A business set up to help sheep farmers clear manure from under their shearing sheds
Scotty’s Contractors travel throughout the North Island specialising in cleaning out covered yards and woolsheds with gear designed to get into those hard to reach places.
Scott Newman was with the Terrotorial Army for 10 years. He was self employed for six years in the rural sector working as a fencing contractor. During a lull in fencing work after a big flood in Feilding, Scotty offered to help clean up under a nearby shearing shed.
After two days of back-breaking work under the shed with a wheelbarrow and a shovel, Scotty could see that there was a way to streamline and mechanise the work so he went off to have a conversation with an engineer friend and a business was born. A finance company was supportive of his business outline, as was his wife’s family who chipped in financially. With assistance from a couple of engineering businesses, he launched in 2004.
Cleaning manure from under woolsheds is a problem all sheep farmers have. It is a job often avoided but an essential part of the upkeep as build-up of ammonia becomes an issue for OSH, shearers and workers. Scotty’s Contractors are the only under-the-woolshed cleaning company in New Zealand.
Scotty and his team of three travel throughout the North Island specialising in cleaning out covered yards and sheds. He’s been to some back-of-beyond farms and has basically worked away from home for the last 12 years, only heading home on weekends.
Scotty has designed and constructed a portable vacuum and conveyor belt system specifically for the task of taking the manure from underneath woolsheds. As the system is easy to set up, there is a minimal disruption to the farmer and shed although sometimes there’s a bit of head scratching to work out the best way of getting under each shed.
Scotty advertises in rural papers and once he’s got a number of jobs in a particular area, he’ll move to that region and then start work. Once it’s become known that he’s in a particular area, word gets around the district that he’s in town and the work starts rolling in.
Currently Scotty’s booked a long way in advance. There are four guys including Scotty in the team. He says they work alongside each other and then camp out together as well. Usually the team stay in the woolsheds and in shearer’s quarters. Each job takes a couple of days at least.
He says working and living together can be tough going. He reckons his training in the army and position as section leader in the infantry means he’s reasonably good at “man management.”
Scotty says the toughest part of the job is the fact that he’s on the road during the week and doesn’t see his family except on weekends. Effectively he’s been “on tour’ for 12 years.
His wife bulk cooks and snap freezes the food the crew needs. The team usually camp on the farm and fend for themselves. They take all their gear with them including fridges, camp stretchers and mattresses. They take a meal out in the morning to defrost, heat and eat and then roll into it the next day.
Before starting the job at hand, Scotty will fully brief the farmer so there is a good understanding of the work being done and cover off on all the health and safety issues. Generally he and the farmer will take a tour of the yards and shed to work out the best way of gaining access.
If the shed has gratings that can be lifted up they can get access that way but if they’ve got at least 800cm of clearance under the shed, they’ll work from underneath.
They try not to do any cleaning within 2 days of shearing – the ammonia level can be too high, although they do have breathing gear if conditions are really bad.
The average woolshed takes three and a half days to completely clean underneath, shifting up to 100 tonnes of manure in that time and averaging 30 tonnes a day. A really big job recently removed over 200 tonnes from beneath one shed.
The manure is put on Scotty’s waiting trucks and can be moved to where the farmer instructs. In some cases it is dumped to waste, others work it into paddocks as a base fertiliser for crops. Scotty’s even heard of farmers bagging and selling it as a fundraiser for schools or local community groups.
Scotty says he’s had woolshed manure tested by Hill Laboratories and the results were very good. However that side of the business has never really taken off because of the cost of transporting and drying the manure for further use.
He is disappointed about seeing what is a very useful fertiliser being wasted and is hoping someone can come up with a good idea.
The business runs two 4×4 truck and trailers. There are 2 small Dingo mini diggers which have a variety of blades to scrape and shift the manure. These machines are operated off a small platform at the back of unit. In the hands of a good operator these machines work extremely well. Scotty reckons most of the farmers he’s visited want one.
There’s a larger digger for drain clearing work, a Rotovac vacuum unit and a purpose built conveyor belt that can stretch to 17 metres. The conveyor is at the heart of Scotty’s system of getting large amounts of manure out from under the shed quickly. Even if they are still shoveling large amounts by hand there’s not the massive amount of labour involved in wheeling each load out. The conveyor shifts the manure quickly from underneath the shed to the back of the truck.