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'Low-impact' feeding buggy lightens load for pig farmers

PUBLISHED: 14:30 13 February 2020 | UPDATED: 16:33 17 February 2020

Adrian Lawson of Rattlerow Farms, left, and Fergus Harvey-Kelly of John Harvey Engineering, right, with pig unit manager George Chapman driving the newly developed LGP Feeder  Picture: JOHN HARVEY ENGINEERING

Adrian Lawson of Rattlerow Farms, left, and Fergus Harvey-Kelly of John Harvey Engineering, right, with pig unit manager George Chapman driving the newly developed LGP Feeder Picture: JOHN HARVEY ENGINEERING

John Harvey Engineering

A collaboration between two innovative Suffolk companies is set to help outdoor pig producers who have been struggling with one of the wettest winters on record.

Muddy conditions on a pig farm - which are making the going tough for pig farmers  Picture: JOHN HARVEY ENGINEERINGMuddy conditions on a pig farm - which are making the going tough for pig farmers Picture: JOHN HARVEY ENGINEERING

Framlingham fabrication company John Harvey Engineering and Stradbroke-based pig production company Rattlerow Farms have come up with a new lightweight feeding buggy for pig farms designed to work in all kinds of weather conditions.

The self-propelled, low ground pressure (LGP) feed distribution vehicle is aimed at keeping pigs fed and people moving in some the most challenging conditions.

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The low impact design is aimed at reducing the risk of excessive ground damage when the land is soft, waterlogged and muddy.

Adrian Lawson, joint managing director at Rattlerow Farms, said: "The high rainfall we've experienced in recent months has made conditions extremely difficult on our outdoor units.

Muddy conditions on a pig farm - which are making the going tough for pig farmers  Picture: JOHN HARVEY ENGINEERINGMuddy conditions on a pig farm - which are making the going tough for pig farmers Picture: JOHN HARVEY ENGINEERING

"Even the best sites, on free-draining land, are saturated and it's been tough trying to maintain ground conditions and prevent excessive rutting and surface run off when feeding pigs and moving equipment."

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He came up with the idea for the low-impact vehicle idea and enlisted John Harvey Engineering to help develop it.

Rattlerow has been using its adapted AgriBuggy on outdoor units in Suffolk since November 2019.

Muddy conditions on a pig farm - which are making the going tough for pig farmers  Picture: JOHN HARVEY ENGINEERINGMuddy conditions on a pig farm - which are making the going tough for pig farmers Picture: JOHN HARVEY ENGINEERING

With a gross weight of just 7.5 tonnes, the low ground pressure (LGP) vehicle is 50% lighter than the typical tractor and trailed feeder combinations used on many outdoor pig units.

The LGP field feeder is built on the body of a Kellands/McConnel AgriBuggy - which usually accommodates a self-propelled crop sprayer - and comprises a hopper and feed delivery system manufactured from mild steel, making it lightweight, but strong enough to withstand the rigours of daily use on a pig unit.

The feeder has substantial load capacity, but can negotiate difficult terrain with limited impact because its overall laden weight is spread across a large surface area. Flotation tyres help to limit compaction and rutting, making it easier to move around even when the ground is water-logged and muddy.

"This LGP machine treads lightly on the land compared with other farm machinery, and it's proving to be practical, economical and a very reliable workhorse in the particularly challenging conditions we've had this winter. The stockmen using it say it's saving them a lot of time and reducing the impact that everyday tasks are having on the land," said Adrian. Fergus Harvey-Kelly, feeding technology and equipment manager at John Harvey Engineering, believes there's significant potential for low ground pressure equipment on outdoor pig units. He's currently exploring how low impact technologies used on arable farms might be adapted to suit pig sites.

"Finding LGP vehicles that are suitable for field feeders isn't easy," he said. "We wanted a machine that was robust and offered a similar power ratio to a tractor and we considered alpine transporters, dumper trucks and other self-propelled sprayers, before Martin Sergent, Rattlerow's arable manager suggested the AgriBuggy."

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