BEEF IS big business for the Filby family. Their Groveland Farm company, which runs to 485ha (1200 acres), plus a further 200ha (500 acres) of rented grass, has 800 head of cattle producing a year-round supply of quality beef for local retail and catering outlets.

Most of the beef is sold through three local shops which are also owned by the family. The shops need about four bullocks each week, rising to as many as 11 a week in the pre-Christmas period.

All the cattle are bred on the farm and feed is home-grown and mixed in a bid to provide consistent, high quality year after year.

Two of the farms have beef units and these use most of the 3000 bales of straw produced each year, plus silage from 40ha (100 acres) of maize. The straw bales are made with a Welger D6000 and are what James Filby describes as “half-Heston” bales – 8ft long but only half the height of a full-sized big bale.

As well as providing bedding material for the beef units, the bales are also used for a pick-your-own strawberry enterprise on the fruit farm. This farm grows 3ha (8 acres) of soft fruit and vegetables which are sold through the family-owned shops alongside apple juice produced in 12ha (30 acres) of orchards. Waste apples are fed to the beef cattle.

At the biggest beef unit, cattle are housed in yards on both sides of a central gangway.

This is the farm that needed a new machine last year for feeding and bedding, which is why Mr Filby and his father Brian invited three manufacturers to bring demo machines onto the farm.

After some careful consideration, a trailed Teagle Tomahawk 9060 was chosen.

“The cattle yards are quite deep from front to back, and we needed a machine with enough power to spread straw over the full width of the yards,” Mr Filby explains.

“But we also use a large amount of chopped maize silage, and this has to be dropped close to the feed barrier.

“There was a lot of variation in the performance of the machines and the Tomahawk was deemed to be the winner,” he says.

“It had 50% more spreading power than the other machines, but it also has plenty of adjustment for delivering feed in the right place.

“The Tomahwak has done a lot of work during the last 18 months and Mr Filby believes it has performed well. It does both jobs very efficiently.

“Over about 12 years we have tried several different makes, and this is the best machine so far. It has a very high output, and with fresh straw it only takes about two minutes to spread a full load of bales,” he explains.

Mr Filby”s list of plus points for the Tomahawk includes a modest power requirement which is provided by an elderly John Deere 3130 which delivered 83hp at the pto in its prime.

As well as straw bales and the maize silage, the Tomahawk is also used for feeding very high dry matter baled silage. It is more like haylage and the chopping mechanism on the Tomahawk handles it efficiently, says Mr Filby. But he thinks ordinary silage in bales would increase the risk of blockages as well as corrosion.

“We really haven”t found many faults with the Tomahawk so far. We have occasionally had a blockage from a seriously wet straw bale but fortunately, that”s a rare event as it is not easy machine to unblock.”