, and also exceed the
work done by newer machines.
This machine plants directly into ploughed land and plants
OSR directly into stubble. It has both a tramline kit and PreEm markers.
Sowing speed with the tines is faster than a power harrow.
Performance has been recently improved by adding a levelling
bar to the front of the cultivator. The bar knocks out lumps
and smooths the way for the cultivator tines which work well
in this easy to work soil.
The bar uses trailer screw jacks at either end to adjust the
height. The setting is critical - too high and the there’s little
effect, too low and the bar is working as a bulldozer which
massively increases the power needed and adds so much strain
that the bar and brackets will bend and break.
Richard has mounted the bar using three freely moving
telescopic brackets, one in the centre and the side ones
attached to the adjoining screw jack. The brackets take
all the sideways force from the leveller. To keep the bar
level the jacks need to be turned an equal number of
turns. When correctly set the bar grazes the top of the soil,
knocking just the top few inches of lumps off. It’s height is
controlled by the setting on the drill, which goes through
the top link setting on the tractor. The drill height is fixed
by its wheels.
Drill ‘floats’ on cultivator frame
The piggy back on the cultivator was originally made with
fixed holes for the drill mounting pins, so the two implements
were rigidly linked, but even on their flat fields they found
this set-up was too tight. Variations in the field contours
caused the cultivator to either be partially lifted or driven
deep, resulting in uneven work. The answer was to adapt the
mounting plates on the frame with slots which allow the drill
to move 3ins. This provides adequate flexibility for the 4m
wide machine, allowing the tines to work at a constant depth.
Close coupling allows use of a lightweight tractor
The drill needs no more power than that provided by the Fiat
88-94 tractor that weighs around 3.5 tonnes and has 85 hp that’s less soil compaction and less diesel. Transport is not so
difficult on the farm where the arable land is almost in a single
block. A low loader would be needed for road journeys. The
drill is flexible and is used to plant oil seed rape directly into
stubble. Richard blanks off spouts so the drill is using every
fifth one - one open, three blanked, one open etc.
The Nordsten is a good set-up on this farm for the
following reasons:
1. It suits the soil type
2. Soil damage is low
3. Output acceptable
4. Seed placement and germination good
5. Costs are low
Would ‘getting up to date’ make an improvement?
Top left: Nordsten 4 metre drill provides
excellent results in the field and needs low power
on the drawbar. Top right: spreading seed
down a 4m box has it’s tricky moments. It can
be helped with a telescopic handler, or by using
an auger hopper as described in our issue 20-1
published Spring 2011. Right: levelling board
is adjusted with screw jacks, and is supported
with box section telescopics. Far right: the drill
is flexibly mounted in slots that allow it to ride
independent to the cultivator
Right: here’s a ‘why didn’t I think
of this!’ modification which will help
thousands of readers.
Here’s an interesting solution to a very common farming problem. The difficulty of hooking trailers and other implements
onto the ball hitch of any ATV are well known. The ball is
hidden under the carrier, there’s not much space above, and
strength is needed to lift the implement.
The problem is obvious - the ball is in the wrong position.
So the solution is to move it, or this is what most people conclude. It means that farmers decide the answer is to modify
the ball attachment on the ATV, and over the years we have
shown a number of answers - fitting the ball to a telescopic
arm, or even one which is moved by an electric actuator.
Tom Burge who farms on Exmoor and is for ever attaching
and unhitching trailers and other implements to his ATV,
saw the problem differently to others. The problem was not
that the ball was in the wrong place, but that it was difficult
to get the hitch onto the ball. So rather than adapt the ATV,
he modifies the mechanism on the trailer. And all that’s
needed is a simple extension on the lift-up handle so it can be
used from further back. This way there’s no need to make any
alterations to the quad bike itself. Which means no possible
alteration to loading limits or queries over alterations from
anyone. It also means the modifications will take minutes and
cost pence.
Tom simply welds a length of bar to either side of the hitch
handle, extending them back by about 9 inches to a vee
which he welds together. He used some 1/2 in square bar,
but rebar would work as well. Now there’s no need to stretch
under the ATV. He can lift the trailer with one hand and
open the ball jaw with the other. He welds these hitch extensions on all his ATV implements.
Right: close
coupling means the
drill combination is
within the Fiat’s 4
tonne lift capacity.
Far right: the
covering harrow
can be lifted and
lowered on three
chains. Not the
tines that make up
the pre-emergence
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TEL: 01994 240978
The bull-beef herd needs around a half
ton a day of meal. It could be time
consuming job, moving grain from store
to mill, and then the product out to the
stock. If done by an outside contractor,
whose costs included both labour,
travelling costs and time, depreciation
and the running costs of expensive
equipment, the cost of the final product
is greater. Mobile mills such as the
Gehl sort out many problems, and do
the work where you want as well as
the feeding out, but they can still be
difficult to fill, particularly older models
without the latest augers fitted to them.
This Gehl is used to grind 2 tonnes
every 6 days, and the loading hopper
“saves masses of time” says Richard
Cook. He’s the regular operator,
and finds it very helpful to be able
to put the mobile hopper where it’s
not in the way of the loader. With
the wheelbarrow type handles on the
hopper he can move it easily.
The grain goes up the hydraulic
powered auger which is mounted in a
bracket on the Gehl, and is lifted off
by hand when the machine is being
moved. The auger is light because the
hydraulic motor isn’t heavy. The hoses
Top left: this Gehl grinder has an improved
loading system, and a molasses tank with
metered output. Top right & above: the
hopper is mounted on a frame with an axle and
two wheels in the front, so it can be moved
about by hand. It takes about a ton and is filled
with the loader bucket. Below left to right:
10ft, 4in auger works at optimal angle and swivels through 180 degrees; hydraulic motor is driven from tractor hydraulics, and controlled with a
spool valve from a New Holland SR wagon with
Forward-Stop-Reverse and flow regulator.
stay on the machine and push-fit into the
Mixing molasses into the ration is done
using a tank on the side. The treacle goes
down a pipe into the unloading mechanism
and is mixed into the grain by the output
augers. It stops the mixer becoming gummed
up and is a fast and easy way to get the
molasses incorporated.
Beef unit replaces milk
Grinding and mixing the ration is not only
a cheaper process than any other, it enables
the ration to be tailored to the stock on
a weekly basis. There’s no need to have a
storage space for the meal. Richard makes
the ration of 25% barley and 75% wheal,
add in minerals and 25 litres of molasses for
a two tonne mix.
The bulls finish in 12 - 14 months. They
are kept in bunches of equal sizes, and are
frequently reassessed and sorted so there’s
relatively equal competition at the feed
trough. The cattle are housed in yards that
were needed for the 70 cow herd which they
have replaced. The finished stock go to
MacDonalds, who pay a reasonable price for
the cattle.
Above, left to right:
hydraulic motor came
from a scrap sugar beet
harvester; molasses is
mixed as the grain moves
to the output auger; the
molasses valve is fitted into
the cap, and so can be
easily changed from one
drum to another; loading
auger fills directly from a
free-standing hopper that is
filled with loader bucket, the
grinder mixer can be loaded
conveniently close to where
the corn is stored.
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TEL: 01994 240978
Use a wheeled JCB on wet land and you’re soon all over
the place, moving it about by walking on back acter and
front bucket. Substitute the CX for something on rubber
tracks and there’s a totally different experience, with a
machine that moves and turns the way it’s designed to. The
only disadvantage is that the tracked loader is not built for
travelling - it likes being carried!
With older rubber tracked diggers becoming affordable in
plant sales, there’s a financial and practical temptation to
pension off the old digger and get a tracked one instead.
The majority of farmers are well equipped with front end
loaders in the shape of their telescopic handler or tractor and
foreloader. So the farm back hoe or ‘JCB’ is kept for its ability
to make holes with the back acter.
The best thing about the back hoe digger is that you can
drive it from site to site. Once it’s in work the lack of grip
becomes an issue on many farm jobs - the machine was, after
all, initially developed for construction sites where it worked
on hard surfaces.
Easy loading flexible digger trailer
Moving a rubber tracked digger around the place is easy when
there’s a suitable trailer that goes behind the tractor. Farms with
low loaders are well equipped, but those with standard farm
trailers for grain, silage and bales need a simple way to load and
unload, and then have a trailer which conforms with road traffic
laws in terms of load, axle capacity, breaking and so on.
This trailer has been designed to fit all the legal requirements,
and you can get the digger on and off by simply driving it up the
deck. Added to this, there are no hydraulics to connect.
The trailer works by having a hinged drawbar that has
a pair of clevis joints under the chassis of the trailer, and
a removable pin on the drawbar itself. It rolls on a single
commercial axle salvaged from a curtain-sider, and this is
equipped with disc brakes which are converted form air to
couple with the tractor hydraulic braking system.
The axle is carefully positioned, so when the front pin is
removed the rear of the trailer is heavier than the front and
the body tips back. With the drawbar fixed by the pin the
Above: break-back
trailer in loading
position; twin legs
provide frontal stability
to deck; heavy duty
drawbar frame - tip
angle remains the same
whether on tractor hitch
or not. Right: great
idea! Checker plate
allows mud to escape,
and always gives grip.
Far right: the deck
in rolling position - note
the narrow tyres
trailer stands normally.
The 20ft deck has a solid floor in the front, while at the rear
there are two checker plate sections that provide the machine
with additional grip. With the pin out the floor is at an angle
of approx 20 degrees.
The digger is driven up the deck, and when the weight
is over the axle the trailer deck will drop down onto the
drawbar, where the pin pushed in for safety. Inching the
machine slowly up the deck means the pivot point is reached
gradually, so the deck drops forward gently.
Unloading is the reverse process, revering the digger until
the weight moves over the axle and the bed tips.
Building the trailer
Although the design is very different to other trailers, a large
number of components comes from other farm machines. The
deck and underparts came from a Merritt Login low loader
with a steering axle at the back. The deck was turned upside
down and lugs welded to it so the axle and drawbar hinge
points were positioned in the correct place.
The drawbar comes off a Simba Press and is made with
heavy wall 150mm box section. The deck drops onto a pair of
50mm stands and the tongue for the pin is 25mm plate.
The deck has a stop bar in front, and the rear section has
heavy checker plate for grip and to allow mud to drop through.
This clever design feature means there is never a build-up of
mud making a slippery surface.
As the trailer is designed for hard surface work the axle is
fitted with narrow section tyres, allowing the trailer to be
reasonably narrow on the road. A protected lighting board
is fitted to the rear panel, which also has a pair of very short
stands on it.
Designing the trailer with a twin axle - so heavier diggers
can be carried, requires considerably more engineering, and
would make a useful engineering challenge.
With its 20ft long deck which is mounted low between the
wheels, the trailer makes a useful general purpose hauler on
the farm.
For the thick end of 100 years flywheels have been solid
chunks of cast iron with not much to go wrong other than the
starter ring round the edge.
