American farmers are specialists in inventing weird and wacky machines. Mark Newhall of US magazine Farm Show picks out some of his favourites.
See also: 20 of the best farm inventions
Converted trailer makes great cattle hauler
Gary Bueckert converted an old lorry trailer into a cattle hauler for less than a quarter of the cost of a new one. The former 16m trailer hauls 30 head at a time, broken up into four groups of seven, 10, 10 and three animals.
“We moved the axles forward and lowered the final 210cm of deck so that it was just 45cm from the ground to make access easier,” says Mr Bueckert. “It rides on air bag suspension, so when we deflate it, it lowers another 10cm so the cows can step straight on.”
At the rear he installed a standard livestock trailer endgate and a small cleanout door on one side. Ventilation is provided by holes cut in the wall of each pen area and two in the front-end panel.
Mr Bueckert says he paid about $6,000 (£4,000) for the used trailer and spent the same again on materials.
Denailer boosts value of old barn wood
Ohio farmer Dan Yoder came up with a powered denailer to pull out nails from old barn wood.
A bed of wooden rollers are used to shift big beams into place. An overhead carriage equipped with denailing jaws uses both hydraulic and air power and travels up and down the wood. Hydraulic arms clamp the beam from both sides to hold it in position.
The denailer’s jaws open and close with small air cylinders, while the large hydraulic cylinder is used to penetrate hard wood by up to 4cm. Once the jaws close, the cylinder yanks the nail out, then Mr Yoder uses a metal detector to check they have all been removed.
Air-powered shovel digs trenches in hard ground
“I had a big problem with skunks getting under my mobile home and needed to do something to get rid of them,” says retired Texan farmer Russell Hackman.
“I decided the best way was to bury a fence in the ground and connect it to the underside of the caravan. That way they’d get discouraged, give up and go away.”
The ground was too hard to dig by hand, so Mr Hackman built a small air-powered shovel out of a flat piece of 75mm channel iron that he curved in a duckbill shape. He welded a piece of rebar to one end and fastened it to an air hammer.
“I dug the trench down to 20cm, and once I’d got the fence in place I left a small space open and sat back to make sure the skunks were out from underneath the trailer,” Mr Hackman says.
“Sure enough, two of them came out, and my 20-gauge shotgun took care of them both before they could get back underneath.”
Pelletising grass mower powers itself
Jason Force is in the process of building a tractor-sized version of his machine that cuts hay and produces pellets in one pass, and then feeds these pellets into a burner that powers the mower. The machine – called the Iron Goat – is also remote-controlled so no driver is needed.
The mower cuts the hay, runs it through a mechanical dewatering process, then dries it and forms it into pellets. Heat for the dryer comes from the engine and about 20% of pellets are used to fuel the mower. The rest drop into a bin to be fed to livestock.
Custom-built tractor cab
Steve Cunningham wanted a new tractor with windows that opened, a door that could be taken off and no air conditioning. However, he couldn’t find anything to suit him on the market.
So he bought a Kubota tractor and built his own cab. The metal-tubed frame is reinforced at the corners and bolts to the tractor chassis with rubber cushions that minimise vibrations and noise.
The roof, sides and window frames are made of exterior-grade plywood with custom-matched Kubota orange paint. The side windows open and the windscreen, rear window and door are removable. Cab heat comes from a small catalytic propane heater.
Big cab, little tractor
Harry Kuyper from Michigan built a big cab for his little Deere X360 garden tractor.
He used angle iron to build the frame and packed foam rubber strips into the gaps between the frame and body to keep things airtight. The cab has Plexiglass windows, which are double-paned so they won’t fog up.
Mr Kuyper mounted a small catalytic heater in a corner of the cab, next to the steering wheel. The whole cab can also be removed for summer work.
Skidsteer-mounted chain trencher
Chuck Hardenburger from Kansas converted an old linkage-mounted trencher to fit the front of a skidsteer loader.
He picked up a 3m-long trencher at a farm sale, where he also bought a used hydraulic motor and attached it to the trencher’s chain drive system. The motor is coupled to a shaft that goes through a reducer gearbox to drive the chain.
Mr Hardenburger then mounted a pair of 60cm long augers to remove dirt from both sides of the trench, which he found in a scrap bin. He then arranged a sprocket to drive the trencher and rotate the augers.
Mr Hardenburger uses it on his New Holland C190 skidsteer for foundation work around buildings and to dig electric and water lines around the farm.
Two Deere drills combined
Virginia grain and hay farmer Rusty Inskeep and his nephew Paul rebuilt two 4.5m Deere 1590 no-till grain drills into a single machine equipped with 1.8m wings. Mr Inskeep says they decided to build their own drill after finding that other machines wouldn’t work in their operation.
They started by purchasing two Deere 1590 drills that had planted less than 400ha each.
Two additional wheels were added on the back to support the extra weight of the wings, while the centre section was reinforced with tube steel, channel and angle iron to help carry the wing pivots on each side.
The drill uses hydraulic rams to fold the wings forwards for road travel. In its folded position, the machine is just over 4.9m wide. Mr Inskeep pulls the semi-mounted drill with a Deere 7430 tractor and it has the capacity to plant at least 40ha in one fill.
Chevette engine drives home-made tracked tractor
Layman Cornelison built a tracked tractor using the engine, transmission and rear axle from a 1980 Chevette.
The Chevette Ratapillar is 2.4m long and 1.2m wide and has a steel tube frame. He reused the two master brake cylinders from the Chevette, installing them on the rear wheels for steering.
The engine speed was geared down with the help of sprockets and roller chain, says Mr Cornelison. “I mounted a 12-tooth sprocket on the driveshaft coming out of the four-speed transmission, and an 80-tooth sprocket on the rear end with roller chain connecting them.”
He also installed a clutch, gearshift and a lever to activate each brake cylinder as needed.
Mr Cornelison made tracks out of rear tyres from a C-Farmall. He cut the beads off and placed one over each set of wheels. Tightening the turnbuckles stretched the track enough that the rear wheels could drive it.
Cement mixer built from a wheelbarrow
Claude Peloquin from Quebec used an old wheelbarrow and a 45gal plastic barrel to make a low-cost cement mixer, with an electric motor providing the power.
He started with a double-wheeled barrow that he gave some new tires, then cut a plastic 45gal barrel in half and bolted it to a 40cm pulley off an old swather reel. A series of three belts reduces the 1,725rpm electric motor to a barrel speed of 25rpm.
Four pieces of metal bolt to the inside of the barrel to mix the cement. A hinged, spring-loaded leg bolts on to the wheelbarrow legs and is used to keep the barrel at the right mixing angle. The leg lifts out of the way to dump the load.
“It makes about 45kg of cement per batch,” says Mr Peloquin. “It’s light enough that one man can load the mixer into a pickup. My total cost was less than $100 (£66), and that was mostly for new tyres and tubes.”