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Muck & Slurry

30 years of slurry know-how celebrated by specialist

Suffolk-based Tramspread not only manufactures and supplies a range of slurry handling equipment – the kit is also used every day by its own contracting division. David Williams reports.

Tramspread, near Stowmarket, Suffolk is owned and run by the Baker family which started the business in 1989. The company name is borrowed from the first product designed and manufactured by the business when founder Terry Baker worked at a nearby mixed farm with a sizeable pig herd and poultry unit. Disposing of slurry was a time consuming business and restricted by weather on the heavy local soils, he explained. “In those days we knew slurry had nutritional value but we couldn’t easily quantify it so, although we had our own arable land for application, we had to find ways to dispose of the excess when crops were too high to drive on.”

Liquid was applied through a slurry tanker armed with a splash plate distributor from which the spread width was approximately 6m. “I could see a solution for year around application if we could drive in the tramlines, but to do this required a spread width of 12m,” he said. “So I came up with an idea to fit two splash plates 6m apart and built an applicator to fit our tanker. One of the problems was splitting the flow equally between the two applicators and a pair of road cones was sacrificed to provide two nozzles which squirted slurry onto the spreader plates.”

Practical solution

The idea worked allowing slurry to be applied evenly to growing crops and an improved version was produced. There was nothing else similar available at that time and the principle was patented and the product was given the name Tramspread. Local farmers and contractors heard about the device and a business built up supplying the units locally.

A local company offered Terry the opportunity to display the Tramspread spreader unit on its stand at the Smithfield Show and neighbouring exhibitor Bauer was impressed by the product and offered Terry the Bauer franchise.

Tramspread developed its self-contained Contractors High Speed Trailer Pumping Unit for its own use, but the practical design has made it equally popular with slurry application contractors and large farms across the UK. The standard specification includes an integral slurry pump, a high capacity compressor to blow out and empty the slurry hoses after use and space for two 1,000m hose reels all on a twin-axle trailer.

Terry could see advantages in direct slurry application through an umbilical system; saving the need for heavy tankers to travel on the fields. He designed and built his own unit with the Tramspread distributor for mounting on the rear of a tractor. With demand for slurry application growing he and his son Larry set up Tramspread Contracting Ltd and built a second umbilical applicator to offer a service to farmers. “I didn’t know if it would succeed long-term when we started, but as pig farmers looked for more efficient means of disposing and making use of their slurry we offered a practical solution and the business grew.”

Terry and Larry were keen to improve application techniques further and, in 2008, they added flow measurement in combination with field mapping. “We couldn’t measure the nutrient content as we spread, but we could provide a print-out displaying the total volume applied to each area. Having slurry samples analysed at a local laboratory kept us well ahead of other companies in providing customers with accurate application information at that time,” explained Larry.

From 2010 the company moved to dribble bar application for greater accuracy and built its own aluminium version to save weight and improve performance. Now it manufactures and supplies a range of working widths incorporating Vogelsang or Joskin slurry distributors, depending on size. For its own contracting operation various widths are used in the autumn when travel isn’t restricted to tramlines, but from spring onward it runs a fleet of four 24m applicators which travel all over eastern England and East Anglia, last year applying in excess of 325,000m3 of slurry. The Bakers developed a self-contained application system including the tractor with a mounted 24m dribble bar, and a trailer incorporating a Tramspread slurry pump, an engine-driven compressor and 3,000m of slurry hose on reels manufactured in-house to their own specification.

“Each applicator is sent out with two operators, but because the units are self-contained there is only one tractor needed which reduces costs,” said Larry. “The tractor tows the whole outfit to the site, lays out the hose and spreads the slurry. A key part of the design is that the tractor’s rear hitch is available to tow the trailer even with the dribble bar mounted whereas other systems don’t allow that so a second tractor is needed.”

Tramspread has seen demand for its portable slurry pumps increase to approximately one per month. Power is from new FPT engines, or second-hand combine engines can often be supplied to reduce the cost.

New technology

Keen to be at the forefront with new technology Tramspread worked for several years with John Deere, testing slurry constituent sensing systems. “Farmers are asking for accurate information regarding application to meet stringent regulations and John Deere’s manure sensing system constantly measures and records content of nutrients such as Nitrogen and the operator can set a required application rate for one constituent and the tractor’s travel speed can adjust automatically to maintain it. This is the sort of technology we are keen to work with as we know customers value it.”

Larry commented that a significant factor speeding up introduction of new machinery and technology has been increased numbers of anaerobic digesters throughout the UK. This has brought more money into the industry and increased expectations regarding application accuracy and record keeping, he pointed out.

Looking to the future Terry expects dribble bars and trailing shoe applicators to be in high demand to replace splash plates as new regulations come into force by 2025, and demand for remote controlled pump sets has increased. “Now almost all have remote control whereas just five years ago only one in five had it specified,” he said. “It’s mainly due to higher diesel costs and for operator convenience.”