In the past ten years they have been ‘improved’. They have
two parts - dual mass - which are stuck together with rubber
shock absorbers that allow the parts to move and absorb the
bite as Jeremy Clarkson lets the clutch out at 5,000 rpm. The
rubber saves the transmission getting a hefty jolt, and eventually falling apart.
Which is a great, but perhaps slightly expensive idea. It’s
one taken up by many makes of diesels such as Audi/VW in
the Passat and others, Ford in the Transit, Mercedes in the
Sprinter, GM in the Vauxhall and Opel diesels,and others.
The dual mass flywheel doesn’t last as long as its predecessor
- not by a long chalk. And, according to some, the more gentle
you are with the clutch, the shorter its service life. Letting the
clutch out at low revs, driving in gear on tick-over - all the
tricks of a hyper-miler - help wear the DMF.
“Expect 70,000 miles from it, and I’ve known them fail at
TEL: 01994 240978
Above, from far left: flywheel with the centre
turned clockwise as far as possible; turned the
other way; were these holes oval when the flywheel
was new? This one had done 76,000m.
less,” one mechanic reported.
The part costs anything from £550 to £700, and the work to
replace is maybe another £400.
The symptoms are juddering when the clutch is used, noise
very similar to a thrust bearing on its way out, and difficulty
in gear changing. Some have one symptom, others do them
all. You can drive to compensate for a while, but once the flywheel has started to break up the wear gets increasingly great.
Eventually things will come apart, and can smash their way
through the bell housing. Gearbox damage is likely.
Commercial companies have become fed up with the cost of
replacement, and some are getting the parts welded together
and re-fitting. There’s an excellent place around the edge to
weld, and more than enough scope to make a solid job. Not
only does welding save the cost of the replacement part, it
means the job won’t be needing to be done again.
Latest models of many of these vehicles are now fitted with
a solid flywheel, which says something about progress. It will
of course be done under warranty.
Far left: Tom shows
how his neat transport
box fits on the back
of the snacker, with
a convenient loading
Left: box has useful
compartments over the
snacker wheels.
Far left: the rear
compartment is partly
underneath the hopper.
Left: digi readout
on the handlebars
provides precise
When using the tractor link box for feeding sheep Exmoor
farmer Tom Burge would always pick up sick ewes for the
return journey back home. When he moved to a snacker
behind the ATV there was no where to carry them, and this
was a real disadvantage as it required a second trip to the field.
The casualty was in the field longer waiting for treatment,
which was especially irritating on a busy day.
While the snacker was a big improvement for feeding, it failed
as a ewe transporter. So Tom built a carry frame on the back.
And when he replaced the snacker with a 300kg Rota-Feed, he
made a ewe crate for the back as soon as it was delivered.
The frame has compartments up the side over the
mudguards and a full width carrier a the back that’s around
14ins deep. The addition rests on the main frame of the
machine, and he designed it so the weight was as far forward
as possible. There’s a door with a spring latch on the
compartment so loading is easy.
He made it using 1in box section and galvanised plate
which is pop rivetted in place. The crate can be lifted off the
back of the feeder quickly, and fitted to the next one, if it has
the same design. It also means that this machine can be sold
on as a standard snacker without modification.
The carrying box collects ewes suffering from twin lamb
disease, prolapse or other problems, and Tom can motor up
and load in no time. He finds it easy to spot problems at
feeding time, as the sick one don’t move so fast, or at all.
Electronic counter measures quantity of feed put out
One reason for moving to the Rota-Feed was because it put
out piles of nuts rather than spreading them in a continuous
line. Tom finds there is much less waste this way, and he can
feed standard nuts rather than cobs. There’s a metre separating
the piles, and that’s enough to prevent sheep moving from
one to another and walking on the nuts. They gather around
a pile and stay there for a reasonable time before moving on.
With the old machine they would walk up the row of nuts,
expecting something better.
The feeder is improved still further by having an electronic
counter fitted to the feed chamber, with the display mounted
on the ATV steering bar. Tom used a Proxi sensor that
plus in to a lead from the quad. The alternative would be to
convert a bike computer to do the job.The counter means he
can feed the exact amount needed by each group of sheep,
rather than guessing and probably over feeding as a result.
Twin axle benefits
The weight of 300kg of feed in a machine weighing another
200kg or so is a reasonable load on a single ATV trailer axle,
and Tom will definitely be buying one with twin axles next
time. The singles sink into soft ground, and put a very variable
weight on the drawbar, giving the quad in front a tough time
on occasion. The twin axle reduces ground pressure and helps
prevent the tyre sinking in soft ground, and the drawbar
loading remains more consistent.
Breeding moves to New Zealand
Tom keeps 2,500 ewes, which are mainly Exmoor Horn x
Cheviot x Blue Leicester but is moving away from this cross to
using New Zealand Romney, Highlander and NZ Suffolk rams.
His view is that UK breeders over feed and over breed, which
restricts rams to 50 ewes, while the New Zealanders can serve
100. “Breeders feed too much cake, and the UK rams are too
heavy to get round sufficient numbers of ewes.
It’s hoped that the NZ breeding will add resistance to worms
and foot rot and other expensive problems which are often
tackled on a flock basis.
Right: it’s along the lines of ‘If You Can’t See My Mirrors...’ and brings
drivers into the real world, where indicators, even on trailers, mean what
they say. Notice Andrews flashing beacon on the tailboard, and how
much better than having one that’s invisible on the tractor alone. A4
size sign is on magnetic base for east transfer
Drivers who ignore the right turn winker
on the trailer and overtake while the
tractor starts turning are too numerous
to count. It’s a daily dice with everything
from motorbikes to mums to businessmen
and everyone else blind to the signals on the trailer.
Somerset farmer and engineer Andrew Palmer got so fed
up he made up a sign for his trailer... and motorists seemed
to become more patient. So he decided to have enough made
for some other farmers, and to put the lettering on a magnetic
plate like a fridge magnet. It can then be transfered from one
trailer to another, from trailer to implement, or even tractor.
It needs a flat, or soft curved steel plate for secure fixing.
Tractor accidents on the road
Department for Transport figures show that there have been
around 600 Road Traffic Accidents each year for the last
three years involving agricultural tractors. In 2010, 21 were
fatal. Research into tractor related RTA’s indicates that about
two-thirds are caused by other motorists and not the tractor
Left: these light clusters are made for American RV
campers, and work well mounted on their edge like this
An American home welding enthusiast has come up with a
great idea for his trailer lights. His trailer, like many others, had
the lights attached to the tailboard. After breaking the trailer
lights three times by reversing too far back when parking it in
TEL: 01994 240978
drivers. The overtaking of slow moving tractors, whilst not
believing or noticing that they were indicating a right turn
into a field or farm entrance, is a common cause of accidents.
The new, highly visible, black on green, plastic signs are
magnetic and can be applied to flat or slightly curved surfaces
and transferred easily between vehicles. They measure 285mm
x 215mm (approx. A4 size) and have a glossy, wipe clean
Priced at £5 including VAT, post and packing, signs can
be obtained directly from Machinery Developments, online
at www.twinsetspanners.com, Telephone: 07860 939473 or
email: palmer@farmline.com
the shed and hitting them against the back wall, he decided to
spend time on a re-design that takes into account the fact that
the flimsy plastic cracks on the slightest impact.
Moving the lights off the trailer ramp or tailboard and into
box steel brackets on the side gets the lens protected with
a solid steel surround and the lights out of the danger zone.
It aso has some useful safety features as well. The mounting
means the lights are visible when the trailer board is lowered
- a major danger period when you’re loading on the roadside
after dark.
Each light has a pair of bulbs, providing protection when
a bulb blows and doubling the light produced. The the twin
bulb set-up is far from over-kill, as slow moving trailers need
lights that are better than the legal minimum. (In the last
issue we showed how Johnny Alvis had added Land Rover
lights to the top front and back of his cattle box - all to
improve safety and make the rig more visible on the road.)
The two bulb sets which he found for just $10 each. They
are designed to be mounted horizontally, but fitting them
vertically like this is ideal. The lights have a flush fit so
there’s protection from impact, and he’s welded a back plate
to the box section to keep road dirt off the connections.
Lighting units cost anything from £8 to £80, and lighting
units from a scrappy will cost less. The fine for not having
working lights goes from £80 to near infinity, should a fatality
happen as a result. Here’s how to keep the cost down to the
light and not unfortunate consequences.
Top: Fiat with front linkage - making the machine far more adaptable.
Above, left to right: solid engineering using a single plate which has
side plates making a very strong structure; the top bracket, which nicely
fits the contour of the bonnet.
The concept of having mounted implements on the front of
the tractor were almost unknown when we started publishing
in 1992, and the commercial linkages were both expensive
and made for just a few tractors. Today they are in regular
use and competitively priced.
Despite this, a new commercial front linkage set still
makes a hole in the pocket, particularly if there is no need
for anything too sophisticated. In this kind of situation the
home build can still save a reasonable sum.
Some years ago Suffolk farmer Richard Cook wanted one
to carry a front press on his Massey 590. Armed with the
ingredients of good workshop skills and experience, a useful
hydraulic ram and some thick steel, he sketched out this neat
The frame is built from 12mm and 10mm plate, with the
two arms bent by a local engineering company in a heavy
press, and link arm hooks produced with a plasma cutter.
The single acting ram has two positions for the piston - a
simple way to make an adjustment from one job to another.
When he needed to move it from the Massey to the Fiat
88-94 he found it necessary to rebuild parts of the back
plate, but the arms, ram and top link moved over without
difficulty. There’s little to fault the engineering design he’s
used. That 12mm plate bolted to the front of the tractor
is supported by thick plates going down the sides, creating
a massively strong frame with which to carry the weight.
Brackets on the bottom are equally strong. The rigid arms
have a strong cross bar and bracing which is there to take up
side forces, and the jaws themselves make it easy to hook up
to the implement.
The alternative set of pin holes for the ram piston is a neat
way to adjust how high the implement is carried.
Top: rear view of the ancient press which now has a regular role in cultivating this Suffolk farm. Above, left to right: the steering mechanism
is based on a pair of old tractor link arms, with their ball joints used at
both ends; John Wilder cast these bearing mountings a few years ago;
front view of the press - a feasible project for the workshop enthusiast
This W Wilder & Sons press works a charm on the loamy
Suffolk soil. Fitting it to the front linkage involved building
a new frame on top of the basic rectangle that made up the
original. Richard Cook made the frame with a linkage that
goes to the front of the frame, with arms that can move
from one side to another.
He made the linkage using tractor link arms complete
with their ball joints. He cut the implement ends off the
arms and welded them to solid 15 x 50mm bars. The other
end of the bar has the rest of the original arm welded to the
side. A rod across the front is picked up by the front linkage.
The rod has stops on the inside of the balls to stop it sliding
The linkage is supported at the front with angle iron
brackets welded to the top of the main frame, and at the
back the mobile arms slide in a slot made using 50mm box.
The arms have short lengths of 50mm box section welded to
the inside, making it easier for them to slide.
