An exercise treadmill has inspired Riverina sheep producer Pat Daniher to invent an easy solution to feeding out fodder off the back of a ute.
Mr Daniher, of Girral, showcased his hay and silage belt feeder at the Henty Machinery Field Days last year after fine-tuning it during months of feeding sheep on his own farm.
He will be back this year with a refined version to enter the Henty Agri-Innovators Award.
Pat and wife Margaret are part of a family partnership running 1400 Merino ewes and cropping barley, canola, oats and lupins at Girral, near West Wyalong.
The family had invested in large square hay bales during the drought to feed sheep.
The operation usually involved two people with one driving the ute, and the other physically separating the hay biscuits and pushing them off the back.
While using a home exercise treadmill, Pat came up with the idea of adapting the concept into a conveyor belt feeder.
The result is a remote-controlled belt feeder designed to fit on the back of a trayback ute and capable of handling large square hay or silage bales.
The belt feeder is remotely controlled from within the ute cab, turning feeding-out into a one person operation.
“The bales fall off the belt in a manageable size for mobs of sheep all sizes,’’ Mr Daniher said.
“The bale string is held in place by slots on the back of the tray unit for easy removal once the hay is distributed.’’
Mr Daniher said the belt was operated by a boat winch at variable speeds to drop hay either three to four metres apart, or further to accommodate shy feeders.
“If you happen to either run over, lose or leave behind the remote, a toggle switch can be installed in the ute cab to operate the belt feeder,’’ he said.
Mr Daniher said the 2.7m long belt feeder was easily installed on a trayback ute.
He has adapted the belt feeder to a trailer for spreading sand, gravel, garden waste and mulch without the need for a hoist.
Mr Daniher said it was a simple occupational health and safety solution for work around the farm.
“There is no need to hurt yourself by pushing those large bales – I don’t mind feeding out now.’
Mr Daniher tested the waters with his invention at the 2015 Henty Machinery Field Days, drawing strong interest from farmers and visitors.
He then went on to have the Daniher Belt Feeder manufactured, welded and powder coated in West Wyalong, selling two units to Victoria and one to Western Australia.
Mr Daniher said the feedback had been positive from customers who cited increased labour efficiency.
He had always enjoyed seeking out the farm inventions at Henty over the years.
“It was always the first place I went to have a look – they were often simple things but really clever,’’ he said.
“Once I saw a bloke who had converted a spare tyre on the back of his ute into a portable fire fighting unit – I thought that was bloody clever.’’