Another product supplied by Tramspread is Hexa-Cover slurry pit cover systems. These consist of plastic hexagon plates which are spread on top of the slurry lagoon. Floating on top they disperse evenly joining at the edges to form a flexible plastic cover. “With legislation demanding that slurry stores are covered these are a simple but effective solution,” suggested Terry.

Cost-effective solutions

Tramspread manufactures its own range of diesel engine-powered pump sets fitted with new FPT, or second-hand combine harvester engines. Fitting a used engine helps keep costs down and coming from combines they have usually worked very few hours and tend to be in excellent condition, explained Terry. “Running at constant speeds for pumping applications they consume little fuel.”

Tramspread’s most popular products currently are its front linkage-mounted hose reels. These are available with 600 or 1,000m hose capacity. Single hydraulic motor drive is standard for 600m versions and 1,000m reels have dual motor drive to handle the additional hose weight during reeling in. The tractor front linkage makes it easy to pick up or drop off full and empty hose reels.

Customers can also buy new or second-hand hose from the company. A hose hire service is offered and popular with potato growers for irrigation and hose returned after hire is often available to purchase at less cost than new.

Nationwide back-up

Although Tramspread sells and services products direct to customers in the east of England, further afield it relies on a network of approximately 30 dealers. “The products are very reliable but when parts or servicing is needed there is excellent back-up throughout the UK,” said Terry. “Almost all areas are covered but growing demand south of the Thames means we are keen to recruit a specialist dealer for that area.”

As well as manufacturing its own products, Tramspread also represents premium brands including Bauer, Joskin, Vogelsang, Albers Alligator, Reck, Stallkamp, Hilcoflex and Agri-Tank. Tramspread Slurry Storage Ltd was set up in 2006 to specialise in slurry and digestate storage products and solutions and is run by John Tydeman.

“We are getting busier and I believe our success is due to us being known as slurry specialists,” explained Terry. “We are happy to create bespoke products to meet particular needs and whenever we introduce anything new, it is thoroughly tested within our contracting fleet first so we know it is practical and reliable. Legislation is tightening but handled properly slurry is an asset rather than a problem and we can help farmers make it easier to store, move and apply.”

Customer view

RC Middleton & Son is based near Leominster and provides a slurry application contracting service to farmers in Shropshire, Worcestershire, South Wales, Warwickshire and Staffordshire. The business started approximately 15 years ago applying mainly cattle and pig slurry but now much of the workload is applying digestate from AD plants. Four Tramspread Contractors Trailers are operated within the fleet. “Actually, almost all our slurry handling and application equipment is from Tramspread,” explained partner Wayne Middleton. “When we took on the business from my uncle he suggested that we spoke with Tramspread before buying anything and almost everything we operate was bought over the phone without us needing to see it first. The first time we ever met Terry Baker was when he visited after we purchased our first Contractors Trailer, to show us how it all worked. It remains very reliable after 15 years’ work which is why we invested in a further three units. They are great.”

The company also operates three 24m Tramspread dribble bars which are ‘fantastic’ according to Wayne. “The service is brilliant too and if we need parts they come the next day and when we need a visit someone is with us quickly.

“What also impresses us is that the company is always open to ideas and if we suggest improvements these are considered and often incorporated on future versions.”

Members of the Tramspread team (l-r) James Peachey, Larry Baker, Terry Baker, John Tydeman and Ed Baker.

Applying precision to enhance slurry spreading accuracy

Using precision farming technology to apply slurry with a high degree of accuracy has enabled Wiltshire based agricultural contractor, Will Coward, to develop a unique service which helps grassland farmers maximise the value of their farm’s by-products.

Coward Contracting was founded in 2013 when Will Coward purchased a bale wrapper to service the various dairy and beef enterprises surrounding his family’s farm at Mere in Wiltshire. The business subsequently expanded to include seed drilling and crop spraying, but Will always wanted to develop a niche service which would add value to his enterprise and provide better long-term security.

Following a series of conversations with local dairy farmers who had expressed a need to improve the accuracy of slurry applications on their grazing paddocks and silage leys – not only to meet mounting environmental regulations, but also to make better use of the slurry’s nutrients – Will began to research what kind of investment he’d need to make to be able to offer a precision spreading service.

“I visited a number of farmers and contractors throughout the UK to see how they were applying slurry,” Will describes, “before settling on a system which I believe offers the most cost-effective and efficient service to our clients.”

Umbilical system

Will subsequently invested in an umbilical system with a 6m Joskin trailing shoe grass injector. He also equipped his main tractor – a Massey Ferguson 7626 – with a Topcon X35 console and AGI-4 receiver and steering controller which uses a SIM-card based RTK signal to position the tractor and spreading equipment to an accuracy of less than 10mm. A Krohne electro-magnetic flowmeter, which feeds its data back to a sprayer ECU (which in turn sends a signal to the X35 console) has also been installed to enable the spreader operator to monitor slurry flow and to record precisely how much slurry has been spread and where.

