Telehandlers can be surprisingly versatile, with Merlo’s latest low profile compact machine combining power and capacity with the nimbleness to work in traditional poultry sheds. Jane Carley reports.
With poultry shed clearance contracts all over Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and East Anglia, Pedersen Contracting operates a vast fleet of machinery, tailoring equipment to customers’ needs.
Michael Pedersen, managing director of Pederson Contracting Services, says: “While many poultry enterprises are building new clearspan sheds, there is still a lot of traditional housing, especially in Norfolk and Suffolk, where the buildings tend to have low roofs with internal beams.
“We need specialist machines for clearing them out, which are low enough to work in these sheds but still offer the power for an efficient service, while providing a safe environment for the operator.”
At Hook 2 Sisters’ farms, on 25 sites in Norfolk, this includes two Merlo P25.6 ultra compact telehandlers with low profile cabs.
Mr Pederson says: “We operate 12 larger Merlo P32.6 machines at other sites, and when I saw the ultra compact machine, I bought the demo unit.
“I am always looking at new solutions and more efficient ways of doing the job, and I have since purchased two more P25.6 models for the East Anglian contract.”
In the smallest sheds of all, Pedersens use Tobroco Giant articulated loaders with a folding roll-over protection system, but where suitable, the Merlo P25.6 offers some added advantages.
Mr Pedersen says: “The 2.5 tonne lift gives extra capacity, so we can load the trucks more quickly, and the six-metre reach easily loads over the side of a lorry.
“The design of the Merlo, with the low side mount engine, gives 360-degree visibility, and with the air-conditioned cab, the operator is completely protected from dust.
“The cab also makes for a more pleasant environment when exiting the sheds to load the lorry. With an open platform machine, the operator is going from dark to light, and any wind can blow dust and litter back into his face.”
In sheds with very low sides, the Merlo works alongside a Bobcat skid steer, which pushes litter into the centre aisle from where the telehandler collects it.
Mr Pedersen says the P25.6 has plenty of power at 75hp and is very stable - the planetary final drive provides a low centre of gravity.
Four-wheel steer works with the compact dimensions to increase manoeuvrability, he says, but its low roof height of 1.77m is not at the expense of operator comfort.
“Most compact machines have a smaller cab, but this one uses a standard cab, positioned lower in the chassis.”
He says the hydrostatic transmission’s torque converter provides quick cycle times as when the operator selects reverse, the transmission automatically slows the machine down before changing direction.
Fuel consumption is considered modest for the output - the 70-litre tank will last two days at full stretch, says Mr Pederson.
Small modifications have been made, including relocating the exhaust and lights from the roof to ensure maximum clearance, and the telehandlers are fitted with low profile industrial tyres (purchased direct ‘by the truckload’ as Pedersens use so many on the Bobcats).
Mr Pedersen says tyres last the full three-year lifespan of his telehandlers, which then return to market with their original fitments.
Buckets are supplied by Strimech and have been modified for Pedersen Contracting’s purposes.
Mr Pederson says: “By not crowning back too far, we get a better tipping angle when the boom is loading over the side of the lorry.
There is no risk of losing material, as you would with grain, as it does not tip out easily.
“It is a design which has since been adapted by Strimech for other similar machines.”
In the harsh environment of the poultry shed and the heavy workload - each machine will load five articulated lorries a day - the Merlos have performed well, he says. Dealer TRP provides good back-up for the company’s own fitters if anything does go wrong.
Mr Pederson says: “Merlo do respond well. We probably work these machines harder than most people and the boom headstock cracked on one of the first P25.6s. They saw the problem and quickly remedied it.”
“Telehandlers are costed over three years, run under warranty for the first two and retain good resale values.
“We took on some of the staff from the previous contractors at this site and, as they were used to clearing out with small loader tractors and articulated loaders, they were sceptical about using telehandlers, but they are all converts now.”