Getting the basics right is the first step. It is important that the fertiliser spreader is set to the correct height. The working height will vary depending on the product being spread and the working width. If you are unsure what the required height is for your setup, Teagasc farm machinery specialist Francis Quigley recommends a minimum disc height of 75cm over the crop.

You must ensure the machine is level, check the tractor tyre pressure is equal on both rear wheels and that the droplink arm is adjusted correctly. The importance of having the tractor engine revs set correctly is vital yet Quigley says this is sometimes overlooked by some farmers. The engine revs must be set to ensure the PTO speed is maintained. In most cases 540rpm will be the required speed.

Drop arms should measure equal in length and rear tyre pressure should be even.

Quigley pointed out that with the increased amount of urea being applied by farmers this has become even more important.

Some machines will require a higher PTO speed of 600rpm or more to spread urea depending on the working width so it is important to check what is required for your machine and the working width that you plan to use.


Quigley said a vital piece of equipment that gets neglected by most is the spreader vanes. These need to be checked regularly and replaced when they show signs of wear.

They may only be a very small part on the machine and it’s easy to miss but they do all of the important work on the spreader.

How smoothly the fertiliser moves along the vanes will have a big influence on the spread width.

The condition of a lot of spreader vanes that Quigley has come across leaves quite a bit to be desired.

Spreader vanes should be in good order with a complete smooth surface.

A typical set of replacement spreading vanes will cost in the region of €300-€350 plus VAT.

These would be for spread widths up to 15m or so for a typical grassland machine.

Setting the angle of the spreading vanes is another vital task. As farmers may be using urea products for the first time, it is important to realise this product is lighter and therefore needs to get more energy to travel to the desired working width. This is done by adjusting the angle of the spreader vane correctly.

Calibration apps

Almost all the spreader manufacturers now have smartphone apps available which make the task of getting the correct spreader settings much easier.

Quigley recommends that you download the app for your spreader and take some time at home to work out how to get the settings for your spreader. Some of the apps will allow you to save the settings in the app so that they are always there ready to use.

Most manufacturers have spreader apps to make the task of spreader setup much easier.

Calibrating the application rate is going to be more important than ever this year. Again because many might be using urea for the first time they are going to need to change the application rate to suit that product.

However, another reason for this to be carried out is the amount of fertiliser that farmers have pre-purchased.

There is a large amount of fertiliser which was purchased late last year stacked in farmers’ yards.

We all know that when you open a fresh bag of fertiliser it flows nice and smoothly out of the bag, but when we open a bag which has been stored for a couple of months then getting it out of the bag can often be a lot more of a challenge.

The same goes for the fertiliser spreader. A nice fresh bag of fertiliser will flow very easily out through the shutter in the bottom of the hopper, but stale fertiliser will not and because of this the shutter position will have to opened up more to get the same application rate.


The price of a basic GPS guidance system has become a lot more affordable over the last number of years. It is a really worthwhile investment for anyone spreading fertiliser.

The GPS guidance unit will not only ensure that you are working to the correct working width at all times but it will also give you a more accurate reading of your forward speed, both of which are vital to getting an even application rate.

Basic GPS guidance systems have become a lot more affordable over the last number of years.

They will also be very useful when spreading slurry with a trailing shoe or band spreader.