A Northumberland farm’s decision to take its spreading workload in-house has provided flexibility to only spread in the best weather helping to minimise soil compaction and make the best use of the valuable manure.

High rainfall, a wide range of livestock, and an organic production system all combine to provide the Rutherford family with a challenging workload, which is why the purchase of a Bunning Farmstar 80 HBD muck spreader to spread their own manure, is adding some much-needed flexibility.

The spreader is into its second season and arrived highly equipped from Bunning’s factory in Norfolk, with weigh cells and a variable rate controller allowing accurate and consistent application of a wide variety of products, including lime.

Michael and Graham Rutherford, along with their father. George, run the 340ha enterprise at Longhorsley, Morpeth, which accommodates 1800 breeding ewes, contract fattens 2000 pigs per year, and is home to a flock of 12,000 laying hens, plus a small number of suckler cows.

While the differing livestock provides a continuous supply of organic fertiliser and soil conditioner, there is a requirement to precisely apply the products regularly throughout the season, with minimum soil disturbance, particularly as most applications are on to grass.

“We had been using a local contractor, Lee Henzell, for our spreading work and he had done an excellent job for us. But a contractor isn’t ideal for the sort of little and often applications we need to make to grassland, so we looked at the feasibility of doing the job ourselves to give us more flexibility in terms of when and how often we can spread,” explained Michael.

“We ended up buying a spinning disc machine so we could spread a variety of material evenly and consistently. We also went for a high specification, including weigh cells and flotation tyres.

"At the same time, though, we didn’t want or need the capacity, weight, and cost of a large machine,” he added.

Weigh cell option

The Farmstar 80 HBD (horizontal beater and spinning disc) is an 8t/8-10 cu m capacity spreader, with a single 695mm dynamically balanced horizontal beater that feeds a pair of 1.1m diameter Hardox spinning discs with reversible Boron blades, to spread a wide range of products.

The position of the blades can be adjusted through five positions to fine tune the spread pattern. As standard, strength throughout the drivetrain is provided by the one-piece disc drive gearbox and MK4 floor drive gearbox, which are both used in the bigger model ranges, and Michael has been impressed with the spread width of the small machine. 

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“Bunning has assured us it would happily spread up to 24m, but we are happy at the 18m width we currently operate at and can spread loads quickly at 3-4t/ha on grass, and perhaps double that on our small area of arable land. A disc spreader also gives us the opportunity to spread lime ourselves.”

All Bunning spreaders come with a wide variety of technology options, including weigh cells, and this addition means the Rutherfords can apply specific application rates depending on land requirements and manure analysis. The farm’s land, which is mostly medium to heavy clay, has all been soil nutrient mapped.

Michael explained: “Our aim is to gradually build fertility through precise manure applications as needed – we don’t want to waste material by just spreading it.

“Having a spreader equipped with weigh cells and a rate controller, even though it is an entry-level machine, gives us the ability to do just that. The technology is easy to use and it’s especially useful with chicken litter.”

Lower compaction

The spreader was ordered on 650/65 R38 VF (very-high flexion) tyres to minimise ground pressure and match the similar width VF units fitted to the 130hp Claas Arion 610 that powers the spreader.

“The VF tyres mean we can run at pressures of only 23 psi (1.6 bar) to spread the weight of the machine and maximise the length of its footprint, which really helps to minimise sward damage,” added Michael.

“On conventional tyres, we would have to run at nearly double those pressures. Our two holdings are only half a mile apart, but the spreader rides well on the road.

"Our dealer, Rickerbys, has provided us with good back-up, while we’ve also had phone and on-farm support from Bunning themselves regarding maintenance and operation, which has been very useful in getting the best from the machine.

“Investing in a Farmstar 80 HBD has meant we’re able to spread when we want, usually two or three hours every fortnight. That’s really helped to ensure we are on top of the job and material only goes on when the conditions are right – and at the rate we require,” concluded Michael.