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MikeHibberd

Hi all. Contractor from Australia with questions about machinery options

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Hi all,

 

Firstly, I'm new! Although I, like most, have viewed the content on here for a while. I apologise in advance, this will be a lengthy post (no pun intended)!

 

Briefly about me: I'm an English lad living in Australia (14 yrs) running a fencing contracting business. I live in the South West of Western Australia where we have 4 seasons, mainly a wet mild winter and long hot summer. Ground conditions vary so much that my machine needs a range of capabilities. It needs the ability to work in wet ground (my current set up is adequate at this) and the ability to drive posts in very hard ground (current machine very good).

 

Work here ranges from stock fencing with strainer assemblies, netting and plain (or hot) wires to vermin fencing (for kangaroos) which is 1.8m high netting. I also install vineyards which usually runs into thousands of posts. Last winter I installed a vineyard with 160 strainers and 3000 intermediate posts.

 

I'm currently looking to add to or replace the Munro post rammer and tractor unit I currently use. I have a front end loader on the tractor which you would all know offers great advantages such as carrying/unloading posts and line clearing. Link below shows the Munro set up, I run a bigger cabbed CASE IH  tractor than the one in the link. 

 

 

Track machines caught my eye when looking for replacement options and I can't seem to source one down here. So, I went to Bryce' factory in the boarders last Uk summer to demo a track machine as I was impressed with the versatility of the machine, the cost saving of not paying a driver and its compact size.

 

I have two major concerns.

 

The use of the hammer weight on the Bryce as opposed to the Munro's power head which never leaves the post.  

 

The lack of auger and the ability of the rock spike to penetrate really hard aussie ground in summer. 

 

The power head offers me a safer working environment and puts as much power into the post at full extension of the mast as it does at the bottom (Important when installing 3.6m vermin fence strainers). 

 

The auger allows me to drill ( sometimes with the aid of water) hard ground in the summer.

 

But this machine requires two people, one guy being paid to drive 6 meters and lift and lower the linkage. It also is a big machine so makes tight jobs difficult or impossible - missing out on work.

 

So the questions to the wise men out there: 

 

Why aren't there any power head drivers in the UK? And more specifically power heads on track machines (Or track machines in Aus- i don't expect you to answer that one). Perhaps its because they aren't heavy enough to stabilise the power head when over the post. 

 

How good is the rock spike in hard ground? Is it only going to compact the ground more making it even harder to get the post in? ( I do like the option for the larger hole punchers when concreting posts in as it will aid footing strength and there will be no earth spoil at the hole)

 

Do the single man operation of the track machine and its versatility out weigh the above mentioned concerns re safety and hard ground ability. 

 

How do people move the track machine from job to job? I either drive the tractor or send it on a low loader lorry. 

 

I could look at running the two machines, having options for different types of jobs, but that means having a machine sitting idle. 

 

Any how, i'll sign off for now. Looking forward to some input/experience/constructive criticism - what ever's required if you managed to get to the bottom of this with out getting bored! 

 

Cheer

 

Mike 

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HI Mike

Welcome along to the forum. if you can put some pics in the gallery so we can see the type of ground you fence. Its interesting to see what different ground and styles people have in different parts of the world.

 

I only know of one power head type knocker on a track machine over here and it is for sale, dont know why but the contractor also has a conventional weight type which he's keeping so there could be a hidden message in there somewhere.

 

I wouldn't go back to relying on a rock spike now I've had an auger, much easier to get posts in dry hard ground if you can auger the size hole required rather than rely on a 90/100mm pilot hole.

 

I move the track machine behind tractor. The tractor is used when on site for clearing so its required to be there anyway.

 

You've tagged solotrak in the thread, a side mount was sent over in November to Good Country Fencing in South Australia. should have arrived by now so might get some country/ground condition specific feedback from them. 

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Welcome along Mike!

 

Once you have a tracked machine, you'll never go back to paying a man to sit in a seat.  I fitted a Vector model 4 to a Yanmar dumper (nothing turn key available in the states at the time) and it has really increased my efficiency.  I get along fine with my rock spike, but after seeing Tepapa's auger in action, that's what my next one will have.  We have some rock here, but mostly it's dry hard ground that we fight.  It can be a real pain to get a rock spike out of the ground once our Southern Indiana clay has ahold of it.

 

My machine is heavy, up to 19k lbs depending on how much mud is in the tracks and how many posts are on board.  I used to keep a semi and lowboy, but then Dodge came out with the mighty 5500 with a tow rating of 30k lbs, so no more high maintenance Kenworth for me. 

 

I still have my old skid steer mounted driver.....I kept it with the thought of a breakdown or needing to run two machines.  It hasn't moved in nearly 4 years.  When my tracked driver breaks, we stop and fix it.  The thought of going back to my old driver makes me light headed.