Richard says the steering makes the machine work better
in the field. There’s no need to lift it when cornering, so
leaving some parts un-pressed. The press can swivel to a
small extent because of the width of the guide slot. This
flexibility reduces the side strain on the press sections and
their mounting on the centre shaft.
The front press works well in many lighter soils, and with
effective chain cleaners doesn’t block.
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Top row: 26ft long with commercial triple
axle, this is a truly dual purpose trailer; the
drawbar dimensions reflect the size of the trailer.
Second row: the main trailer deck stops just
a few inches behind the rear axle.
Third row: the drawbar locks into the front
panel ... and extends back to the first main
chassis cross member. Left: trailer rides
on standard 385/55R22.5 commercial tyres;
commercial air brakes have on-board reservoir.
This triple axle trailer was designed and built by farmer /
contractor / straw merchant Paul Nixon. Not only did it cost
him a fraction of a new trailer, it has a dual capability which
he needs for his business.
Paul needs a trailer to deliver straw bales to farms that are
difficult to access with his road truck and drag. A high capacity
bale trailer is very useful to move straw bales off a field.
The Nixon contracting business, like others, involves
moving machinery from one farm to another, often some
distance. Taking slow moving loaders and other machines on
the road uses excessive time and diesel. Loading them onto
a trailer behind a JCB Fastrac cuts travelling, costs, and has
other advantages like keeping mud off the road.
Most low loading trailers have drawbacks. Those with
lift axles at the back put excessive weight on the tractor,
and swing into a corner making field access sometimes very
difficult. Those with a steering axle at the back such as the
Merritt Login solve this problem, but they become difficult to
handle at speed on the road.
At the other extreme, the commercial artic makes a poor
RoRo trailer as the bed is high so ramps are excessive long.
Paul built this trailer last winter using both new steel and
new axles. The deck is 26ft long and the ramp extension
another 8ft, making a total deck length of 34ft. It rides nicely
behind the Fastrac because it’s built with good balance, the
right proportion of weight being on the tractor and axles that
are mounted on triple leaf springs. The six road tyres have low
Top row - attaching the axles: the deck is laid upside
down on the floor so the axles can be accurately positioned;
working upside down is essential for weld quality; spring
hangers are complex. Second row - ramp is lifted with
hydraulic ram: centre mounted lift ram raises the rear deck;
deck is locked in position with four struts that have individual pins
and celvis. Above & left - light cluster is in hinged box
for protection: the light boxes on cross struts that make up
the ramp section of the deck; the finished job shows that Paul
has doubled up the clusters for additional safety.
rolling resistance for easy towing and the ground pressure and
soil compaction are both reduced by having the extra axle to
the normal twin.
Building the trailer from first principles rather than doing a
conversion allowed Paul the luxury to get the measurements
and details exact, right from the start.
The trailer deck
The chassis frame carries laterals made from channel,
positioned to allow the tyres to ride up to the underside of
the deck
Triple axles have useful benefits
Readers might remember the soil compaction article in the
TEL: 01994 240978
last issue of Farm Ideas, and how tandem axles have been
found less damaging to soil than dual wheels. Having one
wheel following in the previous track disturbs less soil and
packs it less than a single axle. Add a third set of wheels to
the trailer and there’s an even greater load spread.
The wheels are fitted with regular 385/55R22.5 commercial
tyres, designed for low rolling resistance and reduced fuel
consumption which have significance even with farm loads.
Light cluster is in hinged box for protection
The rear lights are close to the back of the extension, and
are fitted into boxes that can swing forwards when the ramp
is lowered. the edge of the box extends further than the lens
of the light.
The damage of Farm
Business Tenancies
“The standard FBT is like renting a piece of concrete - it
takes little account of the fact that the commodity being
let out is a living, fragile medium which can be easily
damaged.” This controversial opinion was given us by a
switched on, up to date progressive farmer - someone who
you might expect to wax lyrical about the benefits of the
new tenancy laws.
FBTs were
the tenancy
that broke the
back of life-time
and generational
renting and created
opportunity for
vibrant newcomers
into the industry.
So what’s the problem? Our farmer believes the new farm
tenancies created by the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995
has caused rapid long term damage to soil which will take
decades to undo. Short term occupation means minimal
long term thinking, or action. Anyone farming land for as
little as 24 months is unlikely to make too many structural
improvements, and may well be unconcerned about the
depletion of fertility or damage through compaction. For
the owner, the high returns of many FBTs encourage
blindness towards long term damage to soil.
Quality land is fiercely competed for by specialist
growers. They need sufficient acres to cover the high cost
of modern equipment. ‘Virgin’ land that has been pasture
or lightly worked arable land is subjected to major work
such as de-stoneing and cultivation with heavy machinery,
all which compacts the land and breaks down the natural
composition of the soil.
With a short term FBT, the grower is free to leave the
land after a few seasons and move on, while the owner,
who may well have received a rental which is a multiple
of that agreed under the old Holdings Act 1986, has the
opportunity to rent again for another hefty sum.
The system is in complete contrast to the farming
principles which most have grown up with. Crop rotations,
which provide long term stability and indeed improvement
in fertility, are abandoned in favour of test tube checking
for nutrients. Deficiencies are corrected and the soil will
be rested when disease and production start to deteriorate.
Soil structure is damaged by heavy machinery, and the
demands of the market buyers means that field traffic is
regularly essential when the ground is wet. If the wheels
were smaller, and the tyres narrower, the kit would be
permanently bogged down in many fields. Land which
adapts itself to long term cropping like this is rarely found.
These are the downsides of the Farm Business Tenancy
that need consideration by land owners, and maybe those
who involved in farming policy.
Are you tied in to a
‘roll-over’ phone / internet
Farmers and others tied in to a seemingly unbreakable
contract for phones and internet can breathe a sigh of
relief, as these contracts are now illegal. The extra amount
these contracts cost - typically £30 - £40 a month, may
be annoying rather than life threatening, but they are
a constant additional drain on the farm budget, and
one which has generally be incurred, and sustained, by
business practices which are close to the bone of ethics
and legality.
We can speak from personal experience - a sales pitch
by Unicom which offered lower costs but ended up with
monthly bills of over £70 and a three year commitment
which could only be revoked in writing, three months
before the end date. Miss it - there is no reminder from
Unicom of either the anniversary or the conditions - and
you’re with them for another year. We have now changed
provider who provides the line rental, broadband with
unlimited use, free 24/7 calls for £35.
The Ofcom statement
Ofcom confirmed in September 2011 that rollover contracts
will be banned from December 2011. The contracts, also
known as Automatically Renewable Contracts (ARCs), roll
forward to a new minimum contract period – with penalties
for leaving – unless the customer actively opts out of the
Ofcom has set out a timetable for the removal of
rollover contracts from the telecoms market which takes
account of systems changes that will need to be made by
Left to right: the power of the pulley - a working demo; how they moved
huge boulders such as those in Stonehenge; finding life in the stream
communications providers.
The sale of new automatically renewable contracts to
residential and small business customers will be prohibited
from 31 December 2011. Ofcom will also require
communications providers to move all residential and
small business customers currently on rollover contracts
to alternative deals, and to completely remove rollover
contracts from the market by 31 December 2012.
Any customer who has a rollover contract and has
concerns or wants to understand how the removal will
apply to them should contact their provider.
Providers who continue to offer this type of contract to
new customers beyond 31 December 2011, or those who
continue to have customers on ARCs beyond 31 December
2012 could face enforcement action including a financial
penalty of up to ten per cent of turnover.
You can access the details from this page http://ask.ofcom.
org.uk/help/services-and-billing/rolloversoll and we suggest
that farmers in this situation print off the page and include
it in the letter to their provider.
Using the farm as a teaching
and learning resource
How about a different way of using the local farming
environment! Yvonne Bell is a first school teacher
in Crewkerne, Somerset and has set up an ‘Outdoor
Curriculum Science Day’ with her partner who is a local
farmer. The aim is to promote the outdoor environment
as a learning area while fulfilling the science curriculum,
and the idea has been successful tried with pupils from
the school at which she works. Yvonne thinks there is
the opportunity for other schools to do something similar,
particularly if some of their staff are connected with
They devised the day to include many of the science
curriculum requirements in a totally practical and ‘real’
way. Making learning ‘real’ is by far the best way to help
children maintain information and want to investigate
further themselves, creating active learners who will want
go on and continue to find out more.
Children who have visited the farm from Crewkerne
so far have had a fantastic learning experience using the
outdoors environment to its fullest and have gained a
TEL: 01994 240978
lot of practical knowledge within the science objectives.
Practical investigations such as exploring pulleys (from a
tree branch) or investigating friction and ramps by using
tree trunks as pivots, or looking at river flow and insect
life during our river dipping are always of interest. There’s
so much to do related to Science which can be explored
outdoors in addition to the usual ‘nature trails’.
Yvonne and her team have focussed on different ‘forces’,
but the potential is endless! How about an ‘air resistance’
day experimenting with parachutes outside or a ‘materials’
day sorting and categorising different natural materials and
comparing them to man-made.
It doesn’t even have to stop at Science related days, how
about a Poetry day or Drama day, acting out ‘Three Billy
Goats Gruff’ under the bridge or actually building a ‘House
of Sticks’ for the middle little pig! What about orienteering
and working out which way is North/ South etc. And doing
some Geographical investigation.
The Outdoor Curriculum Science days have become a
popular feature of the Crewkerne school, and, when asked
at the end of one session “who had learnt something they
hadn’t known already”, she was surprised to see all the
adults hands go up as well as the children – fantastic!
Here’s an example of the sorts of activities and
questioning set up to explore in groups of 5/6 children with
an adult. They always encourage the group to work together
as a team.
Levers and Pulleys!!!
Use the planks and rollers and explore!
What happens to the log you are rolling down the slope if
you make your ramp steeper?
Can you be like an Egyptian and move the tree trunk and
heavy stones using rollers?
Look at the heavy weight in the tree.
Pull the thicker rope. Can you lift up the weight?
Now use the thinner rope using the pulleys. Can you lift
the weight now?
Look at what you are doing and work together to
investigate the levers and pulleys.
Followup: Yvonne Bell, Manor Farm, Merriott, Somerset TA16 5NP
e: ybell@educ.somerset.gov.uk or yvonne.bell41@gmail.com
t: 07926 972 161
French farmers pay to
use own seed
Unrestricted use of royalty-free seeds has been the norm in
France, and farm saved seed accounted for more than half
the total acreage. A new law backed by Agriculture minister
Bruno Le Maire is designed to make farm saved seed no
longer royalty-free.
The new legislation requires a fee to be paid to certificate
holders “to sustain funding of research and efforts to improve
genetic resources” and the only exception are farmers with a
total harvest of less than 92 tonnes. Since 2001, soft wheat
is the only crop which has been levied in France, at a rate of
E0.50 per tonne. The new law extends levies to include 21
Farmers are pitted against seed companies in this argument,
with the industry wanting to claim property rights over
the crops grown and the resulting seed, while the Peasant
Confederation and other organisations see the farmer as
having an intolerable bureaucracy imposed upon them.
