Michael Bannon is a busy man, providing farmers with an AI, scanning and hoof trimming service around the greater Cavan area.
Michael has been hoof trimming for over 10 years, and when it came to changing his last hoof crate, he wanted something that was lower maintenance.
“Even with weekly service checks there’s always a risk of failure of a wheel bearing especially with a single axle machine. It is very important to have the tyres, brakes and bearings correct and right especially when you are on the road all week,” said Michael.
A typical hoof crate weighs anywhere between 1.3-1.5 tonne with Aidan Fallon of PharVet, the distributors for Wopa in Ireland, explaining that the Dutch company have nearly 50 years experience designing and manufacturing hoof trimming crates.
“PharVet spec all new machines with heavy duty axles to handle the Irish rural roads,” explained Aidan.
“We are very impressed with how the trailed Wopa 61has performed over the past six years or so, but we do expect this new Track Drive machine to become a very popular option for Irish hoof trimmers.”
Michael previously had a trailed Wopa 61 with a draw-bar and axle configuration. That machine also had an automatic mover function, but when it comes to upgrading Michael likes to embrace new technology.
He decided a Track Drive version being transported on a tandem axle plan trailer would reduce his annual service and maintenance cost, as well as improve safety on the road.
PharVet imported the first Track Drive Wopa 61 in the south of Ireland for Michael earlier this year, and he’s had it in operation since early June.
The Track Drive machine is the latest version of the Wopa 61.
The tracks move using a lithium battery to power, a 24 V electric motor.
Direction and speed of movement is determined by the hoof trimmer walking alongside the machine using a handheld controller, with each track individually driven (similar to a mini-digger) to allow for steering.
“As opposed to the traditional configuration of hoof trimming crates, this machine is very quick to set up,” said Aidan.
“There is no drawbar to remove or axle to displace. It is simply guided off the hoof trimmer’s trailer and placed in front of the farmer’s cattle handling facilities.’’
Once in place, the hoof trimmer is ready to start loading the first cow. The machine is plugged into the mains 230 V system on farm, while the hoof trimmer is paring the animal’s hooves.
During this time, the lithium battery is charged up ready for use again when the hoof trimmer wants to pack up and load the machine back onto the trailer again.
The machine has hydraulic services for the front gate, back gate, supporting bellyband, back leg and front leg lifting similar to conventional hoof crates.
The machine can also raise up 300cm to load the hoof trimmer to work at a more comfortable position.
The Wopa 61 also has an optional extra called the ‘magic eye’. This sensor detects, when an animal moves their head through the front gate and automatically close the gate.
This closing feature happens in a two-stage process to maximise animal welfare, initially closing to a certain width and then closing further to fully secure the animal
The loading gates at the rear of the machine have built in pedestrian safety gates so that the hoof trimmer can safely and quickly step out from the livestock loading area when cows are passing through. LED lighting is fitted to the front and rear for operating in dull or dark conditions.
A particularly nice feature is the sliding stock board on each side of the crate towards the front that slide down when the belly band is down to direct cows towards the headstock, and then slide upwards for ease of access for the hoof trimmer to do their work.
The lifting up and down of the belly band also controls a counter on the side of the machine to monitor how many animals have been pared.
Michael explained that when applying a shoe to a lame animal, warming the glue beforehand will give better adhesion, and the Wopa 61 caters for this with a special warming box.
There is also a rear flap that comes down with the rear foot clamp to prevent any dung or urine hitting the hoof trimmer.
The floor underneath the animal can be lifted up in two sections for ease of cleaning, which helps improve biosecurity when travelling between herds.
Trailer and storage
In order to move the crate between farms, Michael purchased a tandem axle Nugent plant trailer typically used for moving small plant equipment behind a jeep/van. In Michael’s view, the trailer is “far more stable on the road’’ compared to the single-axled traditional crates.
He has installed two large Jefferson tool boxes to the front of the trailer for storage of angle grinders, extension leads and other equipment.
Keeping the majority of equipment in the trailer as opposed to his jeep allows Michael to keep his scanning and AI equipment with him at all times, allowing him to provide several services while on the road on any given day.
The crate is strapped down securely on the trailer with rachet straps
“Initially, when this machine first came out, the Track Drive was a lot more expensive than an axled machine. Now, after further developments within the Wopa factory, they are comparable in price,’’ explained Aidan Fallon.
A tracked machine will typically cost between €57,000 and €62,000 plus VAT, depending on optional extras.
“PharVet places particular importance on aftercare support. We have a full stock of replacement parts and a Wopa accredited service technician based in Ireland,” he added. The trimmer will have to purchase or use an existing plant trailer after this.
With close to 2,000 cows passed through the crate since purchase, Michael is impressed by the machine: “Once it’s up on the trailer and strapped down, it’s secure. There are no drawbar pins to forget or major worries with wheel bearing.
“The maintenance should be down to the annual service from PharVet and tyres on the plant trailer. I’m really happy with the manoeuvrability of the machine when operating in tight spaces as well.’’