With a varied workload which stretches over six farms covering 30,000 acres, reliability and versatility are key considerations when it comes to choosing machinery for Suffolk Produce Ltd.
In a typical year Suffolk Produce Ltd. harvests 32,000 tons of onions, 10,000 tons of carrots, 8,000 tons of parsnips, 3,000 tons of swede and 45,000 tons of maize for an onsite 3.5MW AD plant, with sister business 3Ms harvests around 55,000 tons of potatoes.
With such a large operation, choosing the right piece of equipment to improve farming logistics is crucial.
Among its fleet – which also includes four tractors, a self-propelled forage harvester and a slurry tanker with spreading boom – are a pair of Fliegl Gigant ASW 271 ‘push off’ trailers which they have had since 2012.
Mike Fielden uses the trailers as chaser bins during maize harvest.
Mike Fielden, who has been manager at Suffolk Produce Limited for nine years, says they were bought to help make the process of taking harvested maize to the AD plant more efficient – reducing the impact on local roads with less tractor movements.
“We built the AD plant and this necessitated the purchase of machinery to harvest, transport and clamp the maize, as well as remove the digestate,” he says. “I researched various options both here and in Europe and this resulted in the system we have today.
“We harvest 45,000 tons of maize over 35/40 days – which potentially means a lot of trips to the AD plant. The trailers are used in the field as a chaser bin to take the maize from the harvester to the roadside. We then use an auger attachment to fill a HGV.
It therefore helps us reduce the number of road journeys that we’d normally have to make, allowing us to transport the maize safely and within legal weight requirements. Less trips backwards and forwards also means there is less impact on the local community, which was a key consideration.”
A muck spreading attachment is fitted to spread digestate.
Once on the farm, Mr Fielden says they soon realised the trailers were suitable for more than just one job.
“The key for us is their versatility. It’s much more than just a trailer,” he says. “There’s a range of attachments that can be fixed to the back. We’ve got a maize auger for unloading and there’s also a muck spreader to distribute the digestate from the AD plant over the fields.”
The push-off system, which hydraulically pushes the headboard to the rear via rams, also means loads can be compacted – allowing them to carry much more than in a standard trailer.
“Unlike a conventional tipper it’s also safer because you can control the speed at which the load comes out, and a little quicker to unload as well,” Mr Fielden says, “The rear steering axles also help because they keep the tracks in line, which is better because it stops the field from churning up as much and there’s also less wear on the tyres.”
The trailers cost £40,000 each and although Mr Fielden says this was more than you would normally expect to pay – it was worth the extra investment.
“They’re going to last for years and years. You do need a good operator though. For example with the unloading auger, you have to get the timings just right or it can quickly overflow. But so far they have been very reliable and we’ve had no problems. We’d definitely think about getting another one if we needed to.”