Regularly transporting high-value stock, pedigree Texel breeder Robbie Wilson splashed out on a high specification livestock trailer from Houghton Parkhouse. Richard Bradley finds out if the trailer was worth the money.
Parkhouse’s T35 trailer offers big features in an every-day size.
With livestock welfare, ease of use and build quality are top priority for pedigree Texel breeder Robbie Wilson, he decided to bite the bullet and invest in a high specification 4x4 livestock trailer from Houghton Parkhouse.
Farm owner Robbie Wilson.
Based at North Dorlaithers Farm, Turrif, Aberdeenshire, Mr Wilson farms about 1,400 sheep, 60 of which are his pedigree Milnbank Texels, which have fetched prices up to 40,000gns.
Mr Wilson says: “As I farm 290 acres in a five-mile radius, I spend a lot of time transporting sheep from field to farm for clipping and lambing, and then back out again for grazing. While using a tractor-drawn trailer allows transporting more stock in one trip, a 4x4-drawn trailer is much nippier and easier to use.”
Mr Wilson keeps 1,400 sheep, including:
Over the years, Mr Wilson says he has run a number of 4x4-drawn livestock trailers with sheep decks, and swapped them every three to four years, or before the brakes began to wear excessively.
He says: “While there is nothing wrong with these trailers, there are a number of areas which could be improved. For instance, transporting ewes and lambs out to the field could prove a challenge, as they were often not keen to climb the steep ramp leading to the trailer’s upper deck and could be equally awkward to get back down again.
"The Parkhouse trailer is almost a status symbol at the auction, and having a trailer which stands out and looks the part is important for my business."
- ROBBIE WILSON
“For older farmers who, like myself, are often slowed by a temperamental knee or dodgy hip, having to climb up to get them out proves difficult, especially when having to do it three or four times in a day.”
Along with having to push stock in and out, Mr Wilson says part of the sheep deck ramp on most livestock trailers has to be lifted manually, which can be a difficult task, particularly if a few ewes are stood on it.
While out at a show, Mr Wilson came across Houghton Parkhouse’s T35 4x4-drawn livestock trailer and, after a quick look round, he decided to fork out more than twice the price of a mainstream trailer for the high specification unit.
Based in the Lake District, Haughton Parkhouse apply many of the construction techniques and materials found on its HGV-drawn trailers in the design of its T35, which is aimed at users with high welfare and high usage in mind.
Mr Wilson's T35 trailer stands out from the crowd, especially thanks to its full-length sign writing.
Chief designer David Looker says: “It was pointless trying to make just another livestock transporter to compete in what is already a crowded market, so we went down the route of producing a high specification trailer for a niche market of discerning users.”
Mr Wilson clearly recognises the benefit of this approach.
He says: “The Parkhouse trailer is almost a status symbol at the auction. Having a trailer which stands out and looks the part is important for me when pulling up with sheep which I hope to fetch top prices.”
With this in mind, Mr Wilson added an extra professional touch to his unit and got the manufacturer to paint his breeding prefix and contact details down either side of the trailer and on the tailgate.
Appearance aside, it is the inside of the T35 which really sets it apart from the rest of the 4x4 livestock trailer crowd. Using a hydro-electric lifting sheep deck, there is no more angling ramps and manual lifting – two of Mr Wilson’s issues with the other units available.
A shallow tailboard angle and lowering deck affords easy loading, and provide good access.
Using an electrically driven ram and steel cables, the deck can then be raised and rests on four locking pins.
“The moving sheep deck was one of the main selling points, as it removed the need for me to push sheep up ramps. As sheep are happier walking into the trailer, up to 25 ewes can fit on each deck – weight permitting. Also, with the top deck lowered you can easily walk into the trailer to get any uneasy lambs out.”
According to Mr Wilson, with the deck fully raised there is room to easily wash out the bottom deck with minimal bending.
Along with animal welfare and ease of operation, Mr Wilson says the lifting deck brings other advantages. “Bending when washing out is minimal, as the top deck can be cleaned on the floor and then lifted to the roof, allowing plenty of room to wash the bottom deck.”
Another feature not offered on other 4x4-drawn transporters is a sealed deck, meaning no shavings or muck can drop from the upper level onto the stock below. All muck is sent rearwards to the slurry channel and tank.
“This is important for me taking sheep to a sale, as it means they stay as clean as possible.”
Larger diameter tyres help increase ground clearance and coupled with tri-axles improve road travel.
Thanks to stepped axles, the centre of gravity is kept low. This also keeps a shallow angle on the tailgate, allowing for easier loading and unloading of stock. However, this also reduces ground clearance which, along with improving rolling resistance, led Mr Wilson to spec his trailer with larger diameter wheels.
“When travelling on road, there is no clanking and banging as you get with other trailers. It is very quiet and smooth.”
Mr Wilson points out the trailer’s sides feature a double-skin construction, providing some insulation. It also reduces the chance of a damaged exterior from an animal kicking the internal walls.
Side and rear gutters are a nice touch and show things have been well thought out
“Simple touches show things have been well thought out. For instance, a gutter runs the along the rear of the trailer’s roof, stopping water dripping on you as you walk in or out of it. LED lights are also fitted, which should not need changing, unlike other trailers which need checking every time you hitch up.”
“While the trailer’s build quality does add extra weight, about 200kg more than the equivalent Ifor Williams trailer, the braking system more than makes up for it, and means I can happily tow the trailer with our short-wheelbase 4x4.”
“I have been impressed with the trailer from the start and I have had to do little to keep it in as-new condition since I first picked it up more than two years ago. For someone who is using the trailer several times a week, you soon begin to reap the benefits and it is an investment which I hope to last me at least 10-12 years.”