Rabbit fence erection machinery wins invention competition at Suffolk Show

Many of the best new mechanisation developments come from farming people, and the Inventive Farmer competition at this year’s Suffolk Show proves fresh ideas are not in short supply.

The Suffolk Show inventions competition is an annual reminder that even in the age of GPS, electronics and automation, some problems are still solved by an assembly job in the farm workshop using bits and pieces from scrap machines.

Richard Ledger’s problem was rabbit damage on his 1600ha (4000-acre) Manor Farm, Little Mongeham, Deal, Kent. Wire fences can stop rabbits “eating your money”, he says, but to be effective the bottom of the wire must be buried to stop them digging underneath.

Using hand labour to erect rabbit fencing is slow and expensive, so Mr Ledger decided to mechanise the job. The result, built in his workshop last winter and voted overall winner in the Suffolk Show competition, is a linkage-mounted framework carrying two rolls of netting, one to unwind as the tractor moves forwards plus a spare roll.

On one side of the frame is a disc from a disused Kverneland plough which slits the soil surface ahead of a mouldboard from the same source.

 Richard Ledger’s rabbit fence erection machine won the top inventions award.inventions2

This opens a furrow and as the netting unwinds with the bottom section in the 125mm deep furrow, it is buried by using a scalloped disc from a derelict disc harrow, with an elderly hydraulic motor turning the disc to move soil back into the furrow.

Also on the frame is a reel-releasing plain straining wire to support the netting. The machine leaves the straining wire and partly buried netting ready for a follow-up team to position support posts, knock them in with a post bumper and staple the netting and support wire to the posts.

Workrate in ideal conditions, with no awkward corners or obstructions, is up to two miles a day.

A 30-year-old grain trailer bought new by Euston Farms, Thetford, Norfolk, for £2905 has a new lease of life as a transporter for attachments used on the company’s Manitou telehandler. Manitou driver, Jim Broatch, won an award for converting the derelict trailer to carry a grain bucket, a silage/muck grab and a grain pusher.

Finding a muck spreader big enough to carry bulky green waste compost was the problem for Dunton, Buckinghamshire contractors, Sean Jackman and Matt Wright. The answer was a 220hp ex-local authority Dennis dustcart with the bin emptying mechanism at the rear replaced by four vertical beaters from a disused K-Two Quattro muck spreader. The dustcart tyres were replaced by a set of fat Trelleborgs and the 100hp engine from an ancient Econ sprayer powers the moving floor and spreading unit. The result is fewer spreading journeys due to the 25cu m carrying capacity – three times as much as a typical 12t muck spreader.


The Sooper Scooper entered by Steve Dowling of Chalton, Luton, Bedfordshire, is a two-in-one grain bucket and hopper filler. The Suffolk Show version holds 1.5t and fits any front loader or telehandler. Rolled forward it acts as a bulk grain bucket, but when rolled back the hopper function takes over with the outlet in the base filling drill hoppers or game feeders with the flow controlled by a slide. Refinements available include a rainproof cover and a chute to protect the outflow from the wind.

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