“I wanted a system which would allow me to monitor flow rates accurately and record exactly how much slurry we’d pumped onto what area of land in order to help customers meet the tightening slurry spreading regulations and to help them use their slurry more efficiently and responsibly,” Will explains.

“My aim was to have the necessary kit in place in autumn 2018 so that I could learn the trade during the latter half of the year and be ready to hit the ground running in spring 2019. I spent that first winter using the trailing shoe to inject slurry onto grassland for a handful of local dairy farmers and initially set myself the goal of spreading 50,000m3 in the first full year. Within a matter of weeks, I was picking up new customers simply through word-of-mouth, and exceeded my initial target thanks to an arrangement with a local cheese manufacturer to spread digestate from its biogas plant.”

Accurate slurry and digestate applications ensure nutrients are utilised efficiently.

Trailing shoe

Using the 6m trailing shoe to spread the digestate at a target rate of 30m3/ha meant the spreading tractor needed to travel too quickly, so Will upgraded to a wider system with the purchase of a 24m Vogelsang dribble bar. “I also managed to locate a second-hand 2m3 front tank which acts as a buffer to let us make headland turns without stopping the transfer pump and without over-applying.”

Will’s slurry handling kit also includes a twin splash plate spreader which, by his own admission, rarely gets used as it doesn’t offer the level of precision that his customers want.

“Using the Topcon kit to guide the dribble bar prevents any over-lapping and enables us to monitor, control and record exactly how much material we’re spreading and across what area,” Will continues. “That means we can accurately charge our clients based on the exact volume of slurry applied and allows us to feed accurate application data back to our customers so that they can maintain precise slurry management records and provide legitimate and fully traceable spreading data for environmental auditing purposes. That in turn means we can to charge a higher price per unit of work.”

SIM-card based RTK

The accuracy of the RTK signal is key to the entire set-up as Chris Limb of LH Agro explains: “Due to the slow forward speed at which the dribble bar operates (typically less than 2kph a standard GPS signal wouldn’t be accurate enough and would result in steering errors. Instead, we installed a SIM-card based RTK system which uses a cellular signal to provide an accurate and repeatable position to the auto-guidance system. That ensures slurry can be applied with zero overlap which is particularly important when spreading digestate as it is so concentrated that it can scorch grass if applied too liberally.”

To maximise the value of the guidance kit, Will is also using the Topcon X35 console to auto-steer when drilling and spreading fertiliser. “We were already using a Topcon screen on our spraying tractor, so it made sense to ask LH Agro to put a compatible system on our main tractor as well,” he explains. “We can potentially share data between each machine, which means if an existing customer asks us to quote for spreading slurry on their land, we’ll already have their field data in our system and can provide an accurate quote instead of having to guess how much work will be involved. It all makes managing our time easier and enables us to provide a much more professional service.”

Slurry specialist offers bespoke tanks

Manufacturer of slurry and muck handling equipment Conor Engineering produces slurry tanks ranging in size from 1,100-5,500 gallons.

The company specialises in making bespoke tanks and with more than 200 optional extras, 32 different models to choose from and 44 different wheel options – anything the customer requires can be made.

The tanks are available in single, tandem and tri axle with a large range of wheel options.

The Conor recessed tandem axle tank has a much lower centre of gravity than the majority of its competitors. It is built on a tandem suspension with parabolic springs and is stable and therefore safer at high speed and on hilly ground, says Conor. It launched a trailing shoe 9 years ago and with over 500 units sold the company credits its robust and simple construction as key to its success.

Conor also manufactures rear discharge muck spreaders and the Conor muck spreader is an extremely durable and heavy-duty product designed with the contractor in mind. It is well kitted out with a wide angle PTO and torque clutch included as standard.

Also as standard it is fitted with 15mm hardox tips and the base of the beater is made from 15mm plate.

Keep slurry flowing

A product which enables farmers to reduce the costs of mixing slurry has become an essential part of slurry management for some.

According to Biocell Agri director Alec Ross its Slurrycell product has been selling through word of mouth. “Farmers are seeing the benefits year after year; fewer blockages, less smell, a reduction in ammonia combined with an increase in nitrogen availability.

“Mixing times have been drastically reduced so the savings in fuel costs have been significant. The bugs breaking down fibre also means that there’s less of a matting effect when the slurry is applied.”

Slurrycell enables farmers to reduce the costs of mixing slurry and has become an essential part of slurry management for some.

In October 2014 Mark Berry started to fill his new lagoon on his Skipton farm, with slurry.

By the end of December there was a thick crust developing, so he mixed it up for about two days, but by January 2015 there was a thick crust again.

At the end of January he added Slurrycell and mixed again. Around three weeks later there was no thickness or crust, even in the corners. In February he began spreading in the grass fields in preparation for silage making. Through the spring and summer the slurry did not change in consistency and every load was evenly spread across the fields.

In September Mark then added some top-up Slurrycell ready for the coming winter. In the new year he mixed it for only 2-3 hours.