Guy Kastler, head of Semances Paysannes, says replanting
seeds leads to local variations of varieties that give plants
characteristics that make them better suited to local soil and
climate conditions, with the reduced need for chemicals.
He claims seed companies adapt plants to suit fertilisers and
pesticides which are the same everywhere.
The new situation in France remains better than the ‘living
patent’ system in the USA, where the intellectual property
right is held by companies which enjoy a monopoly over
the sales of seed. Patents place an absolute ban on farmsaved seed, with or without the payment of fees, and protect
the breeder from their genetics being borrowed or used by
competitors in the creation of other new varieties. At present
French breeders have the opportunity to use and work with
the widest gene pool, but while their government has not
agreed on patents on living things, patenting of plant genes is
becoming more common.
New phone for farm boys
Right: the standard
presentation of a
‘smart’ phone; the
Tool Box from JCB is
relevant to farming,
and all manner of
apps can be added.
Move over iPhone and all those other phones who can’t
take it rough. At last someone has realised that people work
outdoors often need smart phone functions, but packaged to
withstand a tough life, and where there’s slurry, grease and
hands that are far from clean.
Motorola Defy+ JCB - bridging the gap between tech savy
smartphones and rugged mobiles.
shock absorption skin designed specifically for the DEFY
As well as being preloaded with a special edition JCB
app. Taking ‘work proof’ functionality one step further, the
Motorola DEFY+ JCB Edition handset also offers construction
site users and outdoor enthusiasts who routinely work with
core technical and measuring materials a range of built-in
options. It comes pre-loaded with bespoke JCB applications
including: a spirit level, theodolite, decibel meter and
recorder, torch, unit converter, calculator and DIY store
locator. This saves the user time and effort of lugging around
a boot load of individual work components, and also serves
to speed up their productivity and output at the touch of a
Tips for extending the life
of rubber tracks
Rubber tracks on Cat Challengers, Case QuadTraks, Lexion
combines and others will get a longer life if they are used
intelligently and the tractor looked after properly. Tracks
might look indestructible, but it’s as easy to abuse them as it
is to prematurely wear tyres. Tracks are expensive to replace.
How the machine is operated can affect undercarriage
component wear. By using intelligent operating procedures,
you can extend the life of your track and undercarriage.
Limit high-speed travel
High-speed work accelerates wear on all undercarriage and
track components. Track wear is directly proportional to
speed as well as distance travelled. Reducing the distance
travelled when travelling to and from work by planning routes
is beneficial. Remember that, for rubber tracks, speed equals
stress equals wear.
Avoid going backwards
Reversing accelerates wear on the reverse-drive side of the
track links and sprocket teeth. The only time track links
rotate against sprocket teeth is when the track is in reverse
gear. When reversing about 75% of tracks links are under
contact, load, and motion, from the bottom of the front idler
to the first link engaged by the sprocket tooth. In comparison,
forward travel puts about 25% of the track links under
contact, load, and motion.
Reduce slippage and spinning
Track slippage and spinning accelerates track pad wear and
limits productive work. Heavy contact between the track
Above: you can extend the working life of these rubber tracks by
intelligent driving; driving at speed, especially on the road, increases
stresses and wear; keeping things clean helps as well
links and sprocket teeth, between track links an rollers, and
idler tread surfaces increases wear.
Plan your turns
Constantly turning to one side will reduce the life of a track.
The sprocket teeth, track links idler, roller flanges, and tread
surface on the side under load will wear faster. Plan your job
to even out turns if possible.
Clean undercarriages frequently
Prevent soil and debris packing in the undercarriage
components by cleaning out the track as frequently as
possible. Packing prevents the proper engagement between
the mating components such as sprocket teeth and track
links. This can cause increased loads on undercarriage
components and higher wear rates.
Work out field contours
Plan the work so the field contours are as shallow as possible.
Rubber tracked machines are fundamentally designed for
flat prairie land, not sharp slopes. Working uphill shifts the
weight of the machine to the rear, which adds more load to
the rear rollers and increases wear on sprocket teeth and track
links. Likewise, there is a light load on the undercarriage
when reversing down the hill. Working downhill moves
weight to the front of the machine on the front roller, idler
tread surface, and track links.
When you reverse up the hill, the link rotates against the
reverse-drive side of the sprocket tooth. Also, there is a heavy
load and motion between the link and the sprocket teeth,
which accelerates wear. A heavy load is placed on all links
from the bottom of the front idler to the first link contacted
by the sprocket teeth. Extra load is also placed between the
sprocket teeth and the track links and the idler tread surface.
The life of the links, sprockets, rollers and idlers is reduced.
Working on a slope or side of a hill shifts the weight to
the downhill side of the machine and causes additional wear
on the roller flanges, sides of the track links, and that side of
tread. Balance wear between each side of the undercarriage by
changing the work direction on the slope.
Working on a crown puts all the load and weight on the
inner ends of the track links. The load is transferred to the
inside track links, inside roller, and idler tread surfaces, and
TEL: 01994 240978
sprocket contact areas. Continual work on a crown will
accelerate wear on the inside track contact surfaces. Compare
that wear to the wear on the outside track components.
Working in a depression puts the load and machine weight
on the outer ends of the track links. The load is transferred to
the outside-track links, outside roller and idler tread surfaces,
and sprocket contact areas. Continual depression work will
accelerate wear on the outside contact surfaces. Compare that
wear to the wear on the inside track components.
Alignment checks:
Track frame and front idler misalignment will accelerate wear
on all components. You can check for alignment by observing
wear patterns on the bottom rollers, carrier rollers, and front
idlers. You also can stand at the front and rear of the machine
and do a visual inspection. See your machine manuals for
specific adjustment procedures.
Pay-as-you-use water deal
for farmers
A Kent based borehole drilling company takes the risk
out of the job with a new special scheme for farmers. The
company carries all the risk of failing to get water in sufficient
quantities by doing the drilling and installation free, and
having a contract with the farmer for the supply of water. Not
only does the farmer benefit from having no risk, the scheme
evens out the farm cash flow as he pays for the borehole water
in the same way as the mains supply. The only difference is
the price. The contract charge of 60p per thousand litres is
30 to 60 per cent cheaper than the price of mains water, and
for farms using 20,000 litres a day the annual saving is £3,000.
Furthermore, the price remains fixed, while the price of mains
water continually increases, and looks likely to do so even
more in the future.
It means that while the economics look favourable at
present costs, they are likely to look better again in a few
years time. Most water utilities have told Ofwat that mains
water charges are likely to rise 20% above inflation over the
period 2010 - 2015, with companies in the South East being
leaders. Add in supply restrictions due to drought, and the
advantages of a borehole seem compelling.
From far left: the
drilling rig runs on rubber
tracks, and are costly
machines to buy and
run; boreholes are sunk
hundreds of ft to tap
into underground water
courses; working the drill
needs a steady hand and
a experienced operator
The company covers the total costs of drilling and installation,
plus maintenance, and there’s no fee if there’s no water.
Private boreholes cost in the region of £12 - 14,000, the
main cost being the drilling work itself which averages £7-8k,
according to Vossbrook. Filtration for sediment and a UV
filter can account for another £800, the borehole pump £600,
and then there’s labour and a mass of smaller parts.
Drilling and installation take around 3 weeks of work, and
when completed the mains supply is capped and the borehole
plumbed into the existing water system on the farm. The
machinery above ground can be installed in a space no greater
than 1.5 x 1.0m
A Sussex fruit farmer says “We should have done this
years ago – the private water supply Vossbrook installed for
irrigating our fruit trees saves us over £10,000 a year and it’s
great to know we control our own supply.”
D.P., Fruit Farmer, Sussex.
Explains Vossbrook’s Senior Partner, William Bomer:
“Farms and other agricultural businesses are most at risk
from drought but, in the current economic climate many
are understandably concerned about the initial expenditure.
This way, they can enjoy the peace of mind that comes from
having a private water supply and reduce their overheads at
the same time.”
Followup: Vossbrook LLP, Canterbury Innovation Centre,
University Road, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7FG T: 01227 811
833 E: water@vossbrook.co.uk www.vossbrook.co.uk
Agribuggy replaces Bateman
A lighter foot print, uncomplicated mechanical transmission
and Land Rover power plant has resulted in Matthew Stone
moving from the Bateman to this Frazier 2500, which weighs
in at 3,700kg empty and 6,400kg fully laden. The machine
runs on 550/60-22.5 tyres as standard and there’s a range of
row crop wheels up to 44inch. The spray boom is aluminium,
and available in a number of widths.
The Bateman RB26 weighs in at 6610kg, and is powered by
a 175 John Deere with full hydrostatic four wheel drive. It has
a steel boom and runs on 12.4/R32 or 14.9/R28 wheels.
Matthew’s farm has level ground, and the Land Rover 300
series TDi with 132HP has power enough for all the work
done with liquid fertilising and spraying over 1,000 acres.
Were power to be a problem the option would be to part-fill
the tank. Matthew uses bowsers for refilling, which saves
considerable time and reduces soil compaction as the smaller
tank is less of an issue when it can be quickly filled from the
headland or gateway.
Below left: Agribuggy 2500 is a lightweight performer with a soft foot
print. Below right: bowsers carry liquid in bulk to the field edge, so the
light weight sprayer has no distance to fill up.
Economic gloom is everywhere, and causing business to go back to first principles of
cautious investment and development. It applies to farms as well as retailers. Farms
with goals and strategies are better placed to take the right decisions.
Farming once again seems to be escaping
the worst of the economic storm. Too many
established companies have bitten the dust,
particularly in the High St. Yet an analysis
of retail sales shows the drop overall is
actually quite marginal. The reason for the
problems is in fact financial.
Today’s difficulties produce valid lessons
for all in business, not simply bankers and
shop keepers, and it includes the farming
sector. It is of course debt which has
caused the problems of well established
retailers such as Peacocks, with 550 stores
and 9,600 workers, La Senza with 2,600
employees, Past Times with 100 stores,
Blacks Leisure with 300 shops and 4,000.
All these have failed in 2012, and these
companies join the long list of failures in
Reason for business failures
Problems such as poor marketing leads
to cash flow difficulties, which in turn
creates a lack of finance which constrains
production. The elements of any business
are entwined in a complex structure,
not dissimilar to the way the agronomic
elements of farming co-exist.
Many of today’s business failures are the
consequence of poor financial planning by
management and owners. Strip away all the
excuses, explanations and false rationalising
and the failure comes down to poor decision
making which is generally a consequence of
poor leadership. In other words, company
directors have taken decisions which they
have probably not fully understood. What
appears to be a sound financial position
has failed the “what if” test, because the
question was never asked, or the answer
probed sufficiently hard. The sad fact is that
businesses don’t fail, but its leaders do.
Start up companies are particularly
vulnerable to failure, and one in three in
the UK go under in their first three years.
