28 August 1998

AWKWARD SPOT

BUT HANDLER CAN MANAGE IT

A bale handler that allows

the whole bale to be turned

through 70deg to place it in

awkward areas was another

of the many useful entries in

last years Barclays/FW

farm inventions competition.

David Cousins reports

SPACE – as in the stuff that rockets traverse – may go on for ever, but its generally in short supply in livestock buildings. Its certainly the case for Salop sheep farmer John Matthews, who farms at Skyborry Green near Knighton, Powys.

By the time his main livestock shed is filled up with the years supply of straw and hay round bales, theres just 2.4m (8ft) left alongside the feed barrier to get bales into the stock pens. Fine if (as few farmers do) you have a skid-steer loader, but Mr Matthews articulated loaders front tyre is hitting on the edge of the feed barrier long before the boom is far enough over to land the bale safely where its wanted.

Its a situation familiar to many farmers and a telescopic loader is no better at coping wit h the tight space restrictions than any other machine. And though side-shift devices are available to fit on loaders, theyre relatively complex, expensive and dont really shift the bale far enough over to be of much use.

Faced with a dearth of suitable equipment, Mr Matthews did the obvious thing and designed his own. Hes no stranger to farm equipment building either, having already marketed a cow cradle and sheep gate.

His bale-turner simply consists of a steel frame that attaches to the front of the loader. On to this goes a second frame with a pair of bale lifting forks at the bottom, attached to the main frame by a single big hinge on one side.

The main hydraulic ram opens and closes the bale holding frame and was set by Mr Matthews to open to 70deg. It could have been made to open a full 90deg, he points out, but there would be a danger that a heavy bale could unbalance a small tractor, and anyway 70deg was more than enough for his own purposes. A second ram powers the bale push-off device.

Making the hinge assembly strong enough to take the weight of a bale when fully extended was obviously very important. So a length of 5cm (2in) diameter and 12mm (0.5in) thick pipe with a solid steel bar turning inside was used to give an extra margin of strength. Not only is it more than man enough for the job, says Mr Matthews, but theres been virtually no wear on the hinges themselves either.

Mr Matthews also finds the device useful for placing odd bales in awkward places on the stack. The lack of a spike means that bales can be packed in tighter and also stacked higher.

Mr Matthews says the device could be built to open to 90û, provided it was used

on a big

enough tractor. It could also

be used for pallets.

When the barn is full of bales, theres only 2.4m (8ft) of space alongside the feed barrier. But thats still enough to put a bale into the pen.

One ram opens and closes the pivoting frame, the other pushes off the bale. The hinge is ultra-robust.