“The cost of mixing for days on end is just no longer there, and the bonus is that my crops are growing more evenly too,” said Mark.

Irish muck spreaders now available in UK

Agri-Spread International has announced the appointment of PK Sales as its new importer in the United Kingdom to provide dedicated sales, service and parts support for its expanding range of manure, muck, compost, bulk product rear discharge spreaders.

The Irish manufacturer produces a range of rear discharge spreaders from 6–26m3 with single and tandem axle models, capable of handling a wide range of manures, bio solids and compost types to achieve accurate spread patterns for small, medium and large scale farming and contracting operations.

PK Sales, owned and operated by Paul Kelloway who has over 20 years’ experience in the agricultural machinery industry in sales, design, management and direct customer support, specifically focused around the bulk spreading industry.

“Having contacted Agri-Spread about its range of rear discharge spreaders I was impressed with the business operation from day one, the factory is very impressive and modern which includes state of the art machinery to design and build high-quality spreaders that will perform in the field,” said Paul Kelloway.

“The range of spreaders we can offer will compete at the top end, in order to supply the customer a product that will last while being backed up by PK Sales. I am looking forward to the relationship and the aim to push sales to a level that will challenge the competition.”

Slurry and digestate management solutions

With over 30 years’ experience spreading manure with umbilical systems, Wox is able to offer practical and efficient solutions to slurry management. The company’s range of products includes the Wox Invader pump unit which is designed to offer up to 350m³/h capacity and is fitted with a Volvo engine, clutch unit, fully integrated hydraulic system for charge pump, crane and 400 cfm compressor operation.

An internet-based control system allows complete remote control and there is an integrated pressure washer for cleaning down and maintenance. Units are mounted to 20t trailer chassis with air/hydraulic brake systems and full road lighting.

The Wox Tempest mounted reeler has capacity to carry up to 1,000m of drag hose, while the Typhoon trailed reeler offers carrying capacity of up to 3,000m. The Wox Viper Hose Handler can simplify pipe management in the field.

The company’s Scarab tank can efficiently manage spreading on headlands to prevent over-spreading and saturation.

It is also a stockist of Gollmer and Hummel pipe and Metal 360 coupling and repair sets.

Challenging times ahead to meet environmental targets

The expectations on the agricultural industry are varied and challenging, says Agri Environmental Group.

Not only do we need to produce food under ever changing conditions but we must fulfil our responsibilities in protecting the environment, points out the company. The Clean Air Strategy and the requirement for us to play our part in reducing ammonia emissions will impact on us all.

With the intention to extend environmental permitting to the dairy and intensive beef sectors the industry needs to start planning now on how these new challenges will be met. Storage and spreading of slurry and manure plus the application of inorganic fertilisers are responsible for 88 per cent of ammonia emissions in the UK.

We must not think that it is only farmers who are in the firing line; transport, homes and industry are all coming under the same pressure to play their part. With all the challenges of the post Brexit era almost upon us we must embrace the attitude of ‘public money for public good’ and not leave everything until the last possible moment, points out Agri Environmental Group.

Those involved with FARG (Farming Ammonia Reduction Grant Scheme) will remember that many farmers lost out by leaving everything to the last minute, says Agri Environmental Group. Companies specialising in covering slurry stores and lagoons could not meet demand within the deadline. All farmers need to be getting on with the job of covering their slurry – leaving it to the last minute will most likely end up with them losing out, believes the business.

New sales and service team for specialist slurry application systems in the UK and Ireland

Sales and service support for specialist slurry application systems for Claas Xerion tractors are now being handled by the Bauer team in the UK and Ireland.

Bauer Group acquired German manufacturer SGT in 2015 to expand its portfolio of waste handling and field application solutions. SGT (Silage & Gulle-Technik) is best known for its slurry tanker loading system and large capacity mounted and semi-mounted tanks for the Claas Xerion, which converts the tractor into a self-propelled slurry spreader.

The 16m3 Bauer PT17 poly tank and front-mounted filling pump system converts the Xerion 4000 S-Trac into a self-propelled slurry and digestate applicator.

The products are complementary to the Bauer range of high-specification trailed slurry tankers, pumps, stirrers and separators, and both dealers and end users will benefit from Bauer’s direct support says sales manager Adrian Tindall.

Soon after acquiring SGT, Bauer used poly-tank production – a hand-laid polyester laminate manufacturing process – to produce a new mounted tank for the forward control Xerion S-Trac. Bauer has a long-established technique for producing tractor-trailed tankers in capacities up to 26,000 litres using this process, which results in a strong but light weight structure, finished with a high-quality, smooth gelcoat that is immune to corrosion and can be cleaned to virtually as-new condition after spreading slurry and digestate.

For the Xerion S-Trac, the 16m3 Bauer mounted poly tank has 2m3 more capacity than its steel predecessor but weighs 1,800kg less, making the forward control Xerion even more productive in this role.

