Machinery and Equipment you will need or want on a lifestyle block is directly related to the jobs you are likely need it for. Here is a basic list of the jobs you are likely to carry out on your lifestyle block:
- Fencing: Even a well set up property will require fencing maintenance from wear and tear or stock / vehicle damage. You will probably find there are always new fencing projects coming up too as you develop your block.
- Animal health: At a minimum you will need to drench, trim feet, tag ears, castrate and possibly dehorn animals, so a few likely gadgets will be needed for these jobs, as well as basic animal handling facilities.
- Feeding out: In winter and dry summers you will need some way of getting the hay to the animals. It is possible to bring the animals to the feed of course with small numbers, but even on a small block you will want to move the feeding area regularly to avoid pugging or spoiling one area.
- Conditioning paddocks: On small blocks it is often necessary to harrow and / or top (cut) paddocks to keep them in good condition free of dung piles and rank grass. Weeds, such as thistles, ragwort and docks will need dealing with from spring to autumn.
- Top Dressing paddocks: Ideally twice a year your block will need top dressing with fertiliser or lime. This should be done in two applications each time to ensure your animals do not graze newly fertilised paddocks.
- Shelter trimming: Trimming back hedges and shelter trees, dealing with overhanging branches and fallen trees.
- Moving various things: Carting and moving all sorts of things like a fallen branch or hedge clippings into a pile for burning, a new water trough into location, a sick calf into the barn.
- Water system: Maintenance and repairs are an ongoing thing with water systems. There may also be development work including additional water troughs to the existing system.
Having the right tools for this job makes the difference between completing the job with or without tears! Here is what you need:
- Hammer with claw head: Treat yourself to a nice well balanced one.
- Fencing pliers: What you can't do with these is not worth talking about. They knock in staples and then pull them out. Cut and tie wire and I am sure you will find many more uses!
- Spade: The best type for fencing is the trenching spade. It has a narrow blade so can fit down a post hole. Get a good and heavy one.
- Posthole borer: Type depends on your soil. A mechanical one for a tractor is excellent in free soil but hard work in puggy clay, and dangerous if there are likely to be tree roots around. You can hire these or better still get a contractor to do the job if you have that many posts to erect. A simple hand borer with an almost flat face is excellent in clay.
- Spinning jenny: This is a gadget that holds wire and unwinds it as you pull. It can be an elaborate collapsible job, such as those the stock firms sell, or you can make a simple one yourself.
- Rammer: This is probably the secret of a good solid fence. There are several available on the market. The best will be the heaviest with the smallest ramming head. The handle should be solid steel, then it can double as a crowbar.
- Saw: A small chainsaw is best. It is easy to carry around and can be used to either clear scrub out of the way or cut the tops off posts and shape stays.
- Wire tensioner: This is a kind of lever which has pieces that slot onto the sides of a wire tightener that stays permanently in the fence once the wire is tightened on it.
- Chisel: Between 38 and 5Omm wide.
For most animal health application, you will need to be able to use or have adequate animal handling facilities with a narrow race to hold animals still, if not a head bale for complete immobility for the trickier jobs. Some of the items you are likely to use are:
- Drenching gun: You will need one that will hold a minimum of 100mls for cattle. There are some nice, easy to clean guns on the market and handy for worming drenches to administering mineral supplements.
- Ear taggers: You will need to ear tag animals from now on with the TB identification tags. If you have pedigree stock, you will also need the breed identification tags.
- Elastrator: This is used for applying elastic bands for castrating lambs, calves and kids and docking lambs. It is a simple hand held device that holds open a special elastic band during application.
- Feet trimmers: If you have sheep or goats you will have to trim excess hoof off at required. A pair of feet trimmers is essential for the job.
- Dehorning: For this operation you will either use an application of a caustic substance (bought from your agricultural merchants) when the animal is very young or you will need a professional to remove the horns if the animal is too old for this. Neither will require purchasing equipment.
