Innovative way to spread straw

5 October 2001

Innovative way to spread straw

By Jeremy Hunt

A STRAW spreading machine designed by a Cheshire dairy farmer is reckoned to cut straw bedding costs by 50%.

The brainchild of Michael Hughes, who runs a 200-cow herd on the Bolesworth Estate near Tattenhall, the Spread-a-Bale has been five years in the making.

Disappointed with an existing straw chopper and contemplating how best to bed-down heifers in a new youngstock house, he decided to design a system for handling and spreading square bales.

The aim was to develop a simple, robust, straw spreading system that would spread straw more efficiently and tackle the animal and operator welfare problems created by the production of dust clouds from conventional choppers.

"If we needed a machine to reach into the stack to remove square bales for spreading, why couldnt we use the same machine to actually spread the straw?" he asked.

"I could see there was potential to capitalise on the "reach" we needed for loading the bale in the first place. I wanted to use that same "reach" via the telescopic boom to take straw up and over pens so that it could be spread exactly where we wanted it."

But to reduce the amount of dust and to make more use of the straw, Mr Hughes realised he had to move away from the conventional chopping principle.

Instead, he devised a system based on a spreader head – not unlike the vertical beaters on a muck spreader – which receives the straw via the conveyor and then accelerates and distributes it into the pen as long straw without actually chopping it.

"I wanted to avoid the straw being chopped but equally I didnt want it thrown off the conveyor in whole wafers which are trodden into the bed," he explains. "Thats a very wasteful method of spreading straw; it simply doesnt open up the material to achieve the most efficient and economical way of bedding stock."

The standard Spread-a-Bale machine has an unladen weight of 690kg and measures 3.35m long and 1.75m wide. It can handle square bale sizes up to 2.96m long, 1.5m wide and 97cm deep. A model with a larger spreader head is also available to handle Hesston bales.

Mr Hughes says the Spread-a-Bale can be adapted to fit any loader with a 2.5 tonne lift capacity and requires just one double acting oil supply providing 50+ litres of oil a minute to operate.

The machine is designed to load bales straight from the stack – the spreader unit is lifted clear and the bale is hauled aboard by reversing the conveyor.

From the cab, the operator lowers the hydraulically driven spreaders, raises the machine to the position required above the pen area and increases the revs to achieve even, dust-free straw spreading up to a distance of 8m.

Because the operator only has to leave the cab to cut the twine there are huge savings on labour – up to 75% compared with other machines, claims Mr Hughes.

The Spread-a-Bale, which costs £5500, is manufactured by Didsbury Engineering. &#42

Spread-a-Bale in action.

The two hydraulically driven rotors spread straw up to 8m – but do not chop it. Inset: Hydraulically driven spreader unit lifts clear to allow a new bale to be added.

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