Engineers upgrade wagons to be more gentle on the soil, safer on the road with new hydraulic guidance
WOODSTOCK, Ont. — Hauling massive loads of slurry, while minimizing soil compaction and avoiding getting the trailer stuck, is a big challenge for dairy and hog farmers.
To help meet that challenge, nearly all manufacturers of slurry haulers incorporate suspension systems and steering on their wagons, says John Vandehoef of Melbourne Farm Automation. Vandehoef was at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show in Woodstock to explain how these systems work on the GEA Houle slurry wagons he sells.
“The tractor steering controls the steering tires on the front wagon axle and the rear wagon axles. This tractability helps get in and out of the field without damaging the crops,” says Vendehoef, adding that all six wheels have full hydraulic suspension.
The suspension hydraulics are set to level the machine when it’s delivered to the customer’s farm. Once set, it’s simply left alone. Each wheel has a 12-inch vertical range. The six shock absorbers are hydraulically linked, which allows them to equally carry the weight of the trailer.
Each tire carries the same load as the other five tires. If the driver needs more weight and more traction on the tractor, he can use this hydraulic shock absorber system to transfer weight forward to the tongue.
“Steering hydraulics for the wagon come from the tractor steering. The system is plumbed in to the tractor steering so it’s fully automatic. Turn the tractor steering wheel and the wagon wheels steer at the correct angle. When you’re driving down the highway, you turn the automatic wagon steering off so you don’t get into a situation where the wagon is telling the tractor where to go.”
Brakes are a concern because livestock operators today are often forced to haul slurry greater distances. GEA engineers developed hydraulic brake systems that allow the customer to select which level of braking power they want. Every axle has a brake rotor. Each rotor can be fitted with a single caliper, two calipers or even three calipers for maximum hydraulic braking force. Vandehoef says most farmers opt for two calipers per wheel.
“GEA also has an air brake option for farmers who have the right tractor. You need a Fendt or a North American tractor that’s been ordered with the air brake option from the factory. Unfortunately, there are very few North American tractors ordered with air brakes. Air brakes give you better stopping capability, but I think the $12,000 price tag scares people away.”