Not just for diet feeders and muck spreaders, weigh cells can help to quantify loads off the combine and keep loads legal.
Jane Carley reports...
The ability to weigh trailers in the field can be seriously handy – checking that loads do not exceed the permitted payload, ensuring that haulage jobs paid for by the tonne are billed correctly or calibrating the combine, all without having to return to the yard to get on the weighbridge.
By using load cells to quickly quantify weight in the field, the risk of damage to running gear, tyres and braking systems from overloading is minimised and operators can be confident of transporting a legal load.
An early adopter of such a system is Swanton Morley Farms, Norfolk.
The farming outfit was one of the first in the country to fit Vehicle Weighing Systems’ (VWS) latest Cropweigh system to two of its trailers.
With 1,000 hectares of arable land, including combinable crops and sugar beet on owned land and contract farmed, partner James Keith says it is a major benefit to know exactly what each load weighs.
He says: “We have had yield monitors fitted to the combines for several years, but they are just not accurate. They all weigh over, and when you add up the loads, you can be out by a considerable amount.
“We noticed grain lorries are monitored with great accuracy, and got talking to VWS about a system for trailers.”
With detailed drawings from VWS, which supplied machined fittings for the trailer, as well as the weighing and monitoring equipment, crawler driver and mechanic Mark Fray fitted the system in the farm workshop.
“Data from the weigh cells is relayed via Bluetooth to a monitor which is kept in the grain store, so while the driver is carrying out moisture and bushel weight tests and recording them, he can add the precise weight,” Mr Keith says.
Calibration on a weighbridge has found the units to be highly accurate, he comments. Knowing what is going into store enables Mr Keith to use moisture readings to calculate weight loss during storage.
“We know exactly what is in the shed. It has brought us into the 21st century.”
The system has also come in handy for sugar beet. At the start of the season, the harvesting team can open up part of the field if it is needed by the shoot, for example, and record the weight, with the data taken into account when calculating the total yields for each field at the completion of harvest.
“Knowing precisely how much each field yields offers the opportunity to carry out field trials too,” Mr Keith says.
The farm also has a pig unit from which muck is trailered out to the sugar beet ground for a contractor to spread.
“We can calculate exact muck tonnages for nitrate vulnerable zones and RB209 use, and the weighing monitor is kept in the cab of the telehandler so the driver knows how much is going in and can avoid overloading for road transport,” he says.
The units have proved highly robust, Mr Keith says, unaffected by road work or bumpy tracks, and sealed from the effects of pressure washing.
He says: “We just check their accuracy occasionally, and it is a lot quicker than having to take the trailer on a six-mile trip to the weighbridge when we want to calibrate the combine.
“I wish we had weigh cells sooner.”
ABOUT THE WEIGHING SYSTEM
VEHICLE Weighing Systems (VWS) has a background in haulage equipment and the company’s main customer is the waste industry, where it has an 89 per cent market share of weighing systems for waste transporters, it says.
In 2017 the company introduced Cropweigh, aimed at the agricultural market.
The system comprises a set of load cells, which can be fitted to any type of tipper trailer, up to 44 tonnes capacity, connected to an LED display which shows net, load, gross and axle weight to an accuracy of +/-0.5 per cent and offers an overload alarm, plus an optional inclinometer to give a lateral tip warning on uneven ground.
Load cells made from hardened steel and nickel plated are fitted under the body, so do not require the trailer to be tipped to give a measurement, explains sales director Shaun Hamilton.
“The load cells were designed for the Highways Agency to use on gritters, so they are resistant to salt and low temperatures, making them suitable for agricultural use,” he says.
The LED display can be mounted on the side of the trailer or in the cab, or connected wirelessly to a handheld display.
“It is also possible to integrate the system into the tractor’s telematics system using an RS232 hard wiring cable or via Bluetooth, and we are looking at integration with IsoBus,” says Mr Hamilton.
“Loading information would be displayed on the tractor terminal for this type of system.”
Cropweigh takes two to three days to install, and customers have fitted their second and subsequent systems in-house with support from VWS.
In addition to retrofit kits, it can also be specified as an option on new trailers from Stewart, Bailey and Richard Western.
Once fitted, annual calibration is all the maintenance required, with Cropweigh systems starting at £1,550.