Application accuracy to 24m for a variety of manures has meant investment in five Bunning Lowlander 175 HBD spreaders for Adamson Contractors to ensure accuracy with every tonne, along with access to the latest technology, such as variable rate spreading and weigh cells.
As fertiliser prices continually promote farmers to look at alternative sources of crop nutrition, the increase in demand for precisely applied organic manure has kept Adamson Contractors’ five Bunning Lowlander 175HBD machines, and a dedicated team of seven operators, busy throughout the year.
Based in North Yorkshire, and run by David Adamson alongside sons Steven and Martin, the contracting outfit has always had a keen eye on applying products accurately and this attention to detail, along with investment in the correct machinery, has seen the spreading side of the business grow considerably over the past four years.
A 50,000t/year sewage sludge contract was taken on in 2018 and, at the time, the company ran a brace of 12t vertical beater machines, helping local farmers spread their manure after harvest. However, to correctly apply the sludge at the rates required, and comply with legislation and regular site inspections from the waste management company, running machines with a greater control over application accuracy was key.
Mr Adamson had three different machines on demo and spoke to a few contractors who used Bunning machines, and it was soon clear that the HBD spreaders offered him flexibility to spread all types of manure along with other natural materials such as lime. “We needed machinery to spread precisely to 24m and at a target rate that varied from field to field,” says David Adamson.
The investment in two Bunning Lowlander 175HBD spreaders allowed the sludge to be spread from July to October, and meant the spreaders could drop onto jobs with varying products at other times of the year.
Part of the reason for choosing Bunning was the consistent application to 24m, as the dynamically balanced horizontal beaters feature Boron shredding cutters to break down the bulky material to an even consistency.
The 1.1m diameter spinning discs feature five adjustable blade positions to alter the spreading width and apply the product evenly. The 175HBD machines can carry 17.5t and feature a heavy-duty driveline and fully welded construction.
“Buying two new machines was a significant step up in output, but also accuracy of spread width. During the demo the Lowlander spreaders created a carpet over the field as they applied. The combination of the horizontal beaters and discs offer an accuracy that just wasn’t possible with the other equipment,” says David Adamson.
One further investment by the contracting business was in a Claas Torion 1814 loading shovel to keep turnaround times to a minimum and increase outputs. Mr Adamson says he was told that 600t/day was achievable by loading the spreaders with a telehandler, whereas with a loading shovel, that figure could be 1,000t/day.
This upturn in demand for the Bunning spreaders on products such as compost, farmyard manure and chicken litter, meant the three existing machines were too stretched at peak times, as the sludge contract was demanding three spreaders to be most effective.
The contractors took delivery of their fourth and fifth Bunning 175HBD machines this summer, to help handle the spreading workload that now stands at around 115,000t/year.
“With just three machines, we’d either be reducing output of the sludge team by only running two machines, or not being in two places at once if they all ran together.”
When he purchased them, David was unsure if his workload would justify keeping all five spreaders, but the advantages of spreading the risk and workload, while allowing the older machines to carry out the smaller jobs, has been really helpful. A Schaffer pivot steer loader was bought to keep the pair of spreaders loaded.
A mix of German tractors are used to power the spreaders, with two Claas Axion models – a 920 and 950 – along with a Fendt 936 on the sludge spreading team, and two Fendt 828 models handling the bulk of the farmyard manure jobs. All the Lowlander spreaders are ISOBUS ready, which makes operation a lot easier through the in-cab terminals.
The spreaders have a near-identical high specification, which helps if operators must switch machines. Accurate tonnage records are logged via the on-board weigh cells and all use on-the-go rate control, which is crucial to comply with the audits carried out on a weekly basis by the waste management company.
The rate control uses the four weigh cells located on the body and recalculates the rate based on forward speed and changes in product density. The rate is then adjusted by altering the speed of the full-width walking floor.
However, it is the option to offer variable rate spreading via the Bunning HBD machines that the contractor believes will be a big part of its work in the future.
“As manure becomes more valuable, having the ability to target specific areas of the field with the exact nutrients required will allow growers to assess what effect the manure is having on their soil. It makes maximum use of their investment in soil mapping and our investment in the technology to apply it accurately.”
All machines have the adjustable rear canopy, that can alter the spread pattern for different products, along with wide angle PTOs and road lighting packages.
Another option on the most recent spreaders was the switch to larger diameter tyres – BKT 750/75 R46 – in a bid to raise the angle of the spreading discs. “This means we can now spread evenly into standing crops later in the spring as the height of discs has been raised by the new tyres,” says David.
The latest machines have been purchased through local dealer Rickerby, and the backup from both the dealer and Bunning has ensured any issues are dealt with immediately.
“We deal with Rickerby, but the backup from Bunning is excellent. They can diagnose over the phone and parts are dispatched the same day. We had a gearbox fail on one of the older machines and Bunning sent someone from Norfolk within hours of the call with all the parts, and we were up and running again the next day.”
Keeping five spreaders busy throughout the year is a tall order but having multiple reliable machines offers Adamson Contractors the option to keep customers happy and guarantee the spread quality from any of the five machines.
The benefits to the environment, through quicker absorption of manure and nutrients into the soil and an even coverage no matter the product, means the HBD spreaders are now integral to the business.
“The market has changed and there is now a smaller pool of customers that I can take a vertical auger machine to. This has been driven by the price of fertiliser, and the value farmers are now attaching to manure means it must be spread in a way that is accurate and accounts for every tonne.”
The dry spring in February 2021 saw the spreading workload increase considerably and all three machines we owned at the time were spreading farmyard products onto arable crops for a constant six weeks, which Mr Adamson admits surprised him.
“The demand for spring applications has been growing, and the HBD machines create and spread a consistent product that is top-dressed to growing, hungry crops, so bought-in fertiliser can be scaled back. There are no big lumps of manure that sit in the crop for weeks waiting to be broken down and losing nutrients to the atmosphere, and the canopy of manure helps to retain moisture in the soil,” concludes David.
“There has been a significant increase in farmers using the manure they are producing in a more focussed way to benefit the wider business,” says Mr Johnson.
“Testing manures to find out the nutrient values, and then applying it to fields using variable rate maps based on nutrient deficiencies, is changing the perception of farmyard manure and the value it holds in agriculture”
“It used to be viewed as an inconvenient waste product, but there has been an increase in contractors needing extra machines, or farmers buying their own where the option for using a contractor is limited.”
The application technology is now a big factor when buying spreaders, and having weigh cells to know what quantities are being applied and rate control to change application rates on-the-go through an ISOBUS screen, makes life easier for the operator and helps with record keeping.