In addition, a direct-mounting frame for the front-mounted pump unit, which weighs 1,850kg, saves a further 1,000kg by replacing the tractor’s three-point linkage, while having simpler pipework that gives the operator a clearer view ahead and handles faster flow rates for quicker loading.

The pump unit is available with a 10in remote docking system for filling, a 10in stone-trap box and a 9,000- or 12,000-litres/min pump. The larger capacity option is offered for 24–36m slurry dribble booms.

Other Bauer products acquired with SGT include steel semi-tankers towed from a chassis-mounted coupling in a configuration that transfers more of the tanker’s weight to the tractor wheels for optimum traction and stability.

There are 16,000–21,000-litre single-axle versions for the mid-cab Xerion Trac and JCB Fastrac 4000 Series tractors, and tandem and triple-axle models with capacities up to 30,000 litres for the Xerion Trac.

A twin-axle, 30,000-litre semi-tanker is also available for the forward control Xerion S-Trac.

One tractor, one-man umbilical system

Tramspread has specialised in slurry contracting for more than 30 years. The team, based in Mendlesham, Suffolk, has developed its own bespoke equipment to create machines that work efficiently and can adapt to any job.

The Tramspread high speed contractor pump trailer is powered by a 175hp Iveco engine coupled to a Bauer SX2000 pump which is capable of pumping up to 300m3/hr depending on distance and hose diameter. The long drawbar enables a Tramspread applicator, such as a dribble bar, to be carried on the tractor’s rear three-point linkage while towing the trailer. With the addition of a Tramspread SIL remote control, pressure sensors and flowmeter, the entire umbilical system can be accurately operated and monitored by just one man.

Up to 2,000m of drag hose is carried on two Tramspread galvanised detachable spools located at the front of the trailer while a further 1,000m is carried on the tractors’ front 3-point linkage via the powerful twin hydraulic drive Tramspread reeler, giving a total system capacity of 3,000m. Over the twin sprung high-speed axles there is a large, 900-litre fuel tank. Mounted over the fuel tank is a compressor (also remote controlled) and suction hose loading area with two large toolboxes.

The Tramspread high speed contractor pump trailer can be built to a variety of specifications and is used by the company’s contracting division to apply more than 600,000m3 of slurry and digestate each year.

Fitted with Tramspread’s Raven Box, the latest in mapping and recording technology, the unit can report the areas treated and the quantity of slurry utilised.

Using technology and precision engineering means the Tramspread team can tackle any job and provide a market leading service, concludes the company.

Reduce ammonia losses

Agri-Industry Solutions has reported a successful year with Veenhuis slurry application equipment. With a complete range of tankers and umbilical systems, together with the Rotomax reel system and injectors, the company is able to cover a wide range of slurry application systems.

All equipment is available with NutriFlow real time NPK monitoring, allowing accurate spread rates of digestate and slurry. This can be linked to farm mapping systems for yield optimisation. The system together with the utilisation of the injector range means that the maximum value of the material can be realised. This is becoming an important part of the AD and livestock model, driving value out of a product while increasing users’ confidence of the application accuracy, said the company.

Agri-Industry Solutions supplies a range of Veenhuis slurry application equipment.

Shallow disc injection can cut down ammonia losses to less than 10 per cent, and with the cost of fertiliser and an increased focus on farming and its environmental emissions we see the utilisation of this type of injection a must, a spokesman explained. “Shallow disc injection into cereals up to growth stage 30 and beyond is commonplace in Europe and we are now seeing it in the UK, with improved results in nutrient uptake as application is put where the plant requires it.”

Quantifiable benefits to slurry mixing system

The idea of stirring slurry with compressed air is not new, but some of the many benefits of this technology have only recently been measured.

Work at Wageningen University in Holland has demonstrated that Aeromixing can reduce emissions of ammonia from a store cellar by as much as 50 per cent and effectively eliminates the poisonous gases caused by anaerobic activity.

Stirring slurry with compressed air can reduce ammonia emissions by as much as 50 per cent.

The reduction of ammonia is probably due to the daily burying of urine lying on the slurry surface into the mass of the slurry store where the many organisms which can fix that nitrogen promptly do so. This results in a higher nitrogen content in the slurry when spread – saving on fertiliser bills and improving the health of the animals housed above. The anaerobic bacteria which produce explosive methane and poisonous hydrogen sulphide are killed by exposure to oxygen at the slurry surface as the bubbles regularly lift material from the bottom of the store to the top. Deadly pockets of H₂S do not form.

Aeromixing produces an easily pumpable slurry of neutral pH which is readily absorbed on spreading, rapidly greens up the grass, reduces worm kill and enables cows to be returned to pasture sooner.

The Ameram patented pneumatic air distribution system has been in use for 20 years and the first examples are still in use. Electronics are kept to a minimum and all electricity is kept within the compressor housing and the operator’s panel.