In winter and dry summers you will need some way of getting the hay to the animals. It is possible to bring the animals to the feed of course with small numbers, but even on a small block you will want to move the feeding area regularly to avoid pugging or spoiling one area. The most popular options for moving enough feed for anyone time are:
- Flat bed trailer: Only a small one is usually required on a lifestyle block, towed behind a vehicle
- Carry-all tray: This is a hydraulically lifted carrier for a tractor.
On small blocks it is often necessary to harrow and / or top (cut) paddocks to keep them in good condition free of dung piles and rank grass. Weeds, such as thistles, ragwort and docks will need dealing with from spring to autumn.
- Harrows: These are used to spread manure over a paddock to return it to grazing condition evenly. There are various different designs, but they are basically a linked, uneven metal device pulled behind a vehicle. They last forever so tend to be bought second hand, though agricultural engineers will make a set for you if you are unable to locate a set.
- Topper: If the grazing regime you have leaves you with rank, untidy paddocks at some times of the year, then cutting the longer grass will improve the paddock markedly. A grass cutter requires a tractor with hydraulic lift and drive shaft. If you have a tractor, you will probably be able to hire or borrow a topper from a farmer in the area, failing that, a local contractor will do the job for you. On a small block it is probably uneconomic to purchase on unless you drop on one cheaply and are mechanically minded.
- Sprayers and de-weeders: Weeds will need spot or area spraying. If the area is not too large, a backpack sprayer will do the job. You can buy small boom sprayers for the back of 4 wheel farm bikes if you are a keen sprayer, or larger ones for tractors. There will also be contractors available locally. For individual weeks such as Ragwort, a "wand" filled with herbicide is a cheap piece of equipment. It can often be as easy to completely remove the weed though with a small spade.
Top Dressing paddocks
You will need specialist equipment for applying fertiliser and lime on your block. You will also want to minimise handling of the substances as they can cause irritation. Before you start to consider any of the options listed below, check out with your local carrier and spreader the cost for doing the job, it may well be cost and time effective, especially when taking into account cost of bagging and delivery of the fertiliser etc. Here are some of the items available to do the job yourself:
- Hand spinner: This is an old fashioned device, hand held with a handle to turn to "spin" the substance out only the ground. With an even technique and steady walk a fine application can be achieved. They are very useful for hand sowing seed evenly. Not sure if they are still made, so may be difficult getting hold of one.
- Spinner - towed: These are holder which are towed and the revolution of the wheels spins the fertiliser out onto the paddock. These are suitable to be towed by a 4 wheel bike etc. They will contain a 100kg or so.
- Spinner - power driven: This type is driven by the drive shaft of a tractor. These start at 500kg capacity upwards.
If you are farming stock, ideally you will have plenty of trees and hedges for shelter. If so, there will always be some maintenance to do. If you have specific shelter belt species and hedges you will need them trimming regularly by a contractor, it is unlikely that you would invest in a trimmer yourself. However you will have to deal with trimming overhanging branches and fallen trees etc.
- Chain saw: A petrol driven machine of a size you can cope with. They come in various sized chains, choose on to suit the size of timber you are likely to be cutting and the weight that you can handle comfortably.
- Large bow saw: You will be able to do a lot of small jobs with one of these.
Moving various things
Undoubtedly you will need to move things like a fallen branch or hedge clippings into a pile for burning, a new water trough into location, a sick calf into the barn.
- Snig chain: This is a length of heavy chain with a large hook towed behind a vehicle. You can drag all sorts of things too heavy to lift with one of these and you should be able to come across one at a reasonable cost second hand.
- Flat bed trailer: This had been discussed previously will be used here again.
Water system repairs
Fortunately modern water systems are very easy to maintenance and repair as they are made out of alkathene, which is easy to cut and join. If you are in an area that does not get many frosts, there is no need to lag the pipe to protect if from freezing and bursting. Because of this, you will need very little in the way of tools for your water system. Here are a couple of essentials:
- Sharp knife: You will need something for cutting pipe
- Two adjustable crescent spanners: The size depends on your water system for tightening joins and joints.