Designing and building underground slurry tanks below new dairy sheds is an expensive business. Oliver Mark takes a look at another option – a big, self-propelled slurry hoover.
American dairy specialist Mensch has revealed the first of its range of self-propelled bedders and slurry vacuums in the UK.
Scraping slurry, whether using a bashed-up Massey 135 or an automatic system, has been the standard way of shifting dairy shed muck for years.
However, if you’re looking at running over 1,000 cows then the Americans reckon it could pay to invest in a vacuum system. Michigan-based Mensch claims to be the only manufacturer to make self-propelled vacuum tankers, which were initially designed for the biggest dairies across the US and South America.
Although such large milking operations are still pretty rare in the UK, the company expects the number of supersized dairies to increase both here and across the rest of Europe over the next decade.
Mensch in detail
- 6.7-litre, six-cyl Cummins
- Hydrostatic, four-wheel steer
- Empty weight
- 45cm diameter
That’s where Mensch’s vacuum system might fit in, particularly where long sheds are used and an automatic scraper system isn’t feasible.
It’s most likely to appeal to farmers looking to erect new sheds and avoid the steep design and build costs associated with making sure the liquid flows straight to the adjoining lagoons.
It means potential buyers can build a simple, flat yard with no underground tanks or channels for significantly less cost, transporting the slurry in the tanker to a reception tank elsewhere. That offers a degree of flexibility not possible with the other systems.
How does it work?
The tanker comes in three capacities depending on the size of the herd you’re running, starting at 8,400-litres and topping out with the 15,100-litre version.
The two currently running in the UK carry the mid-sized 11,350-litre tank, which should have enough capacity to tidy up after a group of 300 cows before unloading.
The idea is to go in with the vacuum as soon as the cows are turned out. The shearbolt-protected collection wings swing open to 4.2m to gather muck and slurry across the width of the passage.
It’s possible to adjust the downward pressure of the head to make sure it peals up and vacuums any dry, pasty, sand-laden manure. The pressure-adjustable collection wings push the muck into the centre of the scraper head where it’s then sucked into the main tank.
At the end of each wing is a floating ski that slides along alleyway curbs to remove any dry manure, leaving the driver to concentrate on steering the machine.
Travel speed during work is little more than walking pace, though the transmission will allow speeds of up to 32kph for moving between the sheds and dumping lagoon.
Once there, the driver opens a big door at the front. Most of the material should pour out anyway, but for the firmer stuff that settles at the bottom there’s a 45cm auger that runs the length of the machine to push the dregs out. The whole lot should empty in less than a minute.
Power is provided by a big six-bore, 220hp Cummins block, which runs at around 1,700rpm to maintain suction during work. Another hydraulic pump drives the vacuum, which is designed to provide instant suction at the scraper head rather than waiting to build vacuum pressure in the tank.
Naturally, there are plenty of wearing parts on the scraper section, but Mensch reckons the rest should last pretty well because the nature of a suction unit means that it’s air, rather than metal, that does most of the pushing against the course material.
However, the £150,000 asking price might be tough to swallow with the milk market in its current state.
Mensch also builds a self-propelled sand dispenser. The tank-like Sand Shooter comes in two sizes that hold either 11.5cu m or 15cu m sand and is propelled by a 4.5-litre, 160hp engine. The internals are largely the same as the slurry vac so it drives a hydrostatic transmission and comes with Dana Spicer-sourced axles.
Speed of the main central conveyor and discharge conveyor can be adjusted on a dial in the cab to suit the moisture content of the sand, which it can throw up to 25m using a high-speed track.
The ticket price is £85,000.