New self-propelled slurry injector is invaluable for Kent business

A new Vervaet Hydro Trike XL self-propelled slurry injector has proven itself invaluable for digestate application at St Nicholas Court Farms.

The Kent-based farming company took delivery of the new machine in February from UK importer J Riley Beet Harvesters. It handles all of the digestate from the farm’s two anaerobic digestion plants which produce biogas for the national grid. Energy crops comprise 98 per cent of the feedstock, including maize, rye, triticale and grass and provide a useful opportunity to diversify rotations across the 3,000ha farmed area. Additional land is also rented on a seasonal basis for energy crop production.

The farm had already gained prior experience with a much smaller anaerobic digestion plant before the current 7 Megawatt installation was commissioned in 2014.

“Until last year we were using a trailed 16m3 tanker, which was good but we had outgrown it,” explains farm manager Iain Moss. “In the early days we were feeding 10,000t into the plant per year, but now we get through 110,000t annually. We could see the need coming and had been planning a replacement for a few years.

“We had considered a larger tanker, but that would mean an additional high-horsepower tractor, which would be tied up for most of the year, so we looked at self-propelled machines and arranged for demonstrations where possible.”

St Nicholas Court Farms opted for a 530hp Vervaet Hydro Trike XL with a 19,000-litre tank which began work in spring 2019. Each of the Hydro Trike XL’s five wheels follows a different track when in work, keeping ground pressure to an absolute minimum. To match the farm’s 36m tramlines the Hydro Trike is paired with a 12m Schuitemaker disc injector and 18m Bomech trailing shoe injector.

St Nicholas Court Farms’ new Vervaet Hydro Trike XL at work applying digestate to grassland through an 18m wide Bomech trailing shoe injector.

“The Hydro Trike is a lightweight machine for its size which we felt is important,” says Iain. When choosing the machine the ability to specify the Trike with an integrated John Deere NIR manure sensing system was also a big factor. This analyses the digestate as it is spread allowing the operator to set the application rate according to nutrient value and even carry out variable rate dressings.

“The NIR system is fantastic, we couldn’t go without it now,” explains Iain. “I know exactly what the machine has spread, and I don’t ask for applications in cubic metres per hectare anymore, I tell the operator the exact amount of nitrogen that I want to apply. Before we used to take samples and send them away for analysis, but this system monitors and actually adjusts the application in real time, as it’s going up the field. The purchase was aided by an EU grant for precise manure application, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

“It places the information at your fingertips which we think is invaluable.”

“The Vervaet has got huge capacity – it’s just keeping it fed that can be an issue,” he continues. “We have two nurse tanks in the field which are serviced by four tractor tankers and a lorry, plus additional HGVs which are called-in as needed. Output per day has averaged around 750m3, and we recently had our first day of hitting over 1,000m3, although we’re confident that more is possible.”

The Hydro Trike XL’s operator Lee Terry is also pleased with the machine’s abilities and well thought-out design.

“It’s very simple to use,” he comments. “Maintenance is easy, especially daily checks, with everything easy to get to.”

New trailing show linkage

Vogelsang has revealed its new BlackBird trailing shoe linkage with flow-optimised liquid manure discharge.

“When it came to developing this new technology, we took into account the findings from our flow simulations as well as the flow rates of the liquid manure and tested a number of different shapes. The result is an ideal combination of a flow-optimised discharge that deposits the liquid manure even more precisely and a new skid geometry that separates the crops even better,” explains Vogelsang’s head of sales for Germany, Henning Ahlers. The new, long, beak-like shape helps to ensure a controlled and even flow of liquid manure through every discharge, thus preventing the crops from getting contaminated during manure spreading.

Design of the BlackBird from Vogelsang ensures a controlled and even flow of liquid manure.

By actively applying pressure, the BlackBird’s pointed skid is better able to penetrate the soil, ploughing a small furrow for directly depositing the liquid manure under the crops, says Vogelsang.

Precision distributor

The BlackBird incorporates the next generation of Vogelsang’s precision distributor ExaCut ECQ. The distributor is located in the centre of the boom – the perfect position for ensuring that the liquid manure is distributed precisely and evenly. Large diameters and flow distribution plates keep the flow under control and ensure a high distribution accuracy of the liquid manure. In order to make maintenance of the ExaCut ECQ quicker and easier, Vogelsang has also altered its maintenance concept, adding a large maintenance port to allow direct access to all the system’s internal components. As such, service work can now be carried out without dismantling the precision distributor or dismounting the cover and the outlet hoses and feed lines connected to it. The QuickService concept means that maintenance tasks on the ExaCut ECQ can be completed in just a few minutes. The power requirements have also been reduced by up to 50 per cent. This is due to the new rotor design and lower speeds. There is less strain on the cutting blades because of the reductions in speed and the internal pressure of the distributor, which extends the service life of the unit by up to 50 per cent.