 

It seems like a huge expense when you are spending the cash, but they pay for themselves quickly.

 

Good luck with your decision making.

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Hi lads,

 

Thanks for your replies.

 

I tried to attached photos to the original post but kept getting a message saying the photos are too big to attach. They are just standard iPhone photos I've taken, could you shed some light on the best way to attach?

 

 

I think i have seen a type of power head that attaches to an excavator Tepapa, I could be wrong but I think the design is more for solar farm metal posts and metal crash barrier posts. They seem to be more of a vibrating machine than the one i use which is like a rock breaker for an excavator. I think a company called Auto Guide Equipment make them in Wiltshire. 

 

You both have confirmed my fears re the rock spike, I have Tungsten tipped augers that struggle in our ground at times with out a good dose of water and some serious patients! West Fork Fence, great point about retrieving the spike, something I hadn't really considered. I know how well metal star pickets hang on into the ground and they are usually only in 600m so a spike in at strainer depth would be much worse. 

 

As I mentioned in the original post, the hole puncher would work well in my town jobs when the ground conditions suited, not having to back blade the augured soil around the site would be handy. 

 

Tepapa, do you travel far with your tractor, are you not worried about the cost of replacing tyres with all the road driving? I assume you have a loader on your tractor to unload posts on site and load up your track machine? Do you use a plant trailer for the track machine?

 

West Fork Fence, we have a few Trucks here but nothing like you guys and they are a looking way out of my budget! My ute has 3.5t towing capacity but i fear that by the time you add the weight of the trailer the track machine would need a light truck to pull it around. One of the other guys in town has a skid steer machine with post driver attached, extremely manoeuvrable but did seem a bit like a one trick pony as he needed to run a truck and trailer around site to lay out posts and there was no way the driver could get in and out to help like my driver can. We often need two people to lift the 3.6m 200mm-225mm strainer posts when they are freshly dipped in treatment. 

 

 

Tepapa, thanks for the tip on the arrival of a machine in SA. I might try and get in touch with them and pick their brains. Are they a member on here, is that how you know they have bought one?

 

Do either of you use your machines for rolling out wire and possibly even straining? I doubt that the track machine would have enough ground pressure to get correct tension on the netting? What sort of attachment are you using to roll out and possibly strain? I still use my trusty clamp and chains with extended handles for the 1.8m netting. I tie off at the end of a run making sure i have even tension across the length of the strain with a couple of tension gauges. 

 

Cheers

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Re- photos there is a thread on how to put into a photo account (cant remember name off it now) to then paste in a thread, Nick will be along to help.

 

Carrying a tractor bryce knocker did more damage to my tyres in three years than towing a trailer would have done. Most of my work is within an hours drive and id be stuck without a loader to clear branches, hedges, fences and move/unload posts.

 

Juat got a plant low loader. If I had a class 2 licence I would get a little lorry to travel further as old ones are cheap to buy compared to plant trailers.

 

I saw the one going to oz on face book. Look up Solo fencing systems.

 

I have a solonet fitted to the solotrak for unrolling and straining netting. Pulls netting up fine. Perfect in dry conditions. Works ok in the wet but mud is the killer as you lose traction quicker and you only have one chance to get it tight before tracks fill with mud, unless pulling downhill when the weight of machine helps. Thats on normal 80/90mm high net but they do make a deer net clamp too that would take 1.8m netting.

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Hi Mike, welcome to the forum.

Have you considered a digger? A 2.5ton would be easily towable behind your ute, and is far less of a one trick pony then a dedicated track machine. I run a 3 tonner with drop weight post driver, tungsten tipped auger drive and I have a clearance grab and buckets for all the pre grading works.

The setup works really well for me (I also have a tractor and thumper with rockspike but rarely use it). The auger will get posts into ground that a rock spike setup won't touch. I tend to drill holes a few inches less then the diameter of the post- if it's that hard the strainer will be absolutely solid once rammed into the hole. Rock spikes are better for rock as they can shatter the rock providing a guide for the pointed post without it mushrooming, but when it just comes to really dense hard ground- the rockspike isn't hugely helpful really, an auger is much better as it actually removes material.

Anyway going back to the digger idea, I have a tow hitch on the blade which I can tow a fully loaded ifor Williams trailer behind it, if it's too wet for my landrover to lay out materials then I just hitch the trailer onto my digger and it does well, or you could make a cradle to sit on the blade which could carry say 50 posts and make it so you can unroll wire etc too.

I can get my digger to places that neither a track post knocker or tractor would be able to get to, up on top of banks, reach between trees, over ditches etc, and because I tow it with my landrover once it is on site I don't have to go home in the tractor just leave the digger there for the duration of the job.

£2k will buy you a digger mounted knocker and a good used digger can be had for around £10-12k, so outlay is considerably less then tracked knocker or tractor.

