4 quirky inventions from a Northumberland hill farmer

George Anderson runs more than 1,200 ewes and 90 head of cattle on his 600ha hill farm near Cambo and has been busy coming up with clever ways to ease the sizeable workload.

His buildings are littered with novel solutions to those age-old problems, some of which have featured in Farmers Weekly’s annual Farm Invention Competition.

See also: 20 of the best farm inventions

But they all have one thing in common – they have been built on a shoestring budget using second-hand parts and materials that were knocking around the yard.

“They’re not that pretty and I don’t spend hours tarting them up, but they do the job,” says Mr Anderson.

Here’s our pick of some of the best.

1. Tracked Land Rover

Tracked Land Rover

After getting hammered by 2010s heavy snowfall and struggling to reach his stranded sheep, Mr Anderson decided to find a machine that could go almost anywhere.

He started out by buying an ex-army Snow-Trac that served in the Falklands (more on that later), but quickly realised it was a tad too noisy and uncomfortable to spend any length of time in.

He then stumbled across an ageing and rather ripe Volvo tracked personnel carrier. This had been owned by the Swedish army and had front- and rear-driven sections with pivot point between for steering.

Tracked Volvo/Land Rover Defender

It needed a full revamp and the rotten cabin was far too cramped so he came up with the idea of mating it with Land Rover Defender.

Luckily a 200Tdi MoT-failure popped up for sale locally, so he got to work.

The first job was to hack all the frilly tinwork off the Volvo and remove the engine and gearbox.

Tracked Land Rover/Volvo

After making sure the running gear was mechanically sound he then set about prepping the Defender.

First he removed the axles, modified the chassis and added some rails so that it could bolt straight on to the front section of the Volvo.

Next he chopped a section out of the rear load deck with an angle grinder so that it wouldn’t hang over the pivot point.

The defender body was lifted into place and he managed to make up some driveshafts that connected the Volvo diffs to the Land Rover’s transfer box.

“I had no idea what the gearing would be like, but luckily it was about right,” says Mr Anderson.

Then there was the matter of steering.

The first job here was to squeeze in the Volvo’s hefty power steering pump as the Land Rover one wasn’t up to the job.

He then modified the Land Rover steering column, connected it to the Volvo orbital unit and it was good to go.

Been busy in the workshop?

We’re getting ready for another year of the Farmers Weekly Inventions Competition.

You can get your entry in early by emailing david.cousins@rbi.co.uk with some high-res pictures and a bit of information about how it works.

The final task was to build a new flat bed on the rear driven section using timber deck boards.

The end result is a vehicle that will climb up anything short of vertical – as he proved when we paid him a visit – and has space at the rear to carry feed and transport animals with a few more modifications.


2. ATV calf catcher

Calf catcher

Another tool for making cattle handling a little less dangerous is Mr Anderson’s ATV-mounted calf catcher.

It’s basically a calf-sized cage that attaches to the left side of the bike and has a portcullis-style gate at the front.

To get the calf inside you pull a rope to lift the gate, drive up to the calf so it’s captured in the crate and then drop the gate to keep it there.

Mr Anderson also left the right side of the cage open so there’s a protected space between the cage and the bike to work with the calf without getting attacked by its mother.

The cage attaches to the rear towing ball and another ball hitch clamped onto the front rack meaning it can be clipped on and off in a matter of seconds.

On the left it runs on a single ATV trailer wheel.

3. IBC calf retriever


Concerned with getting newly born calves and their mothers out of busy cattle sheds without being trampled, Mr Anderson came up with this.

It’s simply an old IBC frame with Bobcat brackets welded on one side. You hook it on the front carriage of the Bobcat, drive it into the shed and lift it over the calf. Then you just reverse out of the shed, the calf walks with you inside the cage and the mother follows.

The tool cost virtually nothing to make and could save a life, he says.

4. Snow-Trac diesel engine conversion

Snow Trac

When Mr Anderson first bought his 1972 Swedish Snow-Trac it was fitted with a rather asthmatic air-cooled VW engine.

After using it for a few months, he decided it could do with a bit more power and he was also getting fed up having to keep topping up the petrol tank with Jerry Cans.  

The answer was to replace the 54hp flat-hour with a 1.8-litre Ford diesel engine. The conversion was far from straightforward, though.

Firstly, there was the challenge of shoehorning the hefty diesel lump into the tight engine bay.

Even after modifying the mountings it was too tall for the bonnet to shut, so Mr Anderson made some brackets for it to rest in in a slightly open position.

He also had to mate it to the Snow-Trac’s clutch and transmission. But after plenty of searching he managed to find an adapter plate and the job was done.

Mr Anderson’s Snow-Trac was originally owned by the British Army and served at the 1982 Battle of Goose Green during the Falklands conflict.