But those which survive can go on to big
The scope of planning
There remain two schools of thought over
the concept of business planning - to do
or not to do. The not-to-do camp believe
that the future is impossible to predict
sufficiently accurately for planning to be
any use. So spending time, and precious
funds on research to create a paper structure
of the business is a waste of time. The nonplanner believes anything could happen so
the answer is doing rather than planning.
These people point at the catastrophe of
TEL: 01994 240978
the banks and their lending, all of which
was conducted with detailed planning and
the most sophisticated tools for business
Plannerson the other hand point to the
need for goals, objectives and strategies.
Without these, they claim, businesses
flounder, change direction and become
unmanageable. Changing direction through
buying and selling assets and developing
enterprises needs some kind of framework or
rationale behind the decisions.
The need to understand what you’re doing
Look at the hugely complex collateralised
debt obligations (CDO) which were created
and sold by banks, and, though debt, were
considered assets on balance sheets. Few
fully understood what they were, and how
they might go wrong, and so reasoned that
if Goldman Sachs and the Bank of America
were happy to trade, they needed to join
the party.
Private equity is another financial
instrument which has caused companies to
fail, simply because they are so indebted
that a small trading set back in trading
throws them off the rails. Expansion under
the system caused solid good companies to
become basket cases.
Can it happen to farmers?
The simple answer is “yes”. Farmers can
lift their debts through mortgages and
involvement in other business. Raising
funds on the dependable value of land
has been done by farmers for generations.
Becoming a Lloyds of London insurance
‘name’ has the chance of making good
money, but can effectively be gambling the
farm. Using the solid collateral of land to
fund more spurious activites has long been
a pastime, and one encouraged by brokers
and middle men who can derive income
from deals.
Warren Buffett says he won’t invest
in something which he doesn’t fully
understand, and it’s a business maxim which
makes sense, yet one that is often ignored.
Company managers can see gold at the end
of a rainbow they don’t understand.
The unravelling economy will throw up
an increasing number of opportunities, and
farmers will find themselves being shown
offers which seem to good to ignore. The
offers may well fit into their existing cash
flows and budgets, but they need to look
hard at the realities of their existing farm
businesses. Where is the income coming
from? Exploring the “what if” region, how
secure is income to changes in EU policies
regarding farm subsidies? Is the business
sufficiently robust to weather a fall in sales
income and a rise in interest rates? For this
is what has hit the High St. Customers
have continued to shop, but they spend
fractionally less. Yet the money needed to
service the company debt goes up.
Building a financial plan
One of the purposes of Practical Farm Ideas
is to provide farmers with tools they can use
to make their businesses more profitable.
Profitability in many areas of farming
is achieved through cost control, as the
commodity markets being supplied result
in prices totally out of the farmer’s hands.
Farmers are far from being alone. The
corner shop or garage can only follow the
supermarket, and trim costs so the market
price delivers profit. The builder prices jobs
on the basis of costs, but also what the local
market will bear. The same is true across
the economy.
The financial plan needs to be firmly
based on goals and strategies, and these
need to have controls in place. Each
decision needs to somehow refer back to the
fundamental blueprint of the farm business
- so a tractor gets replaced, or just as easily
retained, for business reasons.
Farm development
With product prices nudging up and the
SFP looking healthy for this year, it’s
tempting to do some major investment. So
the plan is developed for a new grain store,
or dairy set-up, which will bring the farm
into the 21st century. Funding will come
from some of the farm assets, either through
a mortgage on the property or the sale of
a house. Equipment suppliers are naturally
enthusiastic, and the plans soon develop
into a major expenditure. As the numbers
increase, financial calculations go into seatof-the-pants mode. The what-if’s show that
there are some fundamental big risks, yet
the project has begun and the commitment
made. The development is now depending
on wheat being £150 and yields averaging
7 tonnes. It’s getting to sleepless nights
With luck the business will pull through,
the market will stay buoyant, a lottery
ticket will come good, an unknown asset
comes to fruition. But there may still be
regret that the whole ambitious endeavour
was started in the first place. If only there
had been some goals, and strategies, and
limitations laid down in the first place.
LAMMA 2012
Far left: big machinery
has a continuing appeal.
Left: on a dry show
day the tented stands
are never as alluring
- but they can impart
valuable knowledge that
can benefit people with
pockets of any depth
2012 LAMMA - even bigger
and more comprehensive
Now Britain’s biggest farming event, LAMMA’s success is
based on giving farmers what they want: loads of machinery,
inexpensive food, a relaxed dress code and free entry, all
at a time when farm work is at a lull. Started by a group of
Lincs engineers (Lincolnshire Agri Machinery Manufacturers
Association) to provide a showcase for their products, today
these Lincs engineers mix it with others from across Europe
and find themselves with a huge national audience. All 750
exhibitors (150 up on 2011) are vetted to make sure they are
the 2012 event was a major success.
Farmers had a variety of reasons for making the LAMMA
trip. Derek Johnson from N Yorks was looking to replace his
ageing Merlo, and was checking out the latest handler specs.
Others had less specific aims but were happy to get swept
away by the dazzling new paint.
We resisted the paint and focussed on soil as it connects
with the Soil Compaction feature in our previous issue. We
visited and interviewed people from companies providing
products to improve soil conditioners - the stands which
many visitors will walk past, maybe because their visual
attractions are limited to a few plastic bags of grey stuff, and
printed information consisting of tables of figures. The soil
condition stands are never particularly interesting.
Techniques at LAMMA for
raising soil fertility
Investing in soil, improving it’s condition and fertility, is a
first priority in farming, yet one easily forgotten in the dazzle
of equipment. Lifting productivity in each field is a goal for all
farmers. Achieving this means focussing on the poorer parts of
the field, and the new technology to help achieve this is now
very affordable. Companies providing analysis of the fields
vie with each other for business. Getting the profits up will
provide the funds for new equipment in subsequent years! So,
contractors apart, the first and main priority must be the soil
used for crops and grazing. Skimping on soil condition with a
yard full of expensive equipment is no long term farm plan.
Soil analysis gets more logical
The slightly dull facade of soil companies hides the fact that
something very interesting is going on. The age old system of
sampling, where cores are collected and then mixed to create an average, is becoming very out of date. With Global
Positioning (GPS) farmers can now target the needs of specific
areas of their fields, with each being considered almost a separate entity. The maps provide data which adjusts machinery
while it’s working - not only fertiliser spreaders, but lime and
other machines, so the material goes onto the parts of the field
where it is most needed. The aim is to get a level production
across the whole field, so crops don’t go down in some places
while in others there is reduced yield. The economics of lifting
the poor areas and profiting from the fertility of the best has
been shown to work.
Looking at soil types - finding out what you’ve got
Soil electrical conductivity varies with the clay content. Two
companies, Soil Quest (Masstock) and FarmImage were at
LAMMA and both showed how they scanned a field with a
machine called a Veris which continuously measures conductivity to create a map. The machine uses steel discs, two
having an electrical charge and four being receivers, to measure the conductivity at two depths 0-30 and 30-60 cm. The
results are continuously recorded as the machine covers the
ground, with the position being plotted. The resulting map
provides a basis for further analysis and is the backbone of the
Below: the Veris machine measures the electrical conductivity of soil; Soil Quest, the new
name for Masstock, uses an identical machine. Much depends on the interpretation of results.
LAMMA 2012
Never let
your land
you’re poor
Right: spreading sludge. Far right: American built KW
composter turning a windrow of food and sludge waste
following work. Land with poor conductivity is often heavier
and crops find it harder to tiller out.
The second stage is to take soil samples from each of the
different zones shown on the soil condition map and this is
then used to create a management plan for the field. Once the
quantity of input, be it regular fertiliser, lime, organic material
or muck and slurry is decided, the machine is set up to work.
The data is used to control the spreader, so the areas which
need the most get it, while other areas that have better results
are given less.
Users do more than use the information to alter their fert
The soil data makes sense on a number of levels. One farmer
changed the location of the muck heap in a field from a fertile
edge close to the gateway to an area in the centre where the
data showed there was poor fertility. Another spread muck
with a map in his hand while driving, going a gear higher in
the fertile places.
Auto adjusting the shutter setting on the lime spreader will
also increase the results of spreading.
It’s not just soil inputs - seed rates are adjusted on the drill
to take into account the fertility of each sector in the field.
As FarmImage says “Establishing the correct number of plants
or tillers is critical to canopy formation and grain yield”.
They say there are many factors that are consistent variables
such as grain weight, drilling date and variety. There are also
changes in seed bed quality that demand changes of seed rates
to achieve even establishment. Even crops have the potential
to produce the highest returns, as each part of the expensive
resource - land - is being treated optimally.
The key factor is analysis of data
Despite the maps and the mountains of statistics, there’s a
need for human knowledge and experience in providing a
recipe for improvement. Soil Quest anlayse the maps ‘with the
farmer’s and agronomist’s knowledge to decide seed rate’, and
recognise this is important both for seed and fertiliser, and also
for weed control.
Products to improve soil fertility
Compound and straight chemicals are the traditional tools
for raising fertility, but other products have come into play
as chemicals have become increasingly expensive. The days
when most conventional farmers considered them to be
largely hocus pocus are drawing to a close. Companies such
as Keith Mount Liming from Bury St Edmunds has products
like Limex, a sugar beet waste product which adds lime and
improves soil condition with phosphate, magnesium and sulphur in the product. Another product is Fibrophos, a manure
from cereal fed chickens which has been around for 20 years.
With phosphate, potash, sulphur, magnesium, sodium and
calcium in a complex natural material which has trace elements and more included, users have found it beneficial to
crops and grassland alike.
Cropkare, from Willett & Son of Bristol, is made in
Holland from chicken manure which is incinerated to produce
electricity and the resulting ash available for the land. The
by-product is nationally available and contains P and K, Mg,
S and a full range of trace elements. Very cost effective, the
product improves soil composition and is long acting. The
feasibility of using other ash products from bio-energy power
stations which are fuelled with wood and other fuels holds the
possibility of further supplies of nutrient-rich waste products
being available from UK sources, reducing transport costs.
Basic Slag remains available with the product name of
Ag Slag, and retains its reputation as a liming agent and
source of nutrients. This table compares the product with
other liming materials. Ground limestone varies significantly
by region, some being more effective than others. Ground
limestone comes in a variety of guises, ‘screened’ being coarser.
Limestone quality is measured by its neutralising value - which
is its effect compared with calcuim oxide. So if 100kg of the
material in question works as well as 52 kg of CaO, the value
is 52. Lime suppliers are required by law to provide these
figures, and in addition to declare the %age of the material
that goes through a 150 micron sieve - figures the farmer can
use to compare the quality and value of competing suppliers.
