Machinery & Products

Finding options

By Dairy News

REGULAR READERS will know well my personal position on using contractors to get things done. To be clear, they provide valuable services to a great many farmers, and an arguably more valuable supply of partially-depreciated farm machinery to many others. But DIY is more my thing.

One exception to the rule has been any sowing requirements. Unfortunately, seed drills are expensive, and equally unfortunately, my lukewarm attempts to win the lottery have thus far been unsuccessful. Anyone who has scoped out the seed drill market knows you’ve generally got three options.

Option 1: Spend somewhere between a new ute and a new tractor on a very nice, highly functional brand-name manufacturer machine that will last you years and years. For 10 acres a year? Maybe not.

Option 2: Used Connor Shea. Legendary machines, heaps of them around, but there are just too many ‘parts needed’ Facebook posts these days for my comfort.

Option 3: ‘Budget’ imports. We all wear them, some people eat them, many people complain about them, but they are …affordable. Generally not affordable enough, however.

The equation changed for me when I saw an ad for the Network Seeder range. This turns out to be a Chinese manufactured machine with heavy design input from the importer.

We all know the business model, and some companies do it a lot better than others. In this case, the machine is simple and highly modular. Every model in the series has the same basic components. Each comes with a set of tynes that can be swapped for the disc undercarriage if preferred.

Oh, they’re between half and two thirds of the price of any comparable import I can find. And I spent years looking.

Naturally, I had one in the paddock within a month. It is beautifully simple to set up and use, as long as you take your time at the start.

The trade-offs are the bin size (tiny) and the level of travel in the points (at least for the discs). It doesn’t take much for a row to be airborne over a rut. And they aren’t big machines — the widest is 16 row. But who cares? I can sow when I want. I can sow the smallest area I can turn the tractor in, if I want. I can sow any exotic crop I like without anyone else having the opportunity to judge me for it. If I want.

It’s not sold as a direct drill, but that is so far the only way I’ve used it — oversowing a paddock that insects had punched massive holes in. I’m sure I wouldn’t win any awards for seed placement, and in the no-till situation its closing capabilities left a little to be desired.

It dealt okay with mud build up, but I suspect a tilled, dry paddock would have been much more to its liking.

However, it dumped the right amount of seed on the right area, and most importantly, the stuff is growing! Much like my mortgage …