Downsides are you are limited on hammer size depending on digger size. A three tonner will handle a postknocker with a 200kg hammer- I find it does most things and in very hard ground I just use the auger to compensate for ground conditions etc. Some people find the digger ones hard to use, they won't be as quick as a dedicated tracked machine. But I can still get 300 meters (100 posts) worth comfortably knocked in on my own in a day or 500 meters if I have a helper. sometimes more sometimes less.

 

Hope this helps, Matt

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I haven't seen many powerhead/vibratory post knockers around, the one in your video looks nice and controlled to use, but I'd doubt it has the same impact force compared to a Bryce- or even 200kg hammer.

Another thing I like about the digger knockers- I work on Dartmoor across peat bogs, I feel quite comfortable going across the bogs as I know i can self rescue myself if I start to sink- you'd need a winch on a tracked machine and something to anchor the winch to to be able to get yourself out the goo otherwise.

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Mike, you might have a look at the smaller Protech Evo machine.  Weight isn't as much of an issue for us, so I wasn't paying close enough attention, but it is towable with a small truck.  Maybe Si will chime in on how he likes his new one?

 

Tepapa, how do you like the new SoloNet?  Any pictures yet?

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Hi All, 

 

Thanks for the welcomes and great feed back.

 

Matt, no I haven't considered a digger knocker but after the description of yours maybe i should. I do know of one locally but haven't seen it in action. One concern i'd have is getting the posts looking straight. Do you position the cab in the fence line so you can look down it and use previously installed posts as a guide? Also, do yo have to stab a post in the ground by hand (so it is standing up) to then manoeuvre the machine over the top of it when on your own? 

 

Yes, the augers I use are pilot augers so they remove that material allowing for a really solid post once its pointed and rammed in. 

 

I'll have a look at the Protech Evo machine too. 

 

I'm trying to find some specs on the force at the head of the Munro. I have a down force system which helps even more when knocking in a post. The system uses a ram to pick up the linkage arms of the tractor, essentially transferring the weight of the back end of the tractor over the post. Its quite a system, you actually see the rear tyres lift (not off the ground) I used to use a King Hitter before the Munro and i think it would install post quicker in wet ground (say 2 or 3 hits) but the Munro has more hard ground ability and the ring system that holds the posts gives me more control when they want to spring out of line.  I also like the hydraulic engagement of the auger, where with the old king hitter I used to have to work under the hammer weight to swing the auger into position and lock it in. 

 

Thanks for the link to uploading photos Goaty, i'll have a go at it. 

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Hi Mike,

 

People with digger mounted knockers all seem to have their own techniques much like everything. My own method varies depending on the lie of the land. If it's straight forward flatish ground I will knock the strainers in first using a plumb line attached to the top of the strainer. Then I strain up a top wire at about 3ft high and go along stabbing all the stakes in then it's just a case of tracking along parallel to the fence line knocking them in as you go. The dozed blade levels the machine and you can just pull the stakes until they just touch the line so you know they are going in straight.

Alternatively you could strain up a line at ground level as normal and stab the stakes in as you go attaching a string with a small fishing weight off it so that when it is hanging it gives you the vertical for each post- hard to explain but it does work very well once you get the hang of it.

My digger knocker is based on the ones that Vector make to go on a digger. You can easily make adjustments to the post at the same time as hammering and you can also press down on the post with the weight of the digger which improves hammer effectiveness. Some people run a full length mast much like a tractor and can have a side tilt too, I think I'd want the controls externally so you can stand beside the post to activate the post cap chains and hammer if I was using this method.

I'm quite fussy about how straight my posts are going in so I wouldn't use my machine if I didn't think I was doing a good enough job.

One of the handiest setups iv had so far particularly for smaller jobs was a 1.5ton digger with a postrammer and auger, I could easily tow it behind my truck with upto 200meters of materials loaded into the pickup too. It was great as I could get the whole setup there in one journey- it was great for the sort of job which may only take a day or two particularly if it was far away. If you were going to keep your tractor and rammer than I'd say a small digger and related gear would really give you the best of both worlds and means you can have machines on different jobs as required- saves slot of carting and faffing around.

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Hi Mike,

 

Couple of how-tos that might help you out here:

 

Firstly, a guide on the gallery:

http://www.farmfencetalk.co.uk/topic/6-farmfencetalk-gallery-instructions/

 

Secondly, a guide to using PhotoBucket (a handy photography hosting platform):

http://www.farmfencetalk.co.uk/topic/54-nicks-photobucket-demo/

 

Both of these are in the Forum Tips & Instructions section:

http://www.farmfencetalk.co.uk/forum/21-forum-tips-instructions/

 

If you still need a hand , feel free to drop me an email directly (nick.jones@tornadowire.com) and we'll see what we can do to get you sorted on the photos front.

 

Nick

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