See table below
Calcium Availability of a Range of Liming Agents
Source: Soil Fertility Services Ltd July 2007
Product source
Ag Slag
GL Norfolk
GL Kent
GL Lancs
GL Newcastle
GL N Wales
Neutralising capacity as CaO
Fineness factor
Total calcium at 4t/ha (kg/ha)
Available calcium at 4t/ha (kg/ha)
TEL: 01994 240978
LAMMA 2012
Above, from left: Terratech uses distinctive silver, and there’s some good engineering
underneath. MD Chris Byass is on the right; forward wheel subsoiler is ideal for
Challenger; rear press sets working depth - note the pin is in the deepest setting
The table shows the available calcium in ground limestone
is hugely variable. The effectiveness and speed of reaction of a liming material can be quantifies in the lab using
a ‘reactivity test’. The test involves the decomposition of
the liming material in hydrochloric acid, and the results
compared with the pure calcium carbonate. Figures varying
considerably between samples, quarries and crushers. Lime
requirements are not based entirely on the pH of the soil, as
clay soils will benefit even if their pH is neutral. The dense
soil particles in clay are good at retaining calcium and magnesium ions and they displace hydrogen, and the structure
restricts the movement of bacteria and micro organisms.
Lime changes the characteristics of clay so it flocculates,
increasing drainage, air capacity and the easier movement of
major ingredients for plant life development. At the other
extreme sandy soils have a reduced capacity for holding liming materials, and so need a little and often liming to maintain fertility.
Sewage Sludge has an increasing role in farming as the
costs of other fertilisers increase. It’s use became regulated
after an agreement in 1998 between Water and Sewage
Operators and the British Retail Consortium and this was
legalised in 2001. The end date for the use of untreated
sewage sludge on farm land used for non-food crops was
31 Dec 2005, and conventionally treated sludge has only
one use, on combinable and animal feed crops and not
on grazing land. Application to grassland require deep
injection, not spreading. Conventional treatment includes
anaerobic digestion, and biological, chemical and heat
treatments as well, with the requirement that at least 99%
of pathogens are destroyed. Arguments against sewage sludge
are rife in the USA, where opponents claim damaging
chemicals are spread on the land, yet the technique is far
from new, with raw, untreated ‘night waste’ being spread
widely before the development of a sewerage system. New
chemicals unknown to our ancestors do get into the drains,
but dangerous chemicals are handled carefully by industry
and consumers.
The need for further treatment and a product with fewer
health risks have resulted in Enhanced Treated Sludges which
are processed so they can be used like regular fertiliser on a
wide variety of crops, including salads, fruit and vegetables.
Pathogens in the sludge have been virtually eliminated, and
the product is free from salmonella.
Sludge is high in phosphate, and can replace that
imported as rock phosphate and processed into triple super
phosphate, which now has an on-farm price of close to
£400/t. This values the phosphate constituent of biosolids
cake at £11/t. Severn Trent Water serves 8 million
households and businesses and generates 650,000 tonnes
of treated biosolids every year, and in 2009/10 supplied
this to 370 customers. The company says that spreading
8 - 10 tonnes/acre or 20 - 25 t/ha provides the soil with
its phosphate needs for about four years. The alternative is
spreading digested liquid, and 8,000 galls an ac (90 cubic
m / ha) which lasts three years. Apart from phosphate, the
bio-cake adds N to the rate of 20 - 30 kg/ha in year one,
and another 20 kg in year two. Other usefu ingredients
are sulphur, and trace elements including boron and
The organic matter in sludge bio-cake is important
to improve soil condition, structure and resistance to
Right: legs are not over
thick and have replaceable
wearing plates in the front.
Far right: the wide wing
is the action tool here,
giving the land a real
heave from underneath
LAMMA 2012
Source: Severn Trent Water
Sludge ingredients
per tonne STW biosolids cake
Per cu metre liquid biosolids
Total N (kg)
Available N (kg)
0.5 - 1.0
compaction, moisture retention, together with its positive
effects on bacteria, earthworms and other living organisms.
See table above
There are some important limitations on the use of sludge products. Grazing land that has been surface spread can only take
place during the next growing season, and it needs a 3 week
period after digested liquid or limed cake has been injected.
Vegetable crops need 12 months, and 30 months for ready to eat
crops. Livestock farmers need to be aware that sludge contains
molybdenum which can cause soils that naturally contain high
levels of the element to cause problems in grazing livestock.
Cattle, and to a lesser extent sheep, can suffer copper deficiency.
Bio-Mulch is a soil conditioning agent in liquid form which
is diluted 40 - 50 litres Bio-Mulch to 200 litres water. It has a
high population of bacteria that break down straw and other
trash and converting it to humus. The product has a molasses
base with potassium, phosphate and trace elements. BioMulch includes biological activators, in much the same way as
biological washing powders and silage additives, both products
which have gained widespread acceptance. Users spray it onto
chopped straw in no-till and min-till management, and find
it starts breaking down the surface trash quickly, whatever
the weather. In wet harvest it prevents the straw becoming
a stinking mess of wet matter, and when there’s no rain the
material starts the breakdown in the dry. The result is an
improvement in humus and soil condition.
Followup: LIMING Keith Mount Liming www.mountliming.
co.uk T: 01284 811729, E andrew@mountliming.co.uk /
Kropcare Shorts Agri Services, Jade Farm, Winkfield Lane,
Winkfield, Windsor T: 01344 891982 E: jamew@shorts-group.
co.uk www.shorts-group.co.uk / Ag-Slag and Bio-Mulch Soil
Fertility Servoces, Harvest House, New Rd, Crimplesham,
Norfolk T: 01366 384899 E: info@independentsoils.co.uk
www.independentsoils.co.uk / Fibrophos John Hatcher,
Walton House, High st, Felixstowe, Suffolk T: 01394 274321
E: fibrophos@hatcher.co.uk www.fibrophos.co.uk / Sewage
Sludge Dr Brian chambers, ADAS Gleadthorpe Research Centre
T: 01623 844331 Mark Aitken SAC Auchincruive T: 01292
525330 www.adas.co.uk/matrix / Severn Trent Water T:
0800 9177253 E: biosolids@severntrent.co.uk / MAPPING:
FarmImage T: 01233 740247 www.farmimage.co.uk /
SoilQuest www.masstock.co.uk T: 01620 842170 / Phield Tek
Risby Business Park, Bury St Edmunds, T: 01284 811729 E:
LAMMA competitions
There are a number of competitions associated with
LAMMA, and it was interesting to see the fledgling Tractor
Guard, which was the cover story of Farm Ideas last summer
issue (20-2) winning the prestigious Farm Machinery and
Equipment Award in association with Farmers Guardian. The
window protectors which can be fitted or removed in literally
TEL: 01994 240978
Value N / ha
Phosphate (kg P2O5)
Value P / ha
seconds is an innovation that saves broken glass, downtime
and insurance claims, and has a wide application.
Martin Lishman gained the best New Product Award for
their wireless Barn Owl Crop Monitoring and Auto Fan
Control system. The inexpensive system will improve grain
quality in store and reduce the anxiety of cereal farmers who
store their crop on farm as the information from each sensor
is recorded directly onto a website so results can be contained
at any time, in any place. This package costs an average
£1,500. A second stage connects the sensor information with
the fan switch gear, so appropriate fans are turned on when
necessary. This additional £1,500 means that the store is
under full automatic control.
There’s a demo at www.barnowlwireless.com The system links
in with the pedestal system of crop drying and control which
the company has been involved with for 40 years and claims it
provides the highest grain quality and fastest cooling times.
Followup: Matrin Lishman T: 01778 426600 E: sales@martinlishman.com www.martinlishman.com
LAMMA machinery
There was some impressive cultivation equipment from the
new company Terratech of Cottingham, East Yorks. Formed
last year by farmer and engineer Chris Byass to produce quality arable machinery at an affordable price, Chris sees the
competition as being more in the lines of Cousins and some
continental marques rather than the companies such as Sumo
(also in Yorks) which are focussing more on Min-Till.
Farmers with Caterpillar Challengers will be interested in
the towed 5 leg 3.5m wide subsoiler made as a special one-off
for a man with heavy land in Holderness. He wanted a trailed
machine that was handy on the headlands, and suggested
having the wheels in front of the V frame, and the idea works
extremely well. The machine turns better and follows the
tractor through gateways, lifts easily, and is easy to handle.
Chris fitted the tines with wide wings, and put a packer roller
on the back to control depth and work the field surface. This
machine is working at 20ins behind 300HP.
The Combi-Harrow is a one - two pass machine that has a
FlexiCoil roller in the front, wheeling eradicators made from
rigid tines that adjust in depth, S tines or hydraulic JackPot
tines go in front of a pair of levelling boards to consolidate
and crush clods and then a crumbler roller on the back for
consolidation and moisture retention.
Attention to detail is shown by the rubber rollers fitted to his
steering front press, which are sure to turn more easily, and for
longer than the more regular all-metal arrangement. Terratech
is moving in competitive territory but the quality of their
design and work deserves checking out by those in the market.
Followup: Terratech Ld, Cowlam, Little Weighton, Cottingham,
E Yorks HU20 3XW T: 07703 307189 E: sales@terra-tech.
co.uk www.terra-tech.co.uk
LAMMA 2012
Top: self loading, mixing and feeding out in a single machine; handler brackets are the standard couplings.
Above: beds up left and right; loads with the ramp that has retaining tines for square bales
Two machines for livestock farmers attracted attention - a
feeder and a straw chopper.
Their ‘three-jobs-in-one’ cattle feeding machine which
is a loader bucket which fills itself from the silage clamp
and straights store, mixes the feed, and then puts it out
into a trough. The machine does the job of the silage grab
and the mixer wagon, reducing the money tied up in feeding machinery, and means the driver stays in the cab. The
bucket mixes 2.8 cu metres at a time, or roughly a tonne of
feed, but does it very quickly. The silage is filled in less than
a minute and the load mixed in two minutes. Mixing and
feeding 3 tonnes of feed takes less than 30 minutes. Being
loader mounted the machine gets into buildings and around
corners which the diet feeder finds difficult. There are 200
Silage Mixer buckets working in France, in herds that range
from 100 - 300 cows.
The grab type front is an abrasive roller driven at both ends
by hydraulic motors. The rams push it down through the
silage which is strips off - no lumps, and a neat silage face.
The silage goes into the bucket, either after straights have
been shovelled up with the front blade, of filled with an auger
afterwards. The feed is mixed with an open auger and the
discharged to either side. See details on http://www.emily.fr/
The Emily feeder is a concept that might appeal to farmers
with inaccessible cattle yards and those who want to get on
with the job quickly, even at the published £16,000 price.
The straw spreader takes any shape of bale, moves it
forward to the shredder with a reciprocating bottom that has
no chains or gears, has a hydraulic spiral rotor that feeds the
chopped straw into a turbine which drives it up the chute.
The machine can blow up to 15 metres, the chute swivelling
through 260 degrees. Control is through a box in the cab, and
the hydraulic requirements are a single spool valve - a feature
of Emily equipment.
The machine has a neat stone tray which stops stones being
fired up the chute and at cattle.
