COMBINED KNOWLEGDE, CLEVER COLLABORATION

02 March 2020

Ingenious low-impact vehicle beats the wet and keeps pigs fed

 

Continual innovation is an integral part of the Rattlerow Farms philosophy and this winter a joint venture, with pig equipment company J Harvey Engineering, has produced a novel self-propelled, low ground pressure (LGP) feeding machine that is keeping outdoor pigs fed while reducing excessive ground damage.

 

 

A light weight machine that can tackle wet, muddy conditions and minimise land damage, the newly developed Low Ground Pressure feeder.

 

Built on the body of a Kellands/McConnel AgriBuggy – a vehicle that usually accommodates a self-propelled crop sprayer – the LGP machine has a gross weight of just 7.5 tonnes. ands is 50% lighter than the typical tractor and trailed feeder combinations used on many outdoor sites. Its a ppwerful machine, with a substantial load capacity, but it is also very capable of negotiating wet and muddy conditions because its overall laden weight is spread across a large surface area.

Rattlerow has been using the LGP feeder on outdoor units since November 2019, and it’s definitely proved an asset during this winter’s prolonged wet weather.

Adrian Lawson (l) and Fergus Harvey-Kelly (r) with Rattlerow pig unit manager George Chapman driving LGP Feeder.

 

“The high rainfall we’ve experienced in recent months has made conditions extremely difficult on our outdoor units. Even the best sites, on free-draining land, are saturated and it’s been tough trying to maintain ground conditions and prevent excessive rutting when feeding pigs and moving equipment,” says Adrian Lawson, Rattlerow Farms joint managing director.

Adrian came up with the low-impact vehicle idea and says the machine is demonstrating clear advantages over other vehicles used on the farms.

 

Using low ground pressure vehicles can significantly reduce rutting and compaction on outdoor sites. Rattlerow has been using the LGP feeder on its outdoor farms since November. The machine has clear advantages over other farm vehicles.

“This feeder treads lightly on the land compared with other machinery and it’s proving to be a practical, economical and reliable workhorse in very wet and challenging conditions. The stockmen using it say it’s saving considerable time and reducing the impact that everyday tasks are having on the land.”

 

Fergus Harvey-Kelly, feeding technology and equipment manager at J Harvey Engineering, beleives there’s significant potential for low ground pressure equipment in the outdoor pig sector, and he’s currently exploring how some ground care technologies used in the arable sector might be adapted to suit pig businesses.

 

Robust spec

A common sight on outdoor units this winter, ruts and compaction created by unavoidable repeat journeys over the same ground during wet weather.

“Finding low ground pressure vehicles that are suitable for field feeders isn’t easy. In this case we wanted a machine that was robust and offered a similar power ratio to a tractor and we looked at alpine transporters, dumper trucks and other self-propelled sprayers. Then Martin Sergent, Rattlerow’s arable manager suggested the AgriBuggy, which did fit our spec very well,” he adds.

The AgriBuggy is capable of travelling at 50km/h, which allows for quick journeys between feed bins and pigs. It has good fuel economy, too, and the vehicle’s fully suspended axles and ‘comfort cab’ provides smooth transit on rough terrain/uneven ground. It offers excellent traction, too and has the capability to tow a small trailer and run auxiliary hydraulics, so it’s a viable and versatile alternative to a tractor . The LGP vehicle also has large flotation tyres, running at 12psi, that helps to alleviate compaction and rutting. And, to maintain it’s low-impact characteristics, J Harvey Engineering has manufactured the main body of the feeder and the hopper from mild steel, which is light-weight, but strong enough to withstand daily rigours of pig production in demanding, often inclement conditions.

Even the best free-draining sites have found it difficult to maintain ground conditions this winter.

 

The self-propelled feeder incorporates many of the features found in J Harvey Engineering’s towed field feed dispenser, which is widely used on outdoor pig farms. New additions include a touch-screen controller, a built-in calibration process that can log the diet and amount being fed to the pigs and a re-designed feed metering system that enables simple and accurate control of feed deliveries. The feeding process can also be operated and controlled from inside the cab.

 

Adaptive technology

The on-board feed delivery mechanism/apparatus is fully demountable and Fergus says the design spec used with this AgriBuggy-based machine can be adapted to suit other vehicles. He is now researching other low ground pressure options that might suit pig farming, vehicles that might be capable of pulling larger trailers and/or carrying higher volume, multi-compartment hoppers that would enable different rations to be delivered on one run to minimise the number of journeys a feeder needs to make across a farm each day. Work is also underway to develop a small feed dispenser that can fit a quad bike or utility vehicle  – an option that might be valuable to outdoor herds faced with extremely challenging ground conditions.

 

“This LGP feeder is proving to be a practical, economical and very reliable workhorse in particularly challenging conditions… it’s saving considerable time and reducing the impact that everyday tasks are having on the land,” – Adrian Lawson

 

 

The light-tread low ground pressure feeder. Note how the trackway has no ruts, even though the ground is wet and well-travelled.

With increasing pressure to protect soils and ground conditions, pig farmers are beginning to consider what long-term impact their management practises might have on the land they occupy. This innovative LGP, self-propelled feeder is a good example of how collaborative thinking between the production sector and allied businesses can help the pig industry adapt technology from other sectors to meet such challenges.