Fertiliser spreader checks should be prioritised to reap financial rewards

Dairy farmers are being advised to consider ad-lib feeding this summer to boost dairy heifer calf growth and lifetime yield potential.

Farmers not checking fertiliser spreaders pre-application could be losing up to £100 per hectare.

This is the stark warning from Dale Shaw, our Machinery Sales Manager at Carr’s Billington.

“With input prices on the rise across the board farmers need to be considering how they can make small improvements on-farm to reduce the impact of volatile prices we are all currently seeing.

“Fertiliser prices are only going one way at the moment, but this is where you can reap the rewards if attention to detail is made a priority. Efficient fertiliser use and making the most of home-grown forage could go a long way this year,” he says.

As producers plan second cut silage, Dale suggests that in addition to considering when to spread fertiliser and the best product to use, producers should take the time to check over machinery before getting back out in the field.

“As with all machinery there will be various components that are susceptible to wear. Make sure you are confident that the agitator is working effectively and capable of ‘shaking’ the fertiliser down through the hopper.

“More often than not, the shutters on fertiliser spreaders are now electric. This can mean they are prone to issues, so test these to ensure they are opening and closing correctly to support flow rates.

“Likewise check over the discs and vanes for any signs of wear and replace these if necessary. Although investing in replacement parts can be costly, the cost of over or under spreading could be even more considerable in terms of the yield gained,” he explains.

Dale adds that once these checks have been done, calibrating the spreader to the product choice is important. “Don’t assume that all fertilisers have the same application settings as this is not the case. Different fertilisers will flow at different rates out of the machine. Check the fertiliser bags for the right information.

“Once you have set-up the spreader, consider doing a quick check in the yard. Remove one of the discs from the machine and replace with an adaptor. Place a bucket underneath the spreader and start the engine to simulate field conditions. Run it for 30 seconds collecting the fertiliser in the bucket.

“Weigh the fertiliser that has been collected and calculate how many kilograms should be coming from the spreader per minute. This should correlate with the fertiliser application settings and if there are differences you may have to make adjustments to the regulator to compensate. Modern machinery will be able to do much of this for you, however there is no harm in taking the time to double check.

“Ultimately you want your machinery to be applying product as accurately as possible to maximise yields – whether that’s grass yields, daily live weight gain or milk yields. Without taking the time to check over your machinery and get it set up properly, how do you know if applications rates are right, grass is getting the right nutrition and your money isn’t, quite literally, being flushed down the drain?”