Farms roads are too often perceived to be hastily built or poorly maintained, but with some careful consideration and well-thought-out planning, this can be avoided. Bear in mind that the stronger your road is, the more visitors you’ll get and the less frequent your maintenance will be.
Here are a few key points to keep in mind when planning to build your gravel road:
Start with a purpose in mind
When looking to build a gravel road for your farm, it’s important to know the use beyond it simply being an access point for customers, suppliers or staff. If you know that you’re predominantly going to be accessing that road with heavy-duty vehicles and farm equipment, you need to ensure that the road is strong enough to handle the pressure. A good starting point would be to analyse the traffic frequency that will be passing through that road, before choosing the right materials and machinery to construct it.
Build your foundation
A strong foundation will set the tone for the outcome of your efforts. When planning your farm layout, the road foundation requires careful consideration as you cannot build on weak or wet soils. If this is your concern, two of the most used methods include raising the current soil with new materials or extracting the weak soil to make room for new material. The difference depends on the width of your road.
Use of the right equipment, quality materials and the correct building technique
Depending on your location, factors such as the climate and available resource will impact your material search. When looking for the right gravel, it’s important to select a gravel that has larger top-sized stones with less clay or fine material. This is necessary for the strength and drainability needed in base gravels. Especially when it comes to gravel, testing your material beforehand is well-worth the investment.
The right technique would be to build from the bottom up, which is more complex than it sounds. There are a number of different road graders, particularly the universal grader, to assist you in in your process.
Along with having the right equipment, ensure that you apply the correct materials in the right order, as that could be the differentiating factor between a sustainable gravel road and a weak one that needs constant repairing. Once your road is complete, make sure you apply a palliative solution to further strengthen and protect the gravel.
Drainage is the key to a successful gravel road
All building steps lead to the drainage process. Roads that allow water to properly drain off the surface and out of roadbed soils are much easier to maintain and less costly. Ensure that you have the proper drains, ditches, culverts and underdrains incorporated into your plan to prevent water from pooling.
If these elements are not a focal area, your maintenance team will constantly deal with surface problems that come from wet or weak soil conditions underneath the road.
Have a regular maintenance plan in place
If you live in a climate with heavy rain conditions or the reverse of that, be sure to keep a regular maintenance plan to ensure the road performs well, with the correct equipment. It is advised that you hire professionals to do the maintenance checks as they will be able to detect future complications.
Machinery breakdowns are unfortunately not always budgeted for. In order to avoid these costly inconveniences, farm owners should commit to proper planning, maintenance checks and equipment monitoring. And depending on repair costs, allocated downtime or any other external factor that could impact the production of goods, equipment failure can have a devastating effect on a business’ success.
There is no guarantee that when a machine breaks down repair costs will be low. Sometimes your repair is limited to replacing one part and other times it may be the whole unit. So, even though machinery breakdown insurance can provide relief in these odd occasions, try to avoid these situations altogether.
Here are tips to preventing the most common problems:
Ensure that you read the operator’s manual
It may sound like a reckless thing to do but many machine operators have not yet read the manual. Before using a unit, ensure that you have a total understanding of the equipment process. The manual will tell you how to set up the machine, what to do in case of failure, and what parts to add, check, change or adjust before starting it up. Should you find yourself in a situation where the machine is giving you problems, be sure to read the troubleshooting section in your manual before contacting a technician.
Regular maintenance checks
Similar to any other heavy-duty equipment, the maintenance of farm machinery is essential to having them perform at optimal performance level. Although this is the most important task, many farmers take shortcuts when it comes to these checks (especially when production is underway and they’re feeling overwhelmed with little staff). When things are running smoothly, it’s easy to brush services off but the minute something fails, farmers can expect to deal with a big delay in production.
Other maintenance checks can be done on-site, for example: checking oil and gearboxes, replacing equipment belts and checking to see if dirt is affecting the machinery performance.
Do not operate your machinery with poor electrical connections
This goes hand-in-hand with servicing your equipment. Take the time to clean your machine, and use compressed air instead of water to keep moisture away from the wires when operating. Often, when you push machines to the limit, you are only doing more damage to the lifespan of your unit. When you put too much strain on all the drives, breakdowns are more likely to show up, and more frequently.