For longer service life Vogelsang has also modified the hose layout to prevent the unit from creating a V-shaped imprint at the start of its furrows. The hoses themselves are black and are installed for the first time in the new trailing shoe linkage. The new leaf springs and their vibration cancellation technology ensure the unit’s stability, protecting the entire structure from excessive loads and reducing vibrations during transport on the road. Hydraulic cylinders with end-position damping keep the strain in the frame to a minimum during folding processes.

As is standard procedure at Vogelsang, the BlackBird’s supporting structures are FEM-calculated. This ensures that the supporting structures can withstand the daily strains they are subjected to.

The trailing shoe linkage is available in working widths of 12 and 15m and can be folded up to a transport width of 2.99m. Folding the linkage upwards activates the DropStop principle, which prevents the headland, streets and agricultural roads from getting contaminated.

Ease of operation and maximum manoeuvrability

The AT range of three and five-wheel muck and slurry applicators from Ploeger have been designed with maximum manoeuvrability and operational efficiency in mind.

Available as the Ploeger AT4103 and AT5105, the machines are powered by Scania five or six cylinder engines respectively. Mechanical drive to the rear axle is through the reliable ZF ECCOM 5.0 continuously variable transmission (CVT). The front wheel is hydraulically driven, with variable output. Both the AT4103 and the AT5105 are fitted with Michelin 1050/50R32 tyres as standard.

Chassis construction includes formed profiled steel sections to minimise welded joints that historically have weakened a chassis on self-propelled agricultural machines.

Ploeger has recently introduced a new model slurry injector, the AT5105 LNMS.

The AT range can be equipped with dry nutrient application bodies from Tebbe or Ploeger’s robust polyester tank for liquid nutrient application.

Wet ground conditions often hamper dry and liquid fertiliser application using tractors and towed applicators, but the three-wheel trike design of Ploeger’s AT4103 with one wheel in one track, offers contractors the ability to run during wetter periods. Variants fitted with Bredal and New Leader dry liquid or stainless steel liquid fertiliser applicator body options have proved to be invaluable in Europe’s wetter regions.

The three-wheel trike has also been equipped with an umbilical connection and smaller capacity reservoir tank combination for application of liquid nutrients on wetter land where lower ground pressure is desirable.

Ploeger’s UK subsidiary PMC Harvesters’ area sales manager, Steven Skipper, said: “Feedback from current Ploeger users has highlighted the extreme driver comfort and ease of operational controls as well as exceptional visibility from the Claas Vista 2 cabin. Reducing driver fatigue and maintenance downtime were key factors when we designed the AT range. We will continue demonstrations in the UK and Europe this summer and autumn.”

Solutions to meet impending slurry storage legislation

If proposals in Defra’s Clean Air Strategy are adopted, covering slurry will be a requirement in England from 2027. This will cause concern for some farmers who will need to seek new slurry storage. However, a flexible, scalable solution is already available in the UK that will keep slurry not just covered but entirely contained.

Dutch company Albers Alligator has been manufacturing bag tanks for more than 35 years. These tanks represent a cost-effective and flexible solution to contain slurry in small and large volumes.

Bag tanks range in size from 200–7,000m3 and can be located on any soil type as only a shallow foundation is needed. The tanks have integral hydraulic or electric stirrers, fill/empty pipes and are self-venting so relatively little management or farmer involvement is needed.

Winsystem unreeling the portable Winbag which can be used in any location and filled by tanker or pumped to from a main slurry store.

John Tydeman from Tramspread, which sells and installs Albers Alligator tanks in the UK, comments: “These tanks are proving ever more popular. They are lower cost and easier to assemble than comparable slurry solutions on the market and often don’t require any planning permission. We expect to see interest rise now that Defra has outlined its plans. These bags can help a great many farmers adhere to the new legislation.”

Bag tanks are low to the ground and have minimal impact on the surrounding landscape. Many farmers have installed bag tanks without requiring planning permission. However, those looking to install a bag tank are advised to seek guidance from their local authority.

Albers Alligator also produces a portable tank called Winbag. These smaller bag tanks range from 100–350m3 and are typically used as overflow storage but can be used as a temporary and portable solution requiring only a level, smooth site. A reeling device called Winsystem rolls the whole bag on to a trailer and will unreel it in another location. The ability to take these bags anywhere on the farm, unreel and fill offers a solution to farmers with difficult to reach fields. The bags are watertight so can be remotely situated, tanker filled or pumped to and emptied when the slurry is needed.

Defra’s Clean Air Strategy also dictates that splash plates will be banned from 2025 and farmers will be expected to use low emission spreading equipment, such as trailing shoe, dribble bar or injection. Using umbilical systems also removes the need for multiple trips to fill up a tanker. Slurry can be pumped from the main tank to a Winbag in a satellite location. Once the area surrounding the Winbag has been treated it can be reeled in and moved to another location to repeat the process.

