Now in the machinery sales and hire business 13 years hiring trailers, balers, slurry tankers and dung spreaders among other machinery, John Stafford knows the quality a machine needs to be if it is to stand the test of time in a hire fleet.
Over the years, John has kept a number of different rear discharge spreaders for hire, finding each to have their own strengths and weaknesses to some degree.
While at the LAMMA show in 2020, John saw the range of rear discharge spreaders on the Agri-Hire Engineering stand and was impressed. After some thought, he felt there was a potential opportunity for the brand on the Irish market and within his hire business.
At this stage, COVID-19 had struck and with lockdown in place John was left with no option but to deal over the phone.
“I took a chance and bought three 10t spreaders which later arrived in June 2020. The plan from the start was to run them on hire and see how they performed. If all went well then I would take on the role as Irish importer and look after Irish sales, which is now the agreement.”
Although many may not have heard of Agri-Hire Engineering, the family run business has a history of manufacturing. The company started out as a machinery hiring business as the name Agri-Hire suggests.
However, the machines for hire were all built in-house. These included mainly dung spreaders and grain trailers. Today, the company is also dealer for a number of machinery brands.
According to John, the Ipswich-based hire and engineering firm today operates a UK hire fleet consisting of up to 70 spreaders.
In recent years, the company has invested in its production facility and put an emphasis on breaking into the retail market with its range of spreaders. Agri-Hire Engineering also builds yard scrapers, toppers, cultivation equipment and presses.
“If a hire company is running 70 units of the same machine which they also happen to manufacture, then you can be certain it is tried and tested with strength and reliability being priority. They won’t manufacture something that’s going to be hard to maintain,” John outlined.
There are currently three ranges of rear discharge spreaders available from Agri-Hire. The most popular is the Y-body Challenger Vertical Beater (VB) line which comprises four models (8t, 10t, 14t, and 18t). Alternatively, the Y-body is also available as a 14t or 18t Spinning Disc (SD) machine. The tandem and tri-axle Magnum SD range is the largest offered with capacity ranging from 20t to 50t. The spinning disc concept is designed to handle dense material better.
The machine we saw in action was a 10t Challenger Y-body vertical beater model, one of the first three machines brought into the country by Stafford Plant Solutions.
According to John, the main difference between each model is body length. All spreaders are offered with two years’ warranty.
The Y-body series features a monocoque design, which means its chassis is integrated into its body. What stood out to me was the build strength of the spreader and the heavy duty running gear used. Everywhere that needs plating, for example, is plated, and it is obvious that no aspect of the spreader has been skimped on.
It is operated at a PTO speed of 1,000rpm, which drives the rear beaters. A hydraulically driven SISP gearbox with a 70mm drive shaft diameter moves the 20mm heavy duty floor chains and single-piece floor slats. John noted that the 20mm floor chain and tensioning system is larger in comparison to what most competitor machines are fitted with. The floor gearbox drive motor is protected with a relief valve can be reversed if required.
The two rear mechanically driven beaters are stepped in design and feature heavy duty 20mm reversible tips which help achieve a spreading width of up to 15m depending on the density of the material.
Floor speed can either be controlled on the spreader using the manual screw valve or by reducing flow on the tractor’s end. Load cells can be specified which, with the use of an Isobus controller, leaves the floor automatically adjustable to achieve a set application rate.
Fitted to the front of the spreader is the slurry door indicator. This leaves it easy to see the opening height of the rear door from the cab. Also included (which we found to be a nice feature) was the hydraulic vision hatch which leaves it possible to see into the spreader from the cab. The spreader is also fitted with automatic light covers and folding side marker lights.
As standard the range comes fitted with 620/70 R38 tyres and a 10-stud 150mm x 150mm axle with both air and hydraulic brakes.
A sprung drawbar is fitted as standard with the flexibility of being able to bolt on a traditional towing eye or ball-and-spoon hitch.
After completing one full season on hire, which saw both machines working almost every day, John said all he has had to do was turn the lower beater tips. Aside from that and daily maintenance, both hire spreaders have been trouble-free.
“Comparing these 10t spreaders with previous machines that also claimed to be the same capacity, the Agri-Hire spreader will definitely carry 1.5t per load more and that’s without greedy boards.”
They’re a well-built practical machine, which stems back to the close link between the manufacturer and end user.
“The size and quality of components used is unmatched by many manufacturers. Even down to the small details like the grease lines - proper hydraulic hose is used,” John pointed out.