Increasing output of slurry application, while keeping farmers and neighbours happy is a finely balanced conundrum.
However, for one contractor, a relatively low-cost dribble bar has achieved just that.
Finding a niche in the world of contracting is hard – and even harder when specialising in the competitive world of slurry spreading.
However, one contractor has managed just that, using a fairly traditional setup.
Sam Smith, partner in Jackson Pumping, based in Dinton, Buckinghamshire, says providing a service tailored to his customers is paying dividends.
The company was purchased by Mr Smith and his business partner nearly four years ago, with most customers staying loyal to the new owners.
However, Mr Smith says smaller farms in the area were not well catered for, with competing contractors turning to larger and higher output machinery, not suitable to the typically tight yards he now operates around.
He says: “Even with our setup, which by today’s standards is small, yards are tight and often have low hanging cantilevers, requiring us to keep our wits about us.”
Continuing his sizeable umbilical operation, Mr Smith went on the hunt for a setup that would enable him to get into yards that wanted slurry spreading further afield, often on arable land.
Most of the spreading workload is made up of cattle slurry and solids, along with some work for anaerobic digestion units and pig farms.
A solution to this came earlier in the year when the company took delivery of a new HiSpec 2600 11,500-litre, single-axle tanker fitted at the rear with a 7.5-metre Mastek universal dribble bar, now towed by the company’s four-cylinder John Deere 6130R.
A number of considerations were made before purchasing the setup, but doing the job in a timely, responsible and orderly fashion were the main factors, something the Mastek dribble bar is highly praised for by Mr Smith.
Although one of the more walletfriendly dribble bars on the market, price was not an influential factor
for Mr Smith, who says the quality of it justifies its ticket price.
Key to his decision to opt for the Mastek unit was the size of its SuperCut macerator.
When comparing with other macerators, he says the overall dimensions of the Mastek unit was a deciding factor. Coupled to this, the low maintenance requirements of the six circular cutting blades also impressed.
Access into the macerator in the event of a blockage is simple too, he says, by undoing two bolts.
“If the macerator can stand up to Irish conditions, where there is a lot of very fibrous slurry from baled silage and straw bedding, I am sure we will have few issues,” he says.
“My only concern was how it would cope with woodchipbedded farms, but so far, we have had no issues.”
The design of the Mastek unit means it is transferable between most tankers, as it simply bolts on to the tank, in place of the access hatch. The 450kg unit when folded up sits within the width of the tank and stands at 3.5 metres tall.
Similarly, the overall build quality is also commended by Mr Smith, who says: “All the steelwork is galvanised and has plenty of meat in the areas that need it.”
Running other manufacturers’ dribble bars on the umbilical setup has proven this, according to Mr Smith, who is considering another of the same make for this application.
The dribble bar was chosen over a trailing shoe setup for its simplicity of operation and maintenance.
With very few moving or wearing parts, so far reliability has been faultless, and Mr Smith expects this to continue with only one electrical element on the system.
An electrical valve with a switch in the cab swaps the hydraulic flow once the unit is folded out to run the macerator, and flicked the other way for folding up, meaning only one spool valve is used to run the dribble bar.
Two stone traps, one built into the tanker and another on the dribble bar protect the macerator from hard objects.
The design of the hose connections also helps to prevent any bridging of slurry in the down pipes, with the flexible plastic element fitting inside the steel, before being clamped tight with a jubilee clip.
This ensures the inside is smooth with very few areas where snagging can occur.
One regret Mr Smith does have with the dribble bar is opting for the 7.5m version, rather than going for an 8m. However, the larger model had only just come out, and Mr Smith was unsure how tall it would have stood when folded up.
After visiting all his customer’s farms, the wider working width would have fitted under most of the buildings he has to negotiate.
Most of the farms the company services lie within the London commuter belt, so keeping roads tidy and noxious smells at bay are important.
“When people see slurry getting blasted into the air with a splash plate, followed by a waft of slurry odour across their property, it does nothing for neighbourly relations,” he says.
“But with the dribble bar, the slurry is placed directly onto the ground, not giving it time to get airborne, making it a more responsible way of applying the product.”
Using the dribble bar has also increased output. Instead of forcing the slurry through a 50mm hole, there are 28 holes of 50mm diameter meaning the slurry has a greater flow, reducing time in the field.
This is a vital factor for Mr Smith, who works within short spreading windows due to Nitrate Vulnerable Zone regulations.
In the event the splash plate needs to be used, it can be clamped on the rear of the dribble bar, without having to modify anything.
The overall setup has impressed him so far, with the tractor providing just enough power to keep on top of the job, while remaining nimble enough to get around tight yards.
The tanker is also living up to expectations. Mr Smith says the determining factor for opting to go with the HiSpec was the overall ride height, opting for the recessed axles, bringing the centre of gravity lower, making crossing slopes safer.
It also fits the widest tyre the company offers, at 800mm providing a light footprint, even when fully loaded.
This nimble and lightweight setup has enabled the company to expand its spreading presence, and complete further afield jobs in a quicker and more efficient manner.
Mr Smith attributes much of the efficiency to the increased capacity the dribble bar has offered.
He says keeping neighbours local to farms ‘on side’ is important to him, and the dribble bar is helping to achieve this, in part by keeping smell down and offering greater capacity to spread when the conditions are right, limiting mud being brought onto the roads.