Adopting and adhering to new legislation is often difficult and costly for farmers, says Tramspread however there could be grant funding under the capital element of the Mid Tier Stewardship scheme to help with the cost. A typical 100 dairy cow unit producing 2.25m3 per cow, per month would require a bag tank size of 1,500m3 to keep 6 months’ slurry. A tank of this size costs £56,500 which includes installation and is expected to last at least 20 years. A 100m3 Winbag is £23,000 including the reeler.

Slurry acidification reduces emissions and adds value to manures

The UK’s Clean Air Strategy will tighten legislation on airborne pollutants and many intensive livestock businesses will have to find more innovative ways to control greenhouse gas and particulate emissions to comply with forthcoming regulations.

Ammonia and odour control are key issues for pig businesses and although producers have embraced best available technologies (BATs), to reduce the potential pollution risk from waste materials, effluents and gases, science is now delivering technology that can alter the biology of pig slurry, stop odour and improve its fertiliser value.

Ammonia is produced when urine mixes with faeces, but adding acid to slurry, to take pH levels down to below 6, impedes the production of this offensive compound. And if you stop this happening, then you can cut down emissions,” says independent environmental specialist, Nigel Penlington.

Under construction. This base is the beginning of a new, part slatted pig finishing house with slurry cooling. The network of lines across the concrete is the heat exchange element, which will draw warmth out of the slurry and cool it. This line is continuous throughout and set in place on the base of what will be the slurry pits.

The mild acidification of slurry, combined with high-speed air extraction, is one of the most effective methods of cutting air pollution from pig buildings. Part slatted systems, that use high velocity exhaust fans, also generate fewer emissions, but other techniques will probably be necessary to future proof pig businesses and comply with proposed clear air regulations.

“Acidifying slurry has many advantages and it’s a simple process that can be carried out in the store, in the field as slurry’s being spread or directly in pits under the slats. The most effective application is when slurry is acidified in the pig housing, while the animals are in situ, as this stops the ammonia compounds forming in the first place,” says Mr Penlington.


Lincolnshire producer Sam Godfrey is installing a JH Agro slurry acidification system at Elsham Linc Ltd, a new-build pig finishing project that’s part of his family’s, mixed farm business. Supported by a Countryside Productivity Grant scheme (40 per cent EU Agri fund for rural development), phase 1 was completed in February 2019. The entire development will be finished by the end of 2020.

The acidification system used here is automated, continuous and maintains pH levels at around 5.5. All slurry produced on the farm is passed through a treatment well before it’s pumped to store, with a small quantity of treated material sent back to the pig sheds every few days to maintain acidity levels in the under-slat catch pits (see Diagram 1).

Initial observations at Elsham-Linc show an improvement to the atmosphere inside buildings with less coughing seen in the pigs. Other expected benefits are better-quality working environment for staff, reduced repair bills as the slurry and atmospheric conditions are less corrosive, plus a reduction in flies. Other farms using mild acidification report similar benefits and notable improvements to pigs’ respiratory health.

“We have to consider the effects any prospective legislation might have on our business. Slurry acidification will help us reduce emissions, optimise performance in our pig buildings and increase the nutrient value of our manure which fertilises our arable land,” said Mr Godfrey.

Elsham-Lincs’ acidification system has required considerable investment and running costs have yet to analysed, but Mr Godfrey says the technology has improved the environmental credentials of his business and the long-term prospects of his pig enterprise.

Chilled energy

Another novel method for improving air quality and odour control is slurry cooling. The process offers substantial energy savings, but can also reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve a pig unit’s green credentials.

Similar to heat source pump technology, the Danish-developed Klimadan system can recover warmth from slurry pits and stores, and transfer it to high-input areas of the farm, such as farrowing rooms and weaner accommodation.

Acidification hardware. An acid storage tank and the subterranean acid treatment well it supplies.

“A network of continuous recovery pipes, set into the base of slurry tanks extracts heat from the manure, transfers it to a pump, and then directs it elsewhere. It’s simple physics and the Klimadan system has proved very adaptable and highly efficient,” says housing/environment consultant with AM Warkup, Nick MacIvor.

The energy generated from cooling the slurry can heat water to 60ºC. The cooling effect on the slurry has been shown to cut ammonia emissions by 30 per cent and significantly lower CO2 emissions, which together reduces odour/smell – by at least 20 per cent. This cooling process also ‘fixes’ more nitrates into the manure, which improves fertiliser value (N/kg).

Heat source pump systems are one of the most reliable and efficient forms of heating, generating 4Kw of output for every 1kW input – giving a net gain of 3kW. They have a low carbon footprint and are one of the most cost-effective renewable sources of energy available, but UK farmers have been slow to grasp this technology. Things might change now that air quality legislation’s getting tougher, because pig producers will have to be more ingenious about how they future proof their businesses. This technology has many advantages,” said Mr MacIvor.

AM Warkup is now recommending Klimadan’s slurry cooling system with all new builds. It is also developing retro-fit options for existing accommodation. The hardware, eg the pipelines, pumps and heat exchange equipment, qualifies for renewable heat incentives which could be used to offset installation costs.

  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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