Replace worn parts immediately
This is just another reason why routine maintenance checks are so important. If one machine part cuts out, farmers should take this as an opportunity to check and replace other parts to ensure that nothing else could have caused the initial breakdown. By replacing only the broken part, you are only temporarily fixing the problem. Additionally, these checks can identify small problems before becoming bigger ones.
Have your staff monitor equipment frequently
Along with maintenance checks, train your operators to monitor the equipment.This way all staff are on par with the condition of your unit, to help prevent unwanted breakdowns and subsequent downtime.
Continuous monitoring is when you make use of sensors to establish baselines and detect subtle changes in parts, which can then be used to predict impending failures. In turn, companies can identify the causes of increased stress on equipment, and adjust workloads accordingly.
Another concern is operating equipment in poor weather conditions. Try not to run machinery when it’s raining as it could cause some signals that may be alarming. Signals include those for engine temperature, hydraulic oil, shaft speeds or other parts that might not be turning at the correct speed.
Do not allow untrained staff to operate equipment
Inexperienced operators need to undergo in-depth training on procedures, basic troubleshooting, and best practices for safe equipment use. Whether or not a person will be operating a specific machine or not, if there is an emergency and shortage of staff, people need to be able to assist.
By ensuring that your staff is always up to scratch and knowledgeable on equipment, you’ll benefit from a longer lifespan from your most valuable assets.
One of the most consistent challenges that farmers face is weed management. They provide a competition for space, nutrients, water and light, and really just look horrible in-between beautiful crops.
Understanding the habits of weeds will prevent the costly effects on productivity, and the cost of the equipment and chemicals needed to control them. The more humans disturb reproductive structures, the greater their ability will be to occupy sites through seed dormancy and their fast spreading capabilities.
Here are a few proactive approaches to controlling some weed growing conditions.
When preparing your land, it’s important to plan the layout of your crops so that you can move them around to avoid abundant seed production of weeds. Open ground between plants or crops is simply a welcoming area for weeds to invade. When planting your crops, be as diverse as you can, and choose easy-to-maintain native species and not invasive plants where possible.
Mulch is a specific type of material that you lay on top of the soil to reduce weeds, hold more water and improve the overall structure of the soil. When you apply this product, along with straw or compost, around the crops, it suppresses the weeds from growing and spreading. Covering your crops with plastic film mulches are effective too, but they are not sustainable. If this is the route you want to go, invest in biodegradable film and paper mulches as there is no need for further disposal.
The ideal solution for watering your crops is to either install a drip irrigation or a scheduled irrigation system. If you want to make use of an irrigation system, the biggest advantage is that farmers can carefully monitor the plant and soil moisture, and discourage weeds. This helps to avoid excessive water wastage (caused by runoff and evaporation) as it only targets the plant’s roots.
Should weeds get the better of your land, there is a variety of different solutions to getting rid of them:
Mechanical: For a smaller area, investing in a good hand weeder is a smart idea. Although time-consuming for both bigger and smaller land, having a sufficient cutter will make life a lot easier for you and your staff. Different farm machinery reviews on cutters will help you choose something that is well-suited for your production and the elimination of such infestations. Make sure that when you do weed, follow the correct weeding procedures, according to type, to prevent anything from returning.
Biological weed control: This technique is done by making use of other living organisms, such as insects, diseases or livestock, for the management of certain weeds. Although this technique is effective, the only concern with biological weed control is that it is a long-term undertaking. Effects are neither immediate nor always adequate but certainly worth a try. If you are looking for a more natural alternative to weed control, then try using herbivores like sheep and goats, as well as geese to control grassy weeds.
Herbicides or other sprays: Organic or not, chemical substances should be at the bottom of your list of ways to get rid of weeds. These crop-protecting chemicals are helpful in getting rid weeds but are unsafe to humans or any animals that are exposed to them. Always wear the proper safety equipment when working with herbicides or other pesticides, and if you do spray your crops or land with fertilisers, herbicides or insecticides, be careful with plants, livestock and other animals as it could affect their health.
