Dated buildings still have their uses in agriculture, but as machinery gets larger, they can become redundant. For one farming family a mini stand-on skid steer loader is proving its worth in their pig sheds. Alex Heath finds out more.
Having recently setup up a new pig rearing operation on a rented holding near Hull, Paul Dook and his son Darren, were soon less than enamoured with having to scrape and muck out the dated buildings by hand.
One evening after suffering all day with a bad back as a result of swinging on the end of a grape, Paul took to the internet and found a video on Youtube of a similar machine to the one they subsequently bought.
Upon showing Darren the novel loader, both were keen to see if a demo machine would be up to the task of scraping and mucking out their sheds. After trying both the petrol and diesel version of the Sherpa 100, they settled on the latter, and have now completed several months’ worth of work with it.
The pair run 2,000 pigs on a bed and breakfast basis, and while Paul concedes the setup is less than ideal from a machinery point of view at the moment, the Sherpa is proving its worth in speeding up manure handling and bedding operations.
Sourced from Compact Loaders UK, the Sherpa is a Dutch-built skid steer, running a three-cylinder Kubota engine with an output just shy of 19hp. The novelty of the machine is the operator stands at the rear, reducing its overall size.
Darren is the main operator, he says: “It took half an hour to pick up the controls and get used to its driving style. Compared to the amount of time it took the two of us to do jobs by hand, I can do five times the amount of work and I am not tired at the end of the day.”
A hand throttle governs the engine revs, with a traffic light system indicating how hard the engine is working. Darren says he uses the loader in the orange band, giving a good mix of performance and controllability.
Paul says: “A pair of sheds were originally built to house dry gilts. The access into the bedded areas of these is exceptionally tight and the roofs very low. The only option we had was to knock the walls down or get a machine like this. I am glad we went with the second option. For scraping out we had cut the roof off our old Sanderson Teleporter, but it was a dangerous job as you had to remember to duck when going under the rafters. Now the job is quick and effortless.”
Being a skid steer, access through doorways is simple, pulling parallel to the door, before turning 90 degrees on the spot and reversing in. The machine has very little tail swing says Darren, and when the boom is raised over walls, the tyres are the furthest forward point.
The pair purchased with the machine an 850mm-wide grab bucket, a full width four-in-one bucket and pallet tines. A family member has also made, and is currently adapting, a scraper for them. The attachments are secured by two pins.
Overall width of the machine with its chunky tread tyres is 1,125mm making it narrow enough to access most doorways, including stable-type doors. The wider stance also has the added benefit of increasing stability, says Darren.
The pair considered the manufacturer’s narrower tyre set, but found that the wider ones would suffice for their tasks, and in retrospect was the right choice, says Paul.
Th pair say the machine has also speeded up the bedding process. While not quite able to lift a 500kg, 120 by 90cm bale of straw, it can push them around the yard thanks to its 400cc wheel motors which put out a tractive force of 355kg.
Lift capacity on the machine is highly dependent on the weight of the operator and the number of optional weight plates at the rear. Paul and Darren reckon the loader is capable of lifting half a bale, roughly 250kg in weight, and able to hoist it over the walls of the pens, where they can spread the straw by hand – a vast improvement over the old method of man-handling wads of straw down the length of the shed. The manufacturer says the safe working load of the machine is up to 476kg.
The robust, all metal build of the loader is also a bonus when entering the pig pens, says Paul, and the lack of hydraulic pipes hanging freely is also a benefit, with little on the machine for pigs to chew. It is also easier than the Sanderson as pigs cannot go underneath the skid steer.
While lift height is not a critical factor for the pair with this machine, it has a dump height of 1,560mm when the bucket it tipped, allowing them to some extent stack muck with it.
Mechanically simple, the machine is easy to maintain, says Darren. A few grease points around the boom are the only daily maintenance needed. Access to the engine is also good, says Paul, with two bolts securing the rear panel of the engine bay and four holding in place the grille at the front. Access to the air filter, which protrudes out of the grille, and fluid top-ups are also easy – the latter located on the side of the machine.
Paul says the machine is particularly frugal with fuel use, estimating it takes 40 hours to run the 16-litre tank dry. Two sight gauges on the side of the tank indicate its level. At just over 700kg in weight, Paul says he can load it into the back of his pickup if needed, via the pig loading ramp.
Overall, the pair have been impressed with the build quality and reliability of the loader, so much so that Paul says the manufacturer’s larger Sherpa 300 articulated loader is on the cards in the near future.
As for the current machine, Paul concludes: “It has a bulletproof design and is built as strong as an ox, it is nimble and fuel efficient and is saving us bags of time to do other work around the farm."