Small spreader adds flexibility and reduces compaction

Taking the job of spreading manure in-house as opposed to employing a contractor has afforded one farm significant flexibility to only spread in the best weather and maximise the nutritional value of its fertiliser.

The purchase of a Bunning Farmstar 80 HBD spreader to handle their own manures has helped to alleviate some of the conflicting pressures faced by the Rutherford family which include high rainfall, a wide range of livestock, and an organic production system.

Michael and Graham Rutherford, along with their father George, run the 340ha (850ac) enterprise at Longhorsley, Morpeth, which accommodates 1,800 breeding ewes, contract fattens 2,000 pigs per year, and is home to a flock of 12,000 laying hens, plus a small number of suckler cows.

The Farmstar 80 HBD spreader is into its second season and arrived highly equipped from the factory with weigh cells and a variable rate controller, allowing accurate and consistent application of a wide variety of products, including lime.

While the differing livestock provides a continuous supply of organic fertiliser and soil conditioner, there is a requirement to precisely apply the products regularly throughout the season with minimum soil disturbance, particularly as most applications are on to grass.

“We had been using a local contractor, Lee Henzell, for our spreading work, and he had done an excellent job for us. But a contractor isn’t ideal for the sort of little and often applications we need to make to grassland, so we looked at the feasibility of doing the job ourselves to give us more flexibility in terms of when and how often we can spread,” explains Michael.

Weigh cell option

“We ended up buying a spinning disc machine so we could spread a variety of material evenly and consistently. We also went for a high specification, including weigh cells and flotation tyres. At the same time, though, we didn’t want or need the capacity, weight, and cost of a large machine.”

Bunning’s Farmstar 80 HBD machine is an 8t/8-10 cu m capacity machine with a horizontal beater and spinning discs that can spread a wide range of products. All Bunning spreaders come with the option of weigh cells, and this addition means the Rutherford’s can apply specific application rates depending on land requirements and manure analysis.

“Our aim is to gradually build fertility through application as needed – we don’t want to waste material by just spreading it,” says Michael.

“Having a spreader equipped with weigh cells and a rate controller, even though it is an entry-level machine, gives us the ability to do just that. The technology is easy to use and it’s especially useful with chicken litter. Bunning has assured us the spreader would happily spread up to 24m, but currently we’re happy at 18m and can apply loads quickly at 3-4t/ha on grass.”

Lower compaction

The spreader was ordered on 650/65 R38 VF (very high flexion) tyres to minimise ground pressure and match the similar width VF units fitted to the 130hp Claas Arion 610 that powers the Farmstar.

“The VF tyres mean we can use pressures of only 23 psi (1.6 bar) to spread the weight of the machine and maximise the length of its footprint, which really helps to minimise sward damage,” explains Michael.

“On conventional tyres we would have to run at nearly double those pressures. Our two holdings are only half a mile apart, but the spreader rides well on the road. Our dealer, Rickerbys, has provided us with good back-up, while we’ve also had phone and on-farm support from Bunning themselves regarding maintenance and operation, which has been very useful in getting the best from the machine.

“Investing in a Farmstar 80 HBD has meant we’re able to spread when we want, usually two or three hours every fortnight. That’s really helped to ensure we are on top of the job and material only goes on when the conditions are right – and at the rate we require.”