Total Mixed Ration or Pasture feeding? Deciding on the best method of cattle feeding will have long-term effects on your farm’s profitability. It’s important to go with the most effective option for your farm early. Two of the most prominent feeding systems are the Total Mixed Ration (TMR) and pasture, which have many differences. Here’s a brief outline of the two methods and some factors to consider.
A Total Mixed Ration is a cattle feeding method that combines forages, grains, protein feeds, minerals, vitamins and feed additives. These ingredients are formulated to a specific nutrient concentration, all in a single feed mix.
Pasture-raised cattle receive a large portion of their nutritional intake from organically-managed pasture and stored-dried forages. They may also receive supplemental organic grains, both during the grazing season into winter months, which can include corn, soy, oats, barley, and triticale, among others. The cattle might also receive mineral supplements.
The downside of pasture is mostly related to the establishment:
It’s important to assess various elements such as herd size, location, weather and costs before deciding on the best feeding method. There is also the possibility of implementing a ‘partial’ TMR, which could prove more beneficial for the herd, rather than opting for just one method.
For more information on feeding, pasture and tillage equipment, contact Radium Engineering. With years of expertise, a passion for the agricultural industry and a commitment to manufacturing superior equipment, Radium Engineering is the answer to all your farming and agricultural and tillage equipment needs.
Plant growth and the optimisation of crop yields are wholly dependent on good soil fertility. A soil’s fertility levels can easily deteriorate if the correct practices and intervention measures aren’t adopted swiftly. To prevent poor soil fertility and major production losses, here are a few practices to incorporate.
You cannot adopt good soil fertility practices without first knowing the quality of your soil currently. It’s important to first test the nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous levels, as well as the pH level, to determine the quality of the soil fertility. By understanding your soil’s nutrient levels you can take the right steps to ensure enhanced yields. However, it’s vital that soil testing is done regularly to detect any fundamental soil changes that could impact on crops.
Grain legumes are renowned for enhancing soil fertility through a process known as biological nitrogen fixation. Whether grown as pulses for grain, manure, pastures or tree components, these plants form the basis for all sustainable farming systems as they prevent nitrogen leaching.
By incorporating cover crops, which consist of organic matter, the soil structure will improve thereby promoting healthy and fertile soil. Essentially, the cover crop aerates the soil as the roots grow and die. Also, it holds onto water and nutrients to prevent them from being leached out of the topsoil. In addition, they provide food and habitat for vital soil microorganisms which further enhance soil fertility.
Organic fertilizers are formed out of plant and animal residue, all of which contain the vital components of nitrogen, phenols, and lignin. This is the best option of fertilizer if your soil fertility is severely lacking. The addition of fertilizer enhances the soil nutrients, ensuring a healthy yield of nutritious crops. Fertilisers are, however, a stop-gap method and can harm the environment if not used properly. Rather incorporate other soil fertility-enhancing techniques to avoid future use.
Every farmer knows that the sight of earthworms indicates a healthy soil. These macro-organisms play a key role in recycling soil nutrients and increase their availability to plants. In addition, they feed on dead and decaying material which is digested and excreted as nutrient-rich dung. There is a big movement towards vermicomposting which is the growth of earthworms in organic wastes as they accelerate the composting process.
If the soil is too acidic, it might be time to lime the soil to neutralize it and reach the optimum pH range of 5.5 to 6.5. Anything outside of this range could severely damage plants because of nutrient deficiencies and toxicity.
Adding compost to soil greatly improves its fertility and this can be done either by adding store-bought organic compost or by maintaining your own. Compost is full of organic nutrients and the composition of properly matured compost improves water drainage and aeration in just about every type of soil. With compost, nothing is wasted – leaves, bits of plant, manure and all other organic material will feed the plants. It also helps prevent soil compaction, encouraging the movement of water.
If you are going to create your own compost pile – a very good idea for consistent soil fertility – then adding milk to the pile is a handy trick. Milk (particularly raw and untreated) is a natural fungicide and soft-bodied insecticide as insects can’t digest the sugars in milk. It is also known to improve the soil’s ability to absorb air and water while increasing the beneficial microbe populations.