The company use Hardox, more than 2.5 times the strength
of mild steel, for all the steelwork. The result is a weight of
1.3 tonnes for the empty feeder, making it work well on a
3 tonne handler. The straw spreader at 1230 kg is slightly
Followup: Etienne Pignon, Export Manager, Emily, ZA Les
Landes, 29800 Tréflévénez, France E: etienne.pignon@emily.fr
T: 0033 298 218614 www.emily.fr
There’s always time and effort involved in
rounding up and moving cattle from field to
yard, and the hard work of putting them through
the crush has yet to start. With so many farms
having regular TB testing, the benefits of
reducing the effort of the job are good for the
Nigel Whitcombe made this mobile handling
system for no more than £500, using scrap parts
for the trailer, spending much of the money on
8 heavy duty gates that are used for the pen.
Since finishing the project he says it has totally
transformed the way he handles cattle. Summer
TB testing is done in the grazing field. Stock
with mucky eyes, lameness, a swollen quarter are
treated in the field.
Making the job easier means it’s more pleasant
and easier to fit in to the day’s routine, so
TEL: 01994 240978
problems are worked on earlier.
Design uses a Frasier muck spreader chassis
Nigel has made some major changes to the
spreader chassis that fundamentally changes
the structure. From being a frame designed
to carry a heavy load on top it is a steel arch
through which cattle can move, and the
penning gates can be carried on either side.
The axle loading is far less than when it was
carrying a load of muck, which has allowed
him to remove the centre of the axle and
re-engineer it so the wheels are mounted on a
pair of stub axles. The Frasier chassis is at the
back of the machine, and he has welded an
extension made from 6 x 2in channel steel on
which he’s mounted a standard cattle crush.
The result is there is nothing going from one
side to the other, allowing cattle to go through
Top: mobile cattle handling is achieved with
this £500 system with a
pen that takes 20 x 2 yr
bullocks or 30 yearlings.
Above left: it takes about
five minutes to set the pen
up, best done near the field
boundary so cattle can be
walked down the hedge.
Above right: the frame
rests on the ground and
the drawbar is not a problem for cattle getting out of
the crush
Above left: the pen gates have two 14ft
lengths that pull out from either side and
remain secured to the raceway. Above: the
Frazier chassis is joined to the home built
extension with a step in the middle.
Left & far left: pull the cable with the
blue alkathene handle and the sleeve is lifted
and releases the door. Below: the crush is
attached by four bolts to the home built frame
the raceway without having any obstacles.
bar that has inserts locating into the box section chassis,
which provides stiffness for the rear of the machine, and also
has a ball hitch attached
channel and box section gussets welded in to improve strength
arches made from box section, with double 6in gussets across
the corners. The arches create a frame sufficiently strong for
the purpose
cross members, and this provides stiffness to the front of the
of the cross members
lugs welded to the chassis
pen to make the pen rigid and cattle proof
up to five each side
One man handler
“It pays for itself every year,” says Nigel, who finds it easy
enough to do cattle on his own without additional help, other
than from his good working dog. Getting through the cattle
smoothly is helped by being able to remotely open and close
the exit gate of the crush from anywhere along the side. He’s
fitted cables to do this. One pulls up a small sleeve which
lifts the latch on the gate so it opens, and the other pulls the
top of the gate so it closes and the latch clunks into place. It
means he can hold one in the crush to act as a lure for the
next to go down the raceway, and then open the exit and slam
it closed after it’s gone.
Tow hitch cuts road travel
Going through the cattle on a regular inspection and you find
one which needs to be brought home. With no holding pen
on the crush exit you’re doomed to driving the tractor back
home to collect the cattle box and then transfering the animal
from the crush to the trailer.
The ball hitch on the back means the cattle trailer can
be towed along behind, and reversed and loaded in the
field if needed. Towing it back to the farm loaded is not
recommended, as the hitch may not be strong enough - but
you have saved one journey, and also have kept the flow of
work going in the field, getting all the cattle through without
leaving them mooching in the pen unsupervised.
Top left: the raceway has a clear passage of ground leading to the
crush which is a step up into the crush with a checkerplate floor. The
non-return gates need some redesigning. Top right: the outside step
makes it easy to lean over into the raceway. Above left: using standard
crush makes construction straightforward. Above right: pull the yellow
marked cable and the exit door is closed, with the help of this spring.
Head scratchers
Low ground clearance, and resulting bulldozing when the
machine is towed down ruts, is something Nigel has to live
with. It’s difficult to see how this can be improved when
towing with the tractor pick-up hitch, as the frame under the
crush has to be close to the ground.
There is still a problem with the non-return gates to the side of
the raceway to stop cattle reversing back. He’s fitted some short
spring loaded gates which they should push through on the way
down, but he finds cattle get spooked by them and won’t move
down easily. Make the opening between the gates any wider and
small cattle are going to either squeeze through or get stuck.
Having the cattle exit over the drawbar looks like a
problem, but in practice they hop out without a worry. The
drawbar can sink in soft ground, making it harder to connect
with the pick-up on the tractor, but the problem of cattle
refusing to exit over it, or damaging themselves on it, is
non-existent. A useful tip for constructors, as engineering a
removable drawbar is a headache.
TEL: 01994 240978
A project for cattle farmers
“Mobile handling systems are available for £5-6,000 which is
a fair price for the work and steel involved,” says Nigel, who
goes on to say that the cost can be difficult to justify for the
smaller farmer making little more than a total £5k profit on
the whole of his beef enterprise.
“Building the same thing from scrap metal which would
otherwise be recycled via steel plants in China and elsewhere is
complete sense in my view. And using a standard cattle crush
works fine for most general procedures, but as larger herds are
replacing these with specialist ones, especially for foot trimming,
these general purpose crushes get less interest in farm sales.”
Neighbouring farmers who know about Nigel’s mobile
handler are impressed at the way it works so well, and the
time it saves. It’s a project which could be shared by a group of
farmers, assuming that issues of bio-security are resolved.
Left: the dog container goes between the driver
and rear window. Netlon keeps paws off the glass,
and prevents the dog from falling out.
Above: the baker’s tray is bolted to a wood
batten frame that fits across the cab.
Carrying the dog in the tractor cab is safer for dog and driver,
and cleaner for the cab, when there’s a special place for the
dog to go, and when Nigel’s spaniel he’s not on the ATV he
rides in the tractor cab behind the driver’s seat. The baker’s
tray with the Netlon® cover is bolted to a wood frame which
goes across from one mudguard to another. The frame is
stable enough on its own, without needing any securing,
which means it is removed without tools.
here’s the
‘Dog Comfort
Position’ for a
happy spaniel
Most farm dogs are like their owners, preferring to ride than to
walk, which is why so many are seen wobbling on the back of
quad bikes as they speed across the country. Once a dog gets a
taste of the bike it quite often becomes addicted.
Safety, for both dog and driver is an issue, particularly when
on the public road. The dog is not secure and there’s the
chance it can be a distraction. If it falls off there’s the chance
of injury, and consequent vet bills. If the bike is involved in
an accident, having a dog on board will be cited as the cause,
and the farmer deemed to be at fault.
So this simple dog carrier has some real benefits which
might be overlooked at first glance. The tough Netlon ®
cover is cable tied to a plastic baker’s tray, and this in turn is
tied to the rear guard and frame of the the carrier. Keith says
there’s little need to ever take the tray off the back, as it is
useful to carry tools because they don’t fall off it.
It’s such a simple idea which anyone can make in minutes,
and is more than ‘fit for purpose’.
Above & below left:
trailed sprayer has 4m boom,
60l tank and has new pump
and motor. Above: the boom
and pump assembly hooks on
the main frame carrying the
tank. Below: using the ATV
trailer reduces costs, keeps its
wheels turning
Sprayers which are mounted on the rear carrier of the ATV
add considerable weight to the machine, raising the centre of
gravity and reducing handling. They also have very limited
tank capacity and boom width. If you are wanting a larger
machine the answer is to go trailed. But trailed ATV sprayers
are quite expensive, so are useful items to make up in the farm
Nigel says that building his own sprayer was easier than he
originally thought. Rather than starting from scratch, he used
an existing lightweight trailer (built to carry the ATV), and
made his sprayer demountable.
The machine is in two parts, the first being a strong frame
made from 2in box section with uprights on front and back
that rests on either side of the trailer, and the second is the
sprayer boom and pump mechanism that hooks onto the
back of the first. Bath are light enough to be handled by one
The heart of the machine is a 12v powered Shurflow
pump which both sucks and blows, and the spray tank is a
60 litre plastic barrel. The suck action means he can fill the
tank from a trough, using a fill pipe which is never close to
chemical. The pump circulates and mixes, and delivers to a
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three section spray boom with a total of 9 nozzles. The two
side booms hinge up for transport and are mounted on a hinge
with chains and springs which means they can break back and
automatically return to centre.
The boom height is 24ins, good for all the work he has on
the farm. It has two heights which are adjusted by using one or
other of the hooks on the rear frame.
The major problem concerned power - the pump motor
takes as much as the alternator on the ATV can provide, and
the result is the quad battery gets cooking hot. The answer is
to add a fully charged tractor battery to the load on the trailer,
and have the pump wired to this, and the electric system on
the quad wired to charge it. Used like this, the tractor battery
discharges quite slowly and the machine can work a full day
- by which time there’s not too much juice left so it needs a
trickle charge overnight.
Nigel’s low cost sprayer is made of all spare parts other than
the pump and motor, so the investment is meagre. Riding on an
existing trailer not only saved money, but means the running
gear has wheels which turn regularly. The kit has a low ground
pressure and is stable on road and field. He finds it ideal in his
market garden as well as using it to control weeds in grass.
Right: pick up hitch will make neat long splitter
Bought for a princely £8 in a farm sale, this pick-up hitch from
a forager harvester looks a good candidate for conversion to
a log splitter, whether powered from the tractor via a spool
valve or with an electric motor, pump as reservoir.
The second option sounds the expensive one, but it has
The ram is small enough for either power supply, and the only
engineering is to extend the frame so a reasonable length log
can be inserted. 95% of logs will split once the blade is 2/3rds
the way down, especially when the blade is thick like a split-
ting axe. If the blade is narrow like a felling axe the log takes
longer to crack open.
The ram is single acting and the return stroke is through
two springs. Will it need another one? The questions will be
answered before long as the project won’t take long to complete.
Clockwise from right:
the Chinese toilet is the
source of much admiration;
the stainless basin drains to
the cistern below - it’s clean
mains water which comes
from the pipe; this outlet
would normally go directly to
fill the cistern, but now does
it by way of the basin above
You see these combination toilets and hand washing basins
all over China, and when Nigel Whitcombe was putting in an
outside toilet in the shed he decided to have one for himself.
Their advantage is in saving water. The design lets you wash
your hands in the clean water before it enters the cistern. The
plumbing alteration is very simple - the water from the ball
valve going up a pipe that’s positioned above a stainless basin
fitted in the top of the cistern. The water from the basin flows
directly to the tank and when the full level is reached the
water turns off, just as normal.
Only in between whiles you have had the chance to wash
and rinse you hands. It’s the soapy water which is then flushed
into the toilet.
