With collectors swallowing up the classics and the export markets taking the good stuff, finding a suitable second-hand tractor for scraping out duties is getting tougher. Hence why one Wiltshire dairy farmer went for a brand new machine. Farmers Guardian reports.
It is a measure of the importance dairy producer Peter Shaw attaches to the reliability of his scraper tractor that it is the only new power unit on the farm.
The diet feeder is entrusted to a second-hand John Deere, while an ageing David Brown puts chopped straw on to rubber mats in the cubicles. Contractors look after most of the field work, partly to exploit their expertise, but also to save putting money into machinery used only sporadically.
Mr Shaw says: “I would rather spend money on our cows and fixed assets such as the milking parlour we installed a few years ago to cope with herd expansion. I can see a direct return from those investments.”
But Mr Shaw makes one exception. He recently changed a Landini Mistral compact tractor he uses for clearing cubicle passages, the collecting yard and feeding area with another one.
He says: “The scraper tractor has to start on the button every morning. The thought of spending £3,000 on someone else’s second-hand rubbish does not appeal, so we bought another new Mistral.”
A pair of Fordson Majors provided sole motive power when Mr Shaw and Beryl Shaw moved to Bishops Farm, a council holding at Bushton near Royal Wootton Bassett, in 1989.
The 30-hectare (75-acre) unit has grown to 60ha (150 acres) plus some rented land since then, and cow numbers from 75 to 150 pedigree Holsteins, forming a closed herd with the Chanter prefix.
New and extended buildings provided by Wiltshire county council accommodate the larger herd, providing airy housing.
When it comes to the twice-daily scraping duty, Mr Shaw wanted a tractor with four-wheel drive for secure traction but sufficient manoeuvrability to nip in and around buildings.
His first Landini Mistral, which took over from one of the Majors, clocked up 4,500 hours in eight years. It was reliable, says Mr Shaw, and did the job well enough for him not to seek another make and replace it with the latest model earlier this year.
He says: “It is a fantastic little compact tractor – very impressive. You would not believe how much muck it will push and the four-wheel drive grip is essential on sun-dried slurry on concrete. It is easy to forget how slippery it can be.”
Weighing in at just less than 1.5 tonnes, the Mistral is powered by a 35hp Yanmar engine coupled to a 12 by 12 shuttle transmission.
“I like the way the synchro shuttle gives you equivalent forward and reverse speeds. It means there is only one lever to shift to change direction.”
Having just a roll-over protection hoop makes the tractor easy to hop on and off when gates have to be opened and closed – and one less aspect of the tractor to damage.
Mr Shaw says: “I did not want a cab because without one you have the best visibility and there is no glass to break, get dirty or frost up in winter. The tractor lives outside and gets washed off regularly, so it would be nice to have a seat which tips forward to stop it getting
wet. Still, a plastic bag does the trick.”
Slurry gathered off the collecting yard where cattle also feed, and out of the cubicle sheds, is pushed and pulled using a flip-over scraper into a weeping wall lagoon. This dewaters slurry over time and allows contractors to dig out and spread the solids which remain.
Another benefit of having a ‘compact’ as the scraper tractor is it can be manoeuvred into the weeping wall system’s strainer box when it needs emptying, says Mr Shaw.
“It is a great little tractor with comfortable noise levels and easy servicing. I could not do without it.”
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