If nitrogen levels in your soil are low then livestock manure is a fantastic solution. However, ensure that you apply manure with care because of potential pathogens within the manure. Allow for three months between application of manure and the harvest of any root crops or leafy vegetables to protect against contamination.
Wastewater contains most of the essential elements for soil, in the correct quantities. The use of wastewater for improved soil fertility also means less water wastage, which is vital in the current climate crisis.
For more information on agricultural and tillage equipment, contact Radium Engineering. With years of expertise, a passion for the agricultural industry and a commitment to manufacturing superior equipment, Radium Engineering is the answer to all your farming and agricultural and tillage equipment needs.
From its early origins using sticks or metal jabs, through to animal-drawn ploughs and now powerful equipment, tillage has been instrumental in agricultural development through the ages. At its most basic, tillage is the turning of soil as a way to control weeds and pests, in preparation for seeding in crop farming, but its effectiveness has been long debated. The debate is not limited merely ‘to till or not to till’ but to what degree tilling should occur.
Tillage has a number of influences on soil and, subsequently, on crop production overall. The general feeling seems to be that tillage has many associated benefits which can outweigh negatives, as long as it is not too intensive in one particular area. Here are a few of the advantages associated with tillage.
Tillage has many benefits linked to improved crops, provided the land is tilled using effective tillage equipment and not tilled intensively over too long a period. It is worth assessing the benefits of tillage for various crop types as well as the frequency and degree of tillage needed for any particular piece of land.
For more information on agricultural and tillage equipment, contact Radium Engineering. With years of expertise, a passion for the agricultural industry and a commitment to manufacturing superior equipment, Radium Engineering is the answer to all your farming and agricultural and tillage equipment needs.
Since its inception in 1976, Radium Engineering has sought to be the best supplier of its products in the southern African agricultural market, in terms of appearance (construction, welding, paintwork and finish), design (cosmetics, ergonomics and appeal), function (effectiveness, ease of use, maintenance and longevity) and after-sales service.
We are a family-run business, and because of our family values Radium Engineering will remain the company that we are and continue to grow and evolve.
While our values and ways are based in heritage, we also know that families change because new generations are introduced and they bring with them exciting new ideas.
So we usher in a new era by being forward thinking with a vision that includes future family and future generations.
Our brand first and foremost reflects our agricultural roots and heritage but also points to modernity and the contemporary edge we have as a forward thinking company.
From mechanical engineer to COO of one of the most reputable agricultural equipment manufacturers in Africa, Jaco Orsmond has truly walked the walk before talking the talk. A young and dynamic character with vast experience traversing the soil of Africa and the US, this COO is no ordinary executive. We had the great opportunity to ask Jaco a few questions:
What are the most significant projects you’ve been involved in over the last few years?
I studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Pretoria and joined Radium in 2007 whilst completing my degree. I gained invaluable experience during this time and was involved in several significant projects. From there I joined AGCO Corporation to further my experience and was responsible for a number of projects including being Lead Project Manager for the AGCO Zambia Training Facility, which is the first global training facility on African soil and the initial development of the AGCO West Africa Training Facility. In addition, I was Lead Project Engineer on projects aiming to localize manufacturing in South Africa. This included the design and development of products targeting the emerging farmer market, the largest available agricultural market today. I returned to Radium in 2017 in order to put my international experience to practice.
I understand you’ve been involved in the development of many of Radium’s products, which ones are these?
Correct, whilst at Radium and even after I left, I was involved in several developments. Most significantly I redesigned the Radium Power Rip Trip Assembly and Dual Tine Ripper Tines to be sourced from China. Other major development projects included the designing of the Spreader Gearbox, Radium’s Combination Machine and Radium’s Zone Till. Additionally, I improved on various designs to maximize the quality and manufacturing processes of our products.
In your opinion, what are the top agricultural trends for 2018? Both in South Africa and from a machinery point of view specifically?
The most significant trend I see expanding, given our scarce resources, is that of precision farming. This is a trend that will grow in the South African market this year and will continue to expand into the broader African markets over the next few years. Precision in Nutrition application and seed placement will become the focus to ensure an increase in soil fertility and crop yields. It’s all about planting the seed in the right environment and at a precise location. It’s important to support farming with the current technology to farm in the right way from the start to finish.