Keith saved the problem of finding separate plumbing
for the basin, and could use this small stainless one from a
caravan, which he fitted over a hole drilled in the top of the
cistern cover. The hose comes from the ball valve, and the
outlet could be a fancy piece of chromed pipe if any were
around. Not only is less plumbing needed, but space is also
saved along with the water.
Right: the plastic suitcase makes a useful plumbing parts store
When Nigel has a plumbing problem he need only pick up his
case of bits and a handful of tools. The suitcase carries a mass
of parts, and is ideal for sorting out the right ones when on
site. With the lid open on the ground he has a second secure
and clean area to work with.
Unlike deep tool boxes and storage bins which have things
piled on top of each other, the suitcase is flat, yet can be
stored upright if need be. A standard case has a considerable
capacity, yet are generally throw-away items.
Quad manufacturers make their gun
cases big and highly visible, and Nigel
is happier for his weapon to be carried
discretely so people don’t notice. he ended
up making an open rack from steel rod,
with the stock of the gun resting against a
stop on the bottom. The frame is bolted to
the rear carrier with a clevis type bracket
on front and back, so the gun is held at a
sloping angle.
Above, from far left:
the Kawasaki quad with carrier for
gun and dog; the gun carrier is
bolted on the rear frame with a pair
of brackets - easy to take off.
Right: when compared with modern
crushes, the one from Gibbs looks
remarkably uncomplicated, yet is perfectly
adequate for much animal work.
Far right: the head is secured against
the main upright of the crush, and is
‘reset’ for each animal, so is good for
doing a group of mixed sizes.
This crush was made around 40 years ago by Gibbs of
Crewkerne, just up the road from Nigel, and it has a head
yoke that works extremely well and is very safe. It is simply
a bar which the stockman pulls over and secures on one of
the teeth.
The advantage are:
Safety: if the door flies open they get out of the crush
without neck damage.
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Adjustment: handling a mixed group of cattle generally
means altering the yoke opening. With this one you do this
automatically for each animal.
Nigel altered the crush with a A frame bracket, and has fitted a neat tube to hold the restraining bar.
Cattle get their heads through the yoke much faster since
Nigel covered the panel nearest the yoke with ply. They have
no where to look.
Above: it’s a ‘take it or leave it’ selling philosophy - no
opportunity to rummage through trays of produce to find the
best, as it’s all good! Right: vegetables are grown in small
beds, and provide enough to satisfy present demand.
There’s method in the madness of selling farm grown
vegetables through a small operation like this. People are
less like to cheat when there is just a small quantity of
stock on display. The items are all merchantable, as it’s
easy to pick out the bad ones. Buyers come to get their veg
straight out of the ground - as fresh as is possible, and this is
achieved by lifting and cutting a quantity that can be sold
This is the antithesis of the normal farm shop with a wide
range of goods, many bought from wholesalers and other
local producers, with prices that reflect the provenance. The
layout could hardly be more different, depending on a few
baker’s trays and an old supermarket basket. Rummaging
through the display is impossible as there’s so little to
choose from. The small array needs topping up regularly,
and there’s a bell to call for help, but there’s no need to
have anyone present all the time.
The marketing technique might not suit all customers,
and will surely not satisfy those who need their goods either
well displayed or packaged, but provides some relief for
those who think that marketing takes too high a place and
that the product itself is of key importance. Such customers
are more likely to appreciate the work which goes into the
produce, and so be less likely to cheat. A subtle camera can
monitor what’s going on.
Out in the field the production system is equally low key,
involving just an acre or so which is worked with small
market garden machinery. The effect of this top quality
Somerset ground is seen in the produce, which has needed
little artificial encouragement.
Here’s a farm development which is deliberately low key
and low cost, with the opportunity to expand and develop
when customer demand dictates.
This small scale potato line is idea for Nigel, or any farmer
growing for a the retail market. He was lucky to pick up the
Tong 24in screening machine for just £50 at a collective sale,
and the Walthambury bagging machine had a more realistic
price but was still very affordable.
He built the set-up so he can do the work by himself, and
it takes him about a half hour to grade and bag half a ton of
The one ton home built hopper is made to take a full one
ton box of potatoes, and this is filled directly from the box
which gets tipped in. The hopper is built over an elevator
which lifts the potatoes into the grader,
The Tong drops the smalls through the screen while the
merchantable ones go on to be inspected by eye and the stones
and trash removed by hand. Nigel achieves this by doing one
task at a time, first loading, and then screening and sizeing.
The potatoes from the screen drop into a holding hopper on
the bagging machine, so Nigel can stop one part of the job to
focus on another.
With the 1/2 ton bagging hopper full he turns on the
Walthambury and fills sacks which he wire ties. The machine
has an auto weigher that uses a tray that can be loaded with
TEL: 01994 240978
different weights, making it simple to go from lbs to kgs, and
from 12.5 to 25kgs.
The bagger uses compressed air to operate the scale, and the
conventional system is to have it connected to a compressor.
He disliked the noise and inconvenience in having the
compressor in the potato shed rather than the workshop,
and so operates the scale using a gas bottle of compressed
air, which provides enough for a full day’s work. It’s a better
The advantages for a single handed farmer such as Nigel are
considerable. He can shut down and go off to do something
else at a moment’s notice, and at the same time can fit in
some grading and bagging when time allows. The total cost
of the machinery is small, so there’s no need for constant
Top left: the grading and bagging line is a simple one-man operation.
Top right: standard weights are used to set the auto cut-off, making it
easy to change bag weights. Above left: smaller potatoes fall through the
screen and are moved to a box. Above, middle & right: compressed
air held in a bottle is used to cut off the potato flow when the target weight
in the bag is reached. Better and cheaper than having a compressor
working all the time
Above left: the manual fork rides on
wheelbarrow wheels and has a two position
handle. Top & above: the handle latches
to the fork frame like catch on a trip loader
It enables anyone of average strength to
shift opened round or large square bales
Many smaller farmers and horse owners pay a huge premium
for straw and hay in small conventional bales simply because
they are unable to handle the large modern ones baled up by
most farmers and forage dealers. Their problem is that the
bales are very difficult to handle and move about, and they
need expensive machinery to do it. Although a full scale
farmer, Nigel has the problem of needing to put bedding into
smaller pens of cattle, and this means moving the round bale
around the yard, preferably without starting a tractor or other
Nigel saw this ‘Yard Mate’ in Practical Farm Ideas ages
ago, and the purpose for which it was built was to clear muck
clearing muck from awkward sheds. he thought it worth
making, and has recently discovered that it’s ideal for another
regular job - bedding cattle.
He uses round bales and he drops the unopened bale in the
largest pen with a tractor and loader, cuts the strings and rolls
out as much as is needed. This might take between a third
and a half of the whole bale. He then stands the remaining
part of the bale on its end and pushes the tines of the Yard
Mate underneath, lifts it using the considerable leverage of
the machine, and wheels it into the next pen.
He finds it easier than anything else. The is light and easy
to wheel through a narrow gap, and with its big wheelbarrow
wheels rolls on the bedding well. It means that straw is
rationed to what is needed rather than thrown around
because it is hard to handle.
The tool has a hinged handle which locates on the axle.
It locks up so you can lift the tines, while in the unlocked
position you can push it with the tines on the ground. The
original purpose was to clear muck from low sheds, and the
tines were shoved into the muck and the handle the raised
and locked so the fork full is ripped out of the bed, and then
wheeled away.
The simple machine has uses in stables and cow sheds,
chicken sheds and calves cots, to name a few obvious places,
and is also ripe for development to enable it to safely lift and
carry a full round bale. Budding engineers and designers are
invited to share their ideas with Farm Ideas to help them
develop a product.
Chainsaw accidents are not confined to tree work, but happen
in routine logging as well. The steadying foot gets too close to
the chain bar, or the hand used to move the logs into position
makes contact with the still moving chain. Holding the timber
securely by one end allows fast and safe progress down the
This over-centre gripper is easy to make and use. The
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Top: logging stand has over-centre
jaw that holds log by one end.
Above, left to right: grip locks
to the upright; pallet is held by a
single corner
gripper is tilted open and the log then lifted and the end put
on the rest. A quick shake and the gripper drops down, and
the heavier the log the greater the downward force.
Fitting the post to a large sheet of checker plate means the
weight can be skewed sideways without the stand tipping
over. The benefits of this can be seen with a pallet in the jaw
- it’s a good way to knock it up for firewood.
A tractor powered hydraulic crane mounted
on a farm trailer is a useful tool to have. It’s a
transporter and loader all in one, and means
there’s no need to have a second machine with
a loader on site to lift and move the goods.
Ex-transport cranes come in a wide range of
sizes, and are increasingly plentiful. When the
truck dies, the crane dies with it, even if in good
working order. A couple of grand will get a lorry
and crane, which is worth it for the crane alone
if it’s in good condition.
Here’s a neat idea which makes the trailer even
more flexible in use, as the crane can be lifted off
the trailer bed and stored on the ground.
Multi-use trailers that carry bales, fertiliser,
seed corn and potatoes and all manner of other
things don’t work well with a crane fixed on the
deck. Nigel built steel mounting brackets under
the deck front and has four 3/4inch bolts to pull
the two together. The crane foot is designed for
360 degree stability when the legs are dropped to
support the weight. The farm handler is attached
to the frame of the crane to lift it off and return
the trailer to standard spec.
Above, from far left:
lightweight crane is still
capable of handling a
600kg bag and has a max
capacity of 1250kg; the
securing bolts go through
the wooden boards and
bolt on the steel framework
Right: gantry is bar - adjustable
dropper simply hooks over it
The electric extension lead is one of the most common causes
of health and safety inspector’s complaints, and those which
are in poor condition do present a real danger to man and
beast. Keeping the wire off the floor is easily done with a
simple gantry like this. Some years ago Nigel saw one featured
in Practical Farm Ideas and decided to make his own, and
since then has had only praise from inspectors, and peace of
mind when using power tools.
The 2 x 1in box is mounted vertically so the 2in
dimension provides the stiffness, and the flex is simply held
with loops to the top rail. The dropper that takes power to
e: mike@farmideas.co.uk
t: 01994 240978 or txt: 07778877514
11 St Mary’s Street, Whitland,
Carmarthen SA34 0PY
t: 01994 240978 w: www.farmideas.co.uk
ISSN 0968-0136
9 770968 013015
3 ft from ground level is made of 1in box, and has a hook
made from reinforcing rod which goes over arm. There’re
no rollers or anything sophisticated - you just slide the
hook along. In fact the original arm has been extended by a
length of 1in box.
The arm turns on a pair of gate eyes fitted to hooks on the
He uses the gantry for more than a 3 pin socket, as it’s
strong enough to carry a small inverter welder which is useful
when welding large machinery. Better having the welder
hanging safely than perched on the top rung of a step ladder.
Nigel likes the inverter, which has a soft touch which
strikes an arc more easily than a standard stick machine.
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