Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Todays task - snail baiting

It's always a little exciting to get some rain on the farm - something we've gone quite short of in the past 3 years. Well yesterday it rained and we received 3.5mm. Not a real lot, but still the ground was wet. Wet enough in fact, to get the snails out and about and on the move... ready for me to bait them. This cropping season we are planting (when I say "are" I actually mean "are planning to") about 230ha of field peas. Each type of grain grown, ie. wheat, peas, barley, has their own different varieties and the peas will be Kaspas. Peas tend to attract snails during the growing season, particularly when getting closer to the harvest. Unfortunately snails not only contaminate the sample of peas that we try and sell, and can be expensive to remove, but they also can smash up in the header while reaping the peas. It's wise to avoid this because when they smash up they become a horrible sticky mess that blocks up the internal workings of the header. And to top it of the sticky mess, or snail guts as it is generally affectionately known as, sets hard like concrete if left in the header for any length of time. So we bait them. And by doing it at this time of year, just after a bit of a rain, we can get a good level of control before they lay eggs. I had alot of success, one way or another, with snails last season.
So there you can see a few snails just on the move around the base of a fence post. If they were that dense across the whole paddock at harvest time it'd be quite a mess.
First task is to duck into town and grab a tonne (40 x 25kg bags) of slugger - the snail bait.

No problem at all for the supalux. Sure she was a bit low in the back end, but nothing a few more psi (a bit more air) in the back tyres didn't fix. Then we've got the bait spreader to set up. We've got a nice little spreader that holds 2 bags (50kg) and throws about 20m. There's a wooden floor (or liner if you like) in the back of the supalux and I just tech screw the spreader into it. Works well. I just put 1 rope on then for safety - cause I drive around everywhere with it on, on roads and all.

Well there we are. As you can see I've removed the tail gate (it unbolts easily, just 4 bolts). No I don't usually carry it with me, but this time I wasn't at home when I took it off, so I just threw it up on top. Elly's also helping me there. Pity she couldn't load the spreader for me.

I also had to set up the GPS guidance before I started so I would know where to drive in the paddock. I've got a couple of pictures of the guidance, but they're not real good.

The system we use is a pretty simple one (simple is code for cheap). It's a Trimble easy guide plus. There is a GPS antenna on the roof, and the easy guide unit is attatched to the windscreen via a suction cap. It has a simple digital display and a "lightbar" - LED's that switch on an off making them appear to "move" and act as a guide to which way to steer. Without guidance there would be no accuracy to the bait spreading. We move this unit from vehicle to vehicle depending on the job we're doing.
Here are a few facts...
- The target rate for the bait is 5kg/ha - so 1 x 25kg bag should cover 5ha.
- The spreader throws about 20m. (I tested it once and found some bait that far away). Whether it actually throws that far or not is only relevant for evenness of spreading, which isn't vital. As long as I drive passes that are 20m apart (which I set with the GPS guidance) I'll still achieve the same rate/ha.
- I drive at a constant speed of 25km/h (well I try to anyway).
- It takes 6minutes for the spreader to throw 25kg.
- This should make a rate of 5kg/ha - I worked it out once, but my maths could easily be wrong. Please feel free to correct me if I am.
- It takes 12minutes to spread 2 bags (50kg - as much as it holds) so I have to stop every 12minutes to refill the spreader. I'll be doing the same job again tomorrow, but tomorrow I'll have a mate with me and he can sit up on the back reloading for me so I wont have to stop at all. The repayment will be that I'll take the supalux down to his place and help him with his bait spreading.
That's the inside of the spreader with some pellets in there. You cant really see it, but they're actually green.

Now I'm sure you cant see this, but somewhere in there is a pellet on the ground just waiting for a snail to feed on it. Green doesn't show up very well does it?

Look out! Here comes the Supalux!

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