How will these technologies impact South African farmers?
The focus for every farmer is to maximize their efficiency and crop yields every season while minimizing downtime. The reduction of required input and loss, for example seed loss due to poor seed placement and nutrition loss during application, needs to be a priority for every farmer in the future. Precision farming will aid the farmer to be more precise by improving their method of farming, which makes the business of farming more profitable with less negative impact on the environment.
How can farmers in South Africa prepare for this?
Farmers must trust in the current technology and that it has been developed to support them in improving their farming methods. This applies to both the commercial as well as the emerging farmers. The introduction of mechanization to emerging farmers will make them more sustainable in future.
Where do you see Radium in the next 5 years?
Radium Engineering has been a trend setter in the South African market for 52 years and our focus for the next 5 years will be to continue doing just that, both in the local and global market. We will focus mainly on the development of new products and improving current products as well as introducing current technology to support farmers on a global platform. We aim to be a global partner and thought leader and work alongside our customers to produce more efficient methods of farming.
What will it take to get you there?
We must work closely with our customers and partners in all markets to understand their needs. Our focus has to be on satisfying those needs with the best and correct product as well as providing the best service and support possible.
The fundamental message evident from my conversation with Jaco was that superior customer service will always be the core of Radium Engineering. Jaco said: “What makes us different is that you deal directly with the decision makers. We firmly believe in a personalised service and strive to provide the best possible product together with the best possible service at the best possible price.”
From the products they produce to their after sales service and far beyond, Radium continuously and consistently strive for an exceptional customer experience, making this business, more than any other in its sector, truly a force to be reckoned with.
Questions to ask your agricultural equipment supplier
Buying new agricultural equipment is a major investment and, like any good investment, you want to continue to profit from it down the line with as few hassles as possible. This means that, in addition to performing your own research of the equipment types on the market, you need to go through a knowledgeable supplier who can offer keen insight into every aspect of your new asset.
Here are a few questions you should put to your agricultural equipment supplier before making your final decision.
You would have assessed your farm, looked at any plans for future growth or any decrease in production, and then determined that you need new agricultural equipment. This is where the supplier will step in to match your needs with the perfect machine for you. Make sure you give a thorough description of your operation so that the machine will match tasks required.
Once you’ve established the machine to match the tasks, you need a machine to match the capacity.
There’s no value in saving money for a machine that can’t handle the load because you will lose those savings with repairs and replacements. However, buying a machine that’s too powerful is just wasting your money upfront as well as with the costs associated with running and repairing the machine. The rule of thumb is to invest in a machine that is as small as you can get by with because the smaller the rating, the lower the fuel consumption, emissions and storage you’ll need. Power requirements can be estimated and a good supplier will be able to assist you with this.
Having established exactly what you will spend on new agricultural equipment, you don’t want to discover that you actually have to purchase attachments which push you over your budget. Ask the supplier if the machinery comes complete or if there are extras to be purchased.
It’s also worth finding out whether the machine uses model-specific attachments or if they are interchangeable among different models as this will make them easier to source and less expensive down the line.
The reliability of your machine is vital and will form the basis for your cost/benefit analysis. There is absolutely no value in buying an agricultural machine that is unreliable or has a low reliability rating because it will end up costing you fairly quickly. Premium brands that have been tried and tested might come with a higher price tag, but the high-grade steel and reliable parts mean low maintenance costs and increased efficiency.
Your agricultural equipment supplier will have insights into the best brands available and will, no doubt, have brand preference; but it’s so easy to find reviews of products online that it’s really worth your while doing your own research before purchase. If somebody has bought an expensive product and is unhappy with its performance, they’re sure to complain about it online – so check it out.
There are often simple maintenance tips that can greatly increase the longevity of your investment if performed regularly and correctly. Of course, there’s no way to make any equipment last forever, but if you can get a few more years out of your purchase while saving on repair costs, then look into it. These might seem time-consuming at first, but will soon become part of your daily routine.
There’s no way of getting around the fact that new agricultural equipment is expensive, and if you need to ask your supplier about financing options then do so. You will also need to find out what other costs are associated with the investment including services, part replacements, additional attachments, insurance and any other hidden costs that might be incurred. This will help you determine what is within your financial means.
