WOODSTOCK, Ont. — Since the days of the pitchfork and wheelbarrow, farmers’ approaches to cleaning up the barn have been to automate the process as much as possible.
That has driven producers to underfloor systems, various gutter designs, pumps and augers, which often keep manure handling processes fixed on single bedding protocols and materials and required manure tanks or lagoons to be located next to barn.
“The Mensch makes it possible to keep floor designs very simple and move manure storage and processing away from the barn,” said Jason Pronk of Triaro Farms in Arthur, Ont., during last week’s Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show in Woodstock, Ont.
The self-propelled Mensch manure vacuum scrapes the barn alleys in a single pass, using heavy-duty rubber squeegees on arms that reach out to the curbs of alley and gather up manure and bedding and sucks it up into its tank.
Free-stall bedding that uses sand can be a challenge for growers to manage, due to the weight and settling nature of the product.
The draw from the vacuum is 3,000 cubic feet per minute, allowing it suck up whatever is in front of the machine without plugging due to the high airflow that moves with the product.
Pronk said the machine uses a spring-loaded centering-pivot to allow the scraper head to remain in contact with the alley curbs, but not require constant driver attention to the location of the machine. Springs on the wings of the scraper head pull the arms back against the curbs, ensuring these can narrow or widen based on the width of the alley.
Metal skids at the ends of the wings slide along the concrete.
“It cleans out right to edges,” says Pronk.
“The down-pressure on the head is adjustable, so it really doesn’t matter what conditions you have, you can scrape out the barn in one go,” he said.
Should the unit hit something that won’t move, the wings fold back, out of the way.
Alleys from 8 feet six inches to 14 feet can be cleaned using the system.
The front-loading machine is cab-forward, putting the operator up, front, looking down on the scraping. It is mechanical, four wheel drive chassis with front and rear steering and, in its smallest of the three models, has a turning radius of seven feet. The larger two models turn in 12 and 14 feet. The three keep most of the same components when comes to chassis and vacuum, but tanks separate them, coming in 2,200, 3,000 and 4,300 gallon models.
The two smaller machines are 10 feet high, adding one more foot for the larger machine.
Getting the manure out is handled with a large auger that runs the full length of the unit. A gate on the outside of the Mensch controls outflow, but at its fastest it will unload 3,000 gallons in less than a minute.
“They discovered that the manure vacuum should have front-unloading pretty quickly. Backing up to ponds can create problems in hurry,” he said.
“You really want to be able to see exactly where you are,” said Pronk.
The roots-type blower and all chassis drive systems are powered by a 220 horsepower Cummins QSB, 6.7 litre engine.
“It really sucks,” said Pronk and “will clean out into a settling lane or pond even faster.”
The operator controls the speed with a joystick that signals as hydrostatic drive, decoupling engine speed and vacuum suction from motion. The two-speed transmission allows the operator to move at up to 20 miles per hour when travelling to remotely located manure processing facilities.
“It gives farmers the opportunity to expand their barns and make other farmyard changes without being tied to tanks and lagoons. To design around locating manure management away from barns gives a lot of freedom,” he said.
The Pronk family used the Hastings, Michigan made equipment on its own farm and he said that convinced them it was something they wouldn’t afraid to sell to other producers.
The family produces grain and oilseed crops as well as poultry in southern Ontario.
“There a few running in dairy barns in Alberta now, as well as (in central Canada),” he said.