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Monday 20 November 2017

Why this contractor is not a fan of trailing shoe slurry spreading systems

Consistent investment in his fleet has seen contractor Pat Dalton build up a loyal client base for his slurry, baling and reseeding services
Dalton Agri run three Hi-Spec slurry tankers and charge €40 an hour for spreading with the Moscha swivel spout applicator.
Dalton Agri run three Hi-Spec slurry tankers and charge €40 an hour for spreading with the Moscha swivel spout applicator.
Derek Casey

Derek Casey

Pat Dalton is in the agri contracting game a long time, but he is still a first generation contractor.

He cut his teeth working for and learning from another local contractor, Tom Mulhearne, but when he was 26 Pat decided to bite the bullet and go out on his own, setting up Dalton Agri in Clonea Power, Co Waterford.

The decision to go solo came around 1997 when he started off doing some hedge cutting and fencing work.

It was on a small scale at first, but over time his client base grew steadily. Local farmers were keen to support him and in time his machinery fleet and job listings swelled.

The oscillating movement is initiated by the slurry guide plates
The oscillating movement is initiated by the slurry guide plates

Today Dalton Agri's main contracting services are grass based, including baled silage, slurry spreading and reseeding. The team also still do some hedge cutting and fencing work.

On the day I call to his yard I wanted to hear about the slurry spreading side of the business, which is in full flow. Farmers want tanks emptied yesterday.

Dalton Agri run three Hi-Spec slurry tankers and charge €40 an hour for spreading with the Moscha swivel spout applicator.

This unit is fairly new to Ireland and was originally designed in Germany.

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Pat is not a fan of trailing shoe spreading systems, but he admits his slurry spreading machinery fleet is dictated by the most part for what local farmers ask for.

And most of his farmer customers are no longer asking for trailing shoe, with complaints of slower work rates, higher contracting charges and slurry lines being left visible in the grass amongst the common refrains.

The team makes 27,000 bales each year and run three McHale Fusions.
The team makes 27,000 bales each year and run three McHale Fusions.

The team have been using Moscha swivel spout applicators on all three tanks for the last couple of seasons. The Moscha was designed by a German farmer who was seeking a better slurry-spreading technique before splash-plate systems were banned in Germany. The basic idea is that the nozzle slows down the speed at which slurry leaves the tanker, thereby creating larger slurry droplets.

The bigger droplets are claimed to retain the gases within the liquid more effectively than when slurry is spread with a higher-pressure conventional splash-plate system.

The oscillating movement, which is initiated by the slurry guide plates, gives a working width of 12-18m depending on pressure and the vacuum tanker's pump size. Customer feedback has been very good to date.

"Farmers tell me the spread pattern gives good growth rates and they know the output is much better, meaning I can spread more slurry for them per hour," says Pat.

Pat with son Eoghan
Pat with son Eoghan

"The only drawback is the slurry can get thrown around a bit on a windy day, but that happens with the splash plate as well."

Outside of slurry spreading Dalton Agri could also be described as baling specialists.

The fleet includes no less than three McHale Fusion baler wrappers - an original, a Fusion 2 - and the latest incarnation of the popular Mayo machine , the Fusion 3.

It's the calm before the storm in terms of silage and all three balers are stored in pristine condition. They have already had their preseason servicing (all maintenance is done in house by the team) and are awaiting the 2017 silage season's kick off.

You get the sense of a well looked after machinery fleet.

"We make around 27,000 bales a year," Pat explains.

"Our customer base stretches from Leamybrien to Tramore. People ask why we need three balers, but to be honest with you there's days during the summer when I could use six! It's about being able to respond to a farmer quickly once that phone call comes looking for bales to be made.

"The nature of this game is that all the calls come together, and having more than one baler gives you the added flexibility and higher output needed to keep farmers happy.

"The other thing about having a few balers is you don't need to be up all night working; when I started out I could be baling until 2am and then up again at it at 6am.

"It's madness really, but thankfully now with a bigger fleet I can make sure the team gets finished at a more humane hour, even in the peak season," adds Pat.


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