With fertiliser on most farmers’ minds at present, I thought I’d take you through my working life in fertiliser spreaders. The first spreader I remember on the farm really ages me but I would have only been a nipper then, in short trousers with a tear in the seat. I remember this well because classmate Susan embarrassed me by poking a pencil through the hole. But quickly back to fertiliser spreaders, ancient and modern.
Our first spreader was a wooden 10ft Bamford with iron land-drive wheels, a hand clutch and an iron drawbar, which probably replaced shafts. It was not a fertiliser spreader, as we know it today, but more correctly a full-width distributor. It held 3cwt (that’ll be 150kg).
There were four men on the farm then. Vinny Quirke was joined by Paddy I-often-carried- two-batteries-across-a-ploughed-field Mahon, The Badger Malone and Nickeen Carr. Quirke made up neat greedy boards which trebled the Bamford’s capacity to 9cwt. Now he could do the headland in Coran (the biggest field) with one fill.
The Bamford was coupled to a Fordson Super Major, one of a pair. The Badger, smoking Sweet Afton and wearing a cap and greatcoat, would be waiting with a trailer laden with eighty hundredweight bags of 0-7-30.
In or around the moon landings, a twin-disc 400kg Amazone arrived which was a giant leap forward here. But I never worked the Amazone. My debut was with the larger 3t wagtail Vicon trailed spreader which arrived in 1976.
We also had a Vicon power harrow and a Vicon Acrobat rake, all of which were awful. The Vicon was like all non-weighing gravity-flow spreaders (then and now) in that the wretched rate varied according to the fertiliser volume over the shutters. I didn’t like it and envied my uncle’s Taskers Paterson Fertispread which had land-drive proportional (constant) output and a hydraulically-driven disc.
Big bag fertiliser arrived around this time, soon to be followed by bulk (I reverted to big bags about eight years ago)
Anyhow, the Vicon left the crops with more stripes than a zebra and I persuaded Dad to let me buy a pneumatic full-width spreader which were all the rage in the early 1980s.
Most farmers opted for an Amazone or a Nodet but I always liked to be different and so bought the unusual 12m, 1t Rauch Aero, which with feed roller metering was extremely accurate and a revelation. But the booms were manual-fold and the fan bearings were made of chocolate. In 1990 it was traded against a 2t Rauch twin-disc which took days to set.
Big bag fertiliser arrived around this time, soon to be followed by bulk (I reverted to big bags about eight years ago).
After about five years, I went back to Amazone, a 2t ZAM which I detested.
The nylon rollers on the shutters would jam with fertiliser dust and the rate would go arse-ways. I sold it quickly after Dad died – I went on a bit of a machinery bender then.
In about 1997, well-respected machinery dealer, John Maher said that smarter men than me were buying Bogballe spreaders. I initially dismissed this as sales talk but took a chance and bought a load-cell computer-controlled one. I loved it from the beginning and here was the spreader I’d been searching for the last 20 years. I’m on my third one today.
Now, it’s not for me to endorse any particular fertiliser spreader and I know farmers who love Amazones, Sulkys and Lelys and all sorts but my fertiliser spreader life was rocky until I found Bogballe. Finding Mrs P was a lot more straightforward and cheaper – I never really forgave Susan for that pencil poke in the arse.