Modified snacker saves farmer’s most prized commodity — time

I’ve yet to meet a farmer who doesn’t want to save time.

Spinning the work out is not part of any farmer’s life, as there is always enough to fill all the hours in the day.

Devising ways of saving time is a big driver of technological change in the industry, not only in terms of bigger machinery for cultivating, planting and harvesting, but also in doing many other jobs as well.

As always, farmers are very much to the fore when it comes to novel ideas, and the reasons are pretty obvious. It’s only when you’re actually doing the job that improvements become obvious. Sitting at a computer screen is often too remote. So while the main stream manufacturers offer machinery which is always bigger, and pricier, it’s the individual farmer who thinks up the nifty technological improvements.

On some occasions it is quite difficult even for other farmers to understand why they should be so keen to solve the problem, but the innovation in today’s article is surely not so difficult to appreciate.

Exmoor farmer Tom Burge keeps a lot of sheep, and his Rota-Feed snacker is out for many hours a day in the feeding season. It takes a load of 300kg, and he has fitted a Proxi sensor to count the revolution of the feeder, so he can ration each group pretty exactly. Like every shepherd, he keeps a close eye on his flock, and this includes the time he’s on the Honda ATV.

His frustration came when he saw a sick ewe which needed treatment. Before he had the quad and snacker he drove bags of feed to the field in the Land Rover or tractor and link box, and so it was perfectly easy to load up the poorly ones and take them home. With the ATV and snacker there is nowhere to carry them, so the rescue job required a second visit with either trailer or truck. The temptation to leave things another 24 hours and see how the sheep gets on was sometimes considerable when the day was busy.

He solved the difficulty by building a sheep carrier onto the back of the snacker, and there is space for a couple of lambs as well. So he can now easily pick up the invalid and get her back to the yard for treatment. The carrier has been so successful that when the snacker was changed, the first thing he did was build another carrier on it.

Loading the sick ewe is now almost a pleasure, and certainly not something which is a chore. The benefits are faster recovery of the patient as well as time-saving for Tom.


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