Tractor drawn stock trailers have moved away from the ‘box on wheels’ design with new features to ease loading and improve the animals’ comfort. Jane Carley meets a farmer who keeps his Rolland trailer very busy.
Johnny Alvis appreciates the capacity and convenience of a dedicated tractor drawn livestock trailer.
Alvis Brothers Ltd milk 700 cows at Lye Cross Farm near Bristol, with all milk destined for the family’s cheese making enterprise, which exports worldwide.
With 100 calves born each year, plus 500 head of beef cattle and 500 heifers, moving stock between the dairy unit, calving pens, home paddocks and outlying pastures is a significant logistical exercise.
Weaning of calves and all milking takes place at the farm, young stock move away to mature and dry cows return home to calve so there is a year-round need to transport the animals.
A high capacity, stock-friendly trailer is essential, as Mr Alvis confirms: “Some of the pasture is up to 16 miles away and we use up to seven different sites in summer, so the trailer is on the road at least three times a week, covering up to 130 miles a week.”
A Rolland stock trailer had been in use on the farm for some 10 years up until 2013 when Mr Alvis upgraded it to a new V85 Rolland, which can carry 12 cattle in comfort.
Loading is made easier by the hydraulic drop floor.
To make loading of cattle easier, the trailer is lowered hydraulically, eliminating the need for a ramp and giving them just a small step up to negotiate.
“It’s much less steep than a ramp and the floor is fantastic – it has a rubberised coating so that the cattle do not slip,” Mr Alvis comments.
It is equipped with two sliding partitions to help keep stock stable in transport, which are of an open design to reduce weight since only larger animals are transported in this trailer. An Ifor Williams trailer and 4x4 are used for smaller stock or moving the odd animal about.
“We have to put a roof on the Rolland trailer if we are travelling to market, but otherwise I leave it off as the cattle load much better into the open space than they would into a dark, enclosed trailer,” he explains.
Mr Alvis praises the clean, smooth internal design of the trailer body which avoids the risk of injury to the cattle; it also features an escape door at the front for the stockmen’s safety but he comments that he has never had to use it.
The trailer carries 12 dairy cows in comfort, with hydraulic suspension improving the ride.
Also incorporated into the hydraulic lifting is a suspension system, which Mr Alvis says provides a smooth ride. He adds that it has proved durable and looks like new after two years.
“The wider tyres are an improvement on the previous model which could get into trouble on wetter ground, and with the tandem axle in the middle it is surprisingly manoeuvrable.”
With 12 cows weighing in at nine tonnes, and the trailer’s unladen weight of 4,460kg, plenty of muscle is needed up front, more to hold the trailer on a hill than to pull it, but the 135hp John Deere 6630 used is one of a pair used for all duties at Lye Cross Farm.
Brakes and axles are serviced on farm annually, and the previous trailer used a couple of sets of tyres in its 10 year lifespan.
Mr Alvis concedes that some farmers may see a dedicated stock trailer as ‘a waste of an axle’, preferring a demountable box which would allow the trailer to be used as a flatbed, but he points out that the V85 is always ready to go when he needs it.