This will definitely factor into your cost/benefit analysis as the price of after-care can be extremely high. Enquire about the warranty and exactly what this covers. Does the supplier service the machinery and what does the service involve? How often is this needed and what happens when something goes wrong? You don’t want to find all this out when the machine breaks down and you’re left losing profits because of non-production.
With any big investment, it’s worth being thorough beforehand. Chat to others in the industry about agricultural equipment suppliers, who they’ve used and why. You’ll quickly differentiate the industry experts from those just looking to make a quick sale.
For more information on agricultural equipment, contact Radium Engineering. With years of expertise, a passion for the agricultural industry and a commitment to manufacturing superior equipment, Radium Engineering is the answer to all your farming and agricultural equipment needs.
If you are in the South African agricultural community and have not attended or heard about NAMPO, then you’ve come to the right place. Here is everything you will need to know about this exciting agricultural trade show and all the reasons you should attend.
The NAMPO Agricultural Trade Show is a four-day exhibition which showcases everything related to the agricultural industry from livestock to computers and farm equipment. Visitors are also treated to practical demonstrations of the various implements and machinery, a feature which distinguishes NAMPO from any other show. NAMPO Park has 80Ha of land – cultivated with different crops – all set aside for this feature, which allows the farmer to view agricultural and farm equipment comparatively under real working conditions.
NAMPO 2017 will be taking place from Tuesday, 16 May until Friday, 19 May 2017.
The NAMPO Park Exhibition site is situated 16.6km north of Bothaville in the Free State.
It’s easy to find NAMPO Park once you’ve reached Bothaville. Simply head north on the R30 which takes you out of Bothaville. Once you’ve passed Pecan Farm on your right, look out for NAMPO Park also situated on the right just off the R30. The distance from Bothaville to NAMPO Park is 16.6km which takes approximately 10 minutes of travelling time.
NAMPO continues to welcome increasing numbers of exhibitors year-on-year because of positive sales’ reactions, the unique demonstration programme and the high number of visitors – including leaders across the industry. This ensures all sectors of the agricultural input suppliers are represented.
Tractors, agricultural machinery, commercial vehicles, irrigation equipment, pumps, generators, research organisations, financial services, banking and futures, transport equipment and materials handling, chemical products, feeding systems products and services, seeds, dairy equipment and products, pig, poultry, cattle and sheep equipment and services, hydroponics, artificial insemination equipment, services and products and IT technology for farming.
Setting the NAMPO Agricultural Trade Show apart from other exhibitions are the incredible live demonstrations that take place over the four days. These include:
A highlight on the programme is certainly the farmers’ patents competition where farmers who have invented, designed or adapted farm equipment as solutions are invited to share these ideas with fellow farmers. No patented products can be entered, but the competition does offer enticing prizes in a variety of categories.
NAMPO Park has a variety of facilities directly suited to an exhibition of this scale. Exhibitors can make use of large, open or well-covered stands. Alternatively, exhibitors can erect their own stands. There are water, power, communication, restaurant and ablution facilities available as well as first-aid and firefighting services on standby throughout.
Media are invited to use the NAMPO Agricultural Trade Show’s modern media centre, while visitors are ensured adequate show directions through effective signage and information guides. There is also ease of movement through well-grassed pedestrian walkways and rest area under shady trees.
Exhibitors and visitors have access to ample parking space and a commuter service will connect the NAMPO Park 2017 showground with the Bothaville airport. The site also has a heliport and runway in close vicinity to the northern vehicle parking area.
The site’s exceptional catering facilities promise good food all at reasonable prices. The restaurant facilities are extremely varied and the Fanie Ferreira Hall has seating for 1 200 people with 22 specialised and general takeaway restaurants suited to those on the go. There is also a beer garden on site and a tearoom selling beverages.
Tickets to NAMPO 2017 are available online at www.ticketpro.co.za or at the gate. Parking is free. The gates open at 7am and close at 5pm daily.
Online entrance fee is:
Gate entrance fee is:
R50 Monday (exhibitors only)