The requirement to transport stock between outlying pastures and the home farm with the latest high-speed tractors means the humble cattle trailer has become increasingly sophisticated.
Jane Carley reports...
With 1,200 dairy cows and 600 followers on pastures which can be seven or eight miles from the home farm near Rudgwick, Surrey, R. Harrison and Sons needs a quick, efficient means of livestock transport.
This means trailers have to be up to spec to cope with the long and frequent distances, as well as built to handle high speeds but keep the contents comfortable.
R. Harrison and Sons is run by Neil Harrison, his brother and cousins.
He says: “We run all trailers on commercial axles with air brakes, and as the cattle trailer is generally pulled by a JCB Fastrac, it has to be up to standard.
“The local roads are increasingly busy, so safety is also paramount.”
Alongside the grazing and silage ground for three herds at Pallinghurst Farm, 126 hectares (311 acres) of maize is also grown.
And with a number of property rentals and a cheese-making business, time is at a premium.
Having previously used lorries for several years to transport cattle, Mr Harrison decided to switch to tractor-drawn trailers for their flexibility. However, he found his first purchase did not meet his standards.
“We talked to a few companies, but only H.M. Trailers seemed interested in building to our specifications.”
Many products offered by the Ongar, Essex, manufacturer are bespoke and a visit to the factory impressed Mr Harrison.
“We do a fair amount of fabrication ourselves and it was obvious they knew what they were talking about, plus they are farmers so understand our needs. H.M. Trailers inspected our old trailer from top to bottom to appreciate the issues we had with it and how they could overcome them.”
The resulting trailer was one of the first in a range, and at 8.5 metres (28ft) long holds 16-17 of Mr Harrison’s Friesian/Jersey cross cows or up to 30 youngstock.
It is constructed from interlocking channel sections for the chassis with 3mm folded section sides.
The axles are recessed under the body to preserve the 2.55m width and smooth wheel arches within the trailer avoid the risk of injury to the cattle.
A sliding partition can be moved along the chassis to divide the herd if required and personnel doors on both sides at the front ensure the safety of herdsmen.
The 406mm by 120mm high speed tandem axle has hydraulic suspension, with the front axle lifting out of work for an improved ride when empty and to avoid scuffing when turning in fields.
With both axles in play the floor can lower at the rear allowing the cattle to step over the rear beam to access the trailer.
“As the cattle do not have to go up a ramp, they load much more easily and are very calm in the trailer,” adds Mr Harrison.
“With its open top, it is much more inviting than going into an enclosed space, and the floor is both chequer plate and coated with a non-slip paint so they do not slide about and panic when travelling.”
The floor also incorporates plugged drain holes at the rear to allow slurry to be drained out in the field.
Alongside the air over hydraulic brakes with twin line, failsafe manual load sensing valve, added safety is offered by the high level LED lights.
“We find that when you have a queue of traffic behind, it seems to be the driver eight cars behind who cannot see your indicators, when mounted in the lower position. This could be dangerous when trying to turn right, and a car tries overtaking,” explains Mr Harrison.
He comments that he has purchased the trailer with the expectation it is going to last.
“I insist it is washed out every time it is used, and I do not mind greasing the multiple grease points on the axles – I would hope to have this trailer for 15 years, and it needs to work regularly and be reliable. It is as important as a silage trailer to us, if not more so.”
Model: HCT 85
Capacity: 12 tonnes
Body Length: 8.5m (27ft 10in)
Overall Length: 10m (32ft 10in)
Platform height: 65cm
Access height: 22.5cm
Chassis: 185 x 75 channel
Tyres: 385/65 R22.5
Moveable internal partition: £495
Air braking system: £1,020