Farming in the region of 900 acres of tillage in north Co Dublin near the village of Oldtown leaves brothers Pat and Howard Dehaene, owners of Mooretown Farm busy for the most part of the year.
A mix of winter and spring cereals as well as potatoes are grown on the farm.
In 2019, Pat and Howard decided to upgrade their fertiliser spreader, at that point spreading in the region of 3,000 acres annually.
Until then, the Dehaenes had been running an Amazone ZA-M machine with hopper extensions to carry in the region of 2,000kg.
But the family’s history with Amazone spreaders goes back further than this.
“I remember buying our first Amazone twin disc spreader in 1982. From this, we moved to a 12m pneumatic fertiliser spreader. It was more accurate than most disc machines of that time.
“Over the 10 years we kept it, twin-disc technology had come on in leaps and bounds, so we then moved back to a disc machine, which was a ZA-M model,” said Pat.
When it came to upgrading in 2019, Pat and Howard not only wanted a higher-capacity machine but wanted to take advantage of the latest technology on the market.
“We priced the Amazone ZA-TS 3200 Profis Hydro and a Rauch machine of similar specification. The Amazone was bought based on the reliability of our previous Amazone machines and the fact it was working out cheaper than the Rauch at the time.”
The Dehaenes specified the hydraulic drive Hydro model over the standard Tronic PTO-powered model. This simply swaps out the PTO and drive gearboxes for two independent hydraulic motors, one for each disc. These motors have an oil flow requirement of 70l/min.
Pat said that going with hydraulic drive was a great decision, mainly for the fact that it is maintenance-free, allows for greater accuracy and is safer.
Headlands can be spread in either direction given that either disc, depending which one is nearest the boundary, will slow down independently and engage boundary spreading.
Before, with the PTO machine, the headland kit was fitted to the right-hand side of the spreader, meaning boundaries had to be spread anticlockwise.
The independently variable hydraulics discs allow for between eight and 128 part width section control over the eight to 16 part width section control of a standard PTO machine.
Setup and calibration
The high level of electronics was the only qualm Pat and Howard had going down the route of a higher specification spreader.
“We were somewhat more sceptical with the high level of electronics but embraced the move. Now, looking back it was a great decision, the ZA-TS has been the easiest spreader setup and calibrated that we’ve owned yet.
“It pretty much does all itself once the application rate is selected. We use the Amazone app which leaves setup and selecting parameters even easier.
“The only issue is not all fertilisers are on the app so it means selecting the closest match which usually works,” Pat said.
The spreader has weigh cells fitted discretely between the frame and the hopper. This means that there is no manual calibration needed as the weigh cells are constantly monitoring the fertiliser weight on the go.
The actual decrease while spreading is compared to the theoretical decrease. The shutters then adjust automatically.
Once the target rate and working width (up to 54m) is input, the spreader’s FlowCheck system can detect deviations in flow rate as well as sense blockages. Application rate can be altered on the go at the press of a button.
Both discs have three vanes types essentially, delivery vanes, normal spreading vanes and border spreading vanes.
Delivery vanes deliver fertiliser to the electronically selected vane depending whether border spreading or normal spreading is selected (AutoTS).
On Pat and Howard’s old machine, vanes had to be changed more regularly, depending on spreading widths and/or fertiliser type.
The new machine has three vane options depending on spreading width between 15m and 54m.
However, working with 24m tramlines, Pat has only ever used the TS 2 vanes (21m-36m). Application rates and spreading widths are determined by altering flow rate, disc speed and/or the fertiliser drop point on each disc.
The lads are still on the original set of vanes after spreading in the region of 6,000 acres which they are well impressed by.
“We don’t have to touch a thing on the spreader, everything we need to adjust is on the terminal. We tray-test often to ensure complete accuracy, which to be fair has never been far off.
“Once the tray test results are got you just enter them into the terminal and the spreader makes the necessary adjustments to improve its spread pattern."
Pat said he has bought the compact Amazone EasyCheck mats to see how they compare with the traditional trays for testing spread pattern.
These work by photographing the quantity of fertiliser on each mat which is then analysed on the Amazone app.
Terminal and build quality
The Dehaenes run a fleet of Case IH tractors with a Puma 165 CVX taking care of the majority of fertiliser spreader duties. Given the Isobus capabilities of the spreader, they tend to run it on the tractors APS PRO 700 10.4in touchscreen terminal.
But early in the spring when conditions are not as dry, the spreader is mounted on the older Case IH Puma 210 on 900 (rear) and 600 (front) tyres for a lighter footprint.
This tractor isn’t fitted with its own Isobus screen which means it requires the use of the Amatron 3 control terminal which Pat feels leaves the spreader not nearly as user-friendly compared to the larger touchscreen terminal in the Puma 165.
“With the old spreader we had to input the weight in the hopper and it would work off that whereas with this system it knows itself what weight is inside the hopper at all times. It is much more straightforward and intuitive to use. It saves all the parameters once set.”
The men are equally impressed with the build quality of the spreader.
“It is well put together in terms of durability and strength aspects. The full spreading unit is stainless steel and the paint quality elsewhere seems up to the job.
“All in all there are very few nooks and crannies that hold fertiliser or leave it hard washed. The fold down storage wheels and hydraulic cover are a nice addition too."
“We are well pleased with the ZA-TS 3200 Profis Hydro so far. Having completed two seasons, spreading in the region of 6,000 acres and still on its original TS 2 vanes, it really hasn’t missed a beat.
“It has been a major leap forward from our old ZA-M in terms of capacity and usability. There was one or two sensor issues but the issue was just dirt on the sensor.
“All electrics are discreetly located within the frame and out of harm’s way. Fertiliser flows through the hopper well with few nooks and crannies to hold fertiliser or leave it hard washed. The usability and accuracy of the machine is second to none.
“We work with 24m tramlines so all spreading is done at 24m using GPS and section control. The section control works really well I must say, regardless of the situation.
“I haven’t found much in the way of savings with the automatic rate and section control but I can see where the less experienced operator would as the machine pretty much spreads itself, once set up properly. Regardless of the rate being applied we cannot fault the spread pattern,” explained Pat.
“We hope to hold on to the spreader for another three to five seasons. All going well at that stage we will consider moving to a slightly larger trailed machine simply to speed up the job for the land blocks further away.”