Automatic scrapers are an essential piece of equipment on dairy farms and require regular maintenance to keep them running smoothly.
Automatic scrapers come in three main variations: rope, chain and hydraulic. A well-thought-out installation should give years of trouble-free use, but routine checks and servicing should not be overlooked.
With nearly 20 years of expertise under the Storth banner, sales director Chris Richardson gives us some handy hints on getting the best out of your systems.
THESE are suited for shorter runs and areas where rope or chain pulleys outside of the shed are not appropriate.
Mr Richardson says hydraulic systems are generally robust and reliable, and many farms use them in dry cow accommodation, as the pushing force applied by the hydraulic ram is ideal for removing denser, drier manure.
When using hydraulic scrapers in this scenario, watch out for accumulation of muck in the scraper’s ratchet mechanism, which can cause the ratchet system to stop working. This mechanism should be cleaned out at least once-a-week.
Wear rates of a hydraulic system are very low, but Mr Richardson warns high wear rates will be experienced in sand-bedded units. Wear on the scraper flaps, wing pieces and wing pins will occur regardless of bedding material and need checking weekly.
The driving apparatus of the hydraulic system needs the most attention, as this is where the greatest number of complex parts are.
Weekly, the filter and oil level should be checked. On some systems the filter element is visible through a sight glass and will change from green to red when the filter needs changing. As a rule of thumb, Mr Richardson recommends changing oil and filters every 2,000 hours.
A nifty trick is to give the tank a good clean out with diesel to fetch any contaminants out.
He also recommends changing the ram seals every three years.
Storth’s newest line of hydraulic scrapers use electric spool valves to alternate flow to the ram, and if an obstruction, such as a down cow is felt, it is much quicker at relaying the message.
As far as keeping the scraper running in winter, the advice is to run the system more often and to programme the computer to stop it in the middle of the shed, where it is warmer.
MR Richardson says rope scrapers have their limitations, as the system needs areas which will not have traffic driving over the rope.
Corner pulleys located outside the shed require greasing fortnightly and bushes in the pulley casting should be replaced on an annual basis.
These can be sunk into the concrete floor, along with the rope, if access is required.
If the rope does snap, only that section needs replacing. Knotting it can work as a short-term fix.
When it comes to rope systems, Mr Richardson says Storth supplies two options.
The ProRope is the preferred choice. With little elasticity, it is pre-stretched, so will not catapult the scraper forward when engaged.
However, in sand-bedded systems he suggests a sand specific rope. This rope is cheaper, but it does have more elasticity, meaning the winches will be wound up before the scraper starts moving.
Winches can be placed out of the way of stock and machinery, either outside the shed or on pedestals in the stock area.
The gearbox should be inspected and checked for oil a few times per year, and it is beneficial to change the oil every two years and the vent plug should be replaced.
When checking the oil level, the winch must be stationary and the oil cool to get an accurate reading.
Bearings on the winch should be greased weekly.
From time to time, test the down cow system to ensure the computer programming is still working correctly. Putting something heavy in front of the scraper should cause it to cut out and reverse, before becoming stationary for a minute before trying to clear the passage-way again.
If the system is not working, contact your dealer promptly.
CHAIN scraper systems are thought to be the hardest wearing and resilient of all the systems, with relatively simple infrastructure.
Like the rope scrapers, chain systems can have the drive motor outside the cow area and require corner pulleys to negotiate turns in the shed.
Chain scrapers run in a continuous loop, so it is vital the tension is kept on the chain, stopping the chain from jumping on the drive sprocket.
On Storth systems this is simply a case of lifting a lever on the scraper unit, repositioning the chain in the tensioning hook and pressing the lever back down again. It should be done once-permonth and Mr Richardson says the sprocket probably wants replacing every five or six years.
Like other systems which utilise sand for bedding, the wear rate could be significantly higher than other bedding systems.
One way to ensure even wear on the chain is to turn the whole chain by a quarter turn annually, so a different edge is running on the concrete.
The corner pulleys also need greasing weekly, which, unlike the rope corner pulleys, run on bearings. Mr Richardson recommends replacing the bearings at least every year as they are always under pressure.
Throughout summer, if the shed is not in occupation, Mr Richardson advises running the system onceper-week. This will stop any buildup of condensation in the motor and will hopefully prevent the corner pulley units from seizing up.
To winter-proof the system, Storth has programmed its units to automatically start running when the temperature drops to 4degC. The scrapers will shunt backwards and forward by a metre every 15 minutes to keep the system defrosted.
In areas that must be driven over, chains can be sunken into the concrete floor, or ramps can be put over the top on them, and as a last resort driven over. Broken chains can be welded back together.