Clean sweep

A nifty shed-de­signed ma­chine in­tended to get un­der wool­sheds and clean them out is catch­ing the at­ten­tion of farm­ers in New Zealand. Words and im­ages by

Farms & Farm Machinery - - Contents - VIVI­ENNE HALDANE

Kiwi in­ven­tion makes clean­ing un­der wool­sheds eas­ier

Widely known as ‘the dirt­i­est job that no-one wants to do’, get­ting rid of large de­posits of sheep ma­nure be­neath the wool­shed floor is of­ten rel­e­gated to the too-hard bas­ket. But New Zealan­der Mark Tur­ton has de­signed the Clean Sweep ma­chine to make the job much eas­ier.

Mark, who has run a fenc­ing busi­ness in the North Is­land town of Dan­nevirke for the past 30 years, was help­ing his brother Ross clean out a wool­shed with a sucker ma­chine. As he slaved and sweated over the un­pleas­ant but nec­es­sary task, he thought to him­self, ‘There’s got to be an eas­ier way around this.’

He got his ideas down on pa­per and ran a few tri­als in the gar­den with a piece of an­gle steel, be­fore com­ing up with a de­sign he thought would work.

Pow­ered by a Honda mo­tor and mounted on a Dingo, the hy­drauli­cally op­er­ated ma­chine is guided be­tween the piles where it digs its way through the de­posits.

The re­sult: a ma­nure-free wool­shed with a health­ier, bet­ter smelling en­vi­ron­ment for all con­cerned.

“No more nasty am­mo­nia smell – that’s a big plus,” Mark’s wife Megan says.

When com­ing up with the de­sign, one of Mark’s guid­ing prin­ci­ples was that he didn’t want to spend any time dig­ging

un­der­neath the wool­shed. The de­vice had to be op­er­ated from out­side. Se­condly, be­cause all wool­sheds are built dif­fer­ently, it had to be able to travel vari­able dis­tances away from the Dingo ma­chine it was mounted on.

“I knew if I could work out how to clean one bay, I could take it fur­ther, so that’s how I ap­proached it.”

The Clean Sweep works this way, he ex­plains: “The ma­chine is like a box with grousers across it. When it’s dragged along, the ma­nure builds up in the mid­dle. When you get it out­side, all you do is run it for­ward again and it emp­ties it­self on the ground. Out­side we get a trac­tor to scoop up the de­posits and away we go again. It’s very sim­ple.”

Mark worked with Dan­nevirke en­gi­neer Nigel Last, of Last Engi­neer­ing, to build the pro­to­type ma­chine.

“Right from the start I could see its po­ten­tial,” Nigel says. “When I saw it work­ing I thought, ‘How easy … no more dig­ging. It’s got to be a win­ner.’”

Mark adds: “When de­vel­op­ing some­thing like this, two minds are bet­ter than one – you can’t do it by your­self. All along, Nigel has re­ally en­cour­aged me with this project.”

After a few months, the Clean Sweep was ready and im­me­di­ately they be­gan tri­alling it. Along the way they made nu­mer­ous mod­i­fi­ca­tions.

First one farmer, then a few more, saw how it worked to re­move moun­tains of ma­nure from their wool­sheds.

They were amazed at how the Clean Sweep ma­chine was able to get un­der­neath even the low­est part of the wool­shed and re­move ma­nure that had been there for so long that it be­came as hard as con­crete.

It also works with a rip­per at­tach­ment (or tines) on countout pens be­cause the ma­nure and wool that’s built up here is usu­ally tough as nails to get through.

“Once you’ve seen a ma­chine like this work­ing un­der a shed, it makes it look so easy – you are never go­ing to want to get un­der there your­self to do it,” Mark says.

Dan­nevirke farmer John Heald has tried the Clean Sweep and is rapt with the re­sults.

“Mark’s in­no­va­tive ma­chine used for clean­ing out un­der our wool­shed grat­ing is a real win­ner in my book,” he says.

“Its ma­jor sav­ing is on the back and not hav­ing to work in cramped ar­eas shov­el­ling sheep sh**.

“There is some shov­el­ling re­quired, but only a frac­tion of what was re­quired in the past. It’s also very ef­fi­cient time­wise, with our shed be­ing cleaned out in less than half the time it took last time.”

Soon after launch­ing the Clean Sweep, it be­came ob­vi­ous that the Tur­tons were go­ing to get very, very busy, so Megan re­signed from her job as teacher aide at the lo­cal pri­mary school – where she’d worked for the past 14 years.

“We placed an ad­ver­tise­ment in one of the news­pa­pers and the phone started ring­ing the next night,” she says.

“The caller said, ‘I’m get­ting in quick be­cause I know you are go­ing to be busy.’ That first week we got calls ev­ery day.

“Since then, my days are full with this new busi­ness. At present, we are con­struct­ing a web­site and work­ing our way through mar­ket­ing this ser­vice.”

“It makes it look so easy, you are never go­ing to want to get un­der there your­self to do it”

Main pic: En­gi­neer Nigel Last (left) and Mark Tur­ton have worked as a team to build the Clean Sweep ma­chine

Main pic: The Clean Sweep has done an amaz­ing job of clean­ing up un­der­neath this wool­shed

1: It’s mounted on a Dingo loader

with an easy con­trol bank

2: The hy­drauli­cally op­er­ated ma­chine is pow­ered by a Honda mo­tor

3: Mark demon­strates how easy the ma­chine is to ma­noeu­vre into po­si­tion

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