The Rotary Fork
An Ontario poultry farmer has drawn on his engineering skills to help farmers spread bedding
By Kristy Nudds
Like many poultry farmers, Scott Campbell found spreading straw or
shavings in the barns a time-consuming and dusty task, and he
continually strived to make the task easier.
Like many poultry farmers, Scott Campbell found spreading straw or shavings in the barns a time-consuming and dusty task, and he continually strived to make the task easier.
|Scott Campbell, shown above, has designed a|
machine called the Rotary Fork that allows one person to spread
straw or shavings using a tractor quickly and easily.
First attempts included spreading by hand, using a manure spreader in the barn, putting the straw through a small bale shredder, and tub grinding large bales and blowing it through a hose.
Schooled in mechanical engineering, Campbell had worked in the automotive industry, first designing parking brake cables for Dura Automotive in Ontario and steering columns for Ford in Detroit. Eight years ago, Campbell and his wife were called back to his family farm near Stratford, Ont., which at the time had both dairy and broilers. After selling the dairy quota two years later, the family expanded the poultry business and Campbell says he finally had the time to put his engineering experience to the test and figure out a way to make straw spreading a one-person job.
Getting straw into the barn can be a challenge, but Campbell says the real challenge is to spread it out evenly with minimum effort. “Flat straw really helps the chicks,” he says. “When the straw is flat, every chick in the barn has water nipples at the same level and the starter feed set out on the paper spreads out and is easily accessible to them.”
So Campbell started designing an implement that would accomplish this task, which he calls the Rotary Fork. The concept, says Campbell, is similar to that of a power broom attachment. “How it works is that the tines of each fork are set a certain distance from the floor, and if the straw is above this set point it is kicked forward to fill in the next low spot, and if the straw is below this level it stays,” he says.
His first design was pushed by hand, he found that too laborious and was only able to achieve “significant” progress when he decided to mount the Rotary Fork onto a small tractor blade. He has been optimizing the design ever since.
This optimization stems not only from his own needs, but from those of other farmers. At the London Poultry Show in April 2009, Campbell and his father rented a booth to determine if there would be any interest in the Rotary Fork from other farmers. “We thought if nobody was interested we would just be out the cost of the booth and a few business cards. The response was fantastic! It seems others have been looking for a better way to put straw in the barn as well,” he says.
Campbell says the contacts he made at the London show started inviting him into their barns, where he would see an additional design requirement and add it immediately. “Everyone I talked to and every barn I went into had a hand at helping me with the final design,” he says.
In his opinion, these experiences also made the design much better. Campbell cites an example of one farmer telling him it would be nice if he could lock the swivel part of the caster wheel so he could tow the machine up a ramp into the second floor. “Turns out a lock on the swivel part makes the machine easier to move around in the shop, easier to move from floor to floor and barn to barn,” Campbell says. “Every machine I have sold has the swivel lock only because I was listening while this one farmer said what he thought would be nice.”
Getting the design right so that he could manufacture fork attachments for other farmers was important to Campbell. “What I saw over and over again at car factories is what can happen when cars go into production too soon,” he says. “It’s very expensive because there is endless troubleshooting and warranty charges incurred, and customers are not happy.”
Campbell produces the Rotary Fork on his farm and replacement parts are available at any tractor dealership or TSC store across the country. He produces four models: a six-, a seven- (for smaller tractors) and a 10-foot-wide machine for heavy tractors and skid steer loaders, as well as a model that can be pulled behind a four-wheeler or a lawn tractor.
A little more than a year after unveiling the Rotary Fork, Campbell says he has logged 1.8 million square feet on his own machine and has sold 26 machines to other farmers. Several of these have been sold to British Columbia and Quebec, where the infrastructure doesn’t exist to get straw into the barns. These provinces were reliant on shavings and sawdust, and when the price of these became too high farmers started searching on the Internet, and came across Campbell’s website (www.rotaryfork.com).
As for how fast the machine works, Campbell says it depends on the straw being used. He says that round bales are generally faster due to the absence of slabs or clumps that need to be broken up. “The machine will spread any length of straw – even full length and hay buster ground, although fine chopped bales work best,” he says.
To see a demonstration of the Rotary Fork, visit YouTube (www.youtube.com) and search for “rotary fork.” Campbell has created two four-minute videos of the machine in action.
There is no limit to the thickness of straw the Rotary Fork will level: it can handle the thick level required by turkey finishing barns, he says. It also spreads shavings. “If your tractor can drive through it, my machine will spread it.”