Test: West dual 2000
The West dual 2000 spreader we tested this month is owned by Gavin Grain Contractors. Thanks to its robust build and ability to contain and spread wet sloppy muck, it’s proving a worthy player in the epic Gavin Grain stable of machinery.
During the busy cultivation and silage season you often you see impressive pieces of machinery as you travel throughout the countryside, and during my recent trip to Hamilton this was certainly the case. In particular, when I arrived at Gavin Grain Contractors, I could see these guys didn't do things by halves when it came to machinery. Before you even start looking at the machinery, the massive workshop alone is an impressive sight. Out in the yard it only gets better with 39 tractors, four forages and the assorted machinery that goes with it. Let me put it to you like this, if my two-year-old son (who is mad keen on tractors) was with me he would have soiled himself with the excitement of seeing all those "dactors".
I have to say, it was the most exceptional setup I have seen and the way the gear is presented and maintained is a credit to the team.
A recent acquisition to Gavin Grain's line-up is a West dual spreader, the 2000 model, which, with a capacity of 12.5 tonnes, works very well for its large scale goat farm, in addition to its extensive client base making good use of the spreader.
Now, there are three types of solid muck spreaders available — rear discharge, side discharge and rotary muck spreaders — and all have their place on the land, with some handling different types of material better than others. But today we are focusing on the West 2000 side discharge spreader.
Design and build
These machines were originally designed in 1982, by Harry West, to handle the bedding muck from housing barns in the UK. They needed to be fully contained to handle the slurry aspect of the job, rather than the bulkier bedding material. The basic outline and design of the machine has not changed much since the first 1300-gallon models, but like any machine that is nearly 30 years old,, there have been subtle changes over the years with key developments, the majority of which are around material bridging.
To try and combat the corrosive material used though the spreader, the steel used on West dual spreader bodies is a hefty 5mm thick, and can take a degree of surface corrosion without weakening. General build quality was impressive, with the body showing no sign of damage from rocks etc. in the tub, even after plenty of work. I suspect the large axle will not give you any trouble, judging by the amount of steel used — plus the big 23.1-26 wide tyres on a single braked axle are standard on all five models from 6000 — 13,600L, predominantly for lower compaction and ease of towing.
The majority of the design changes have been focused around the machines ability to handle dry, fluffy straw-based material. Even these latest machines battle with this type of material, with Gavin's workshop manager, Brian Van der Drift, conceding that taking the material out of the shed and letting it rot for three to four weeks is a much better alternative than continuously breaking shear bolts, although it requires double handling. For any other material, Brian maintains the 630mm spreading rotor turning at 508rpm ensures good wide spread, and although the brochure says 21m spread pattern he still wouldn't stand within 30m of the machine and be confident you wouldn't get a face full of muck. The robust build quality and low power requirements were the two main reasons for purchasing the West dual spreader, as they have another machine of a different brand which runs in 1000 PTO and will stall a 6930 John Deere at start up. This means they have to tie up a big tractor for a relatively small job that a 6430 John Deere can do on the West dual, which gives them greater flexibility.
There are two reasons for the low power requirements. The first is the drive unit. Two big cast duplex sprockets drive the auger and a simplex sprocket drives the rotor with two chain tensioners in place. This has been tweaked a number of times over the years, with the rotor spread increasing from 300rpm up to the current 508rpm, simply from adjusting the number of teeth on the sprockets. Another factor that has allowed for low start-up power requirements is the door slides back and forth, allowing the operator to gradually feed the rotor, rather than putting massive load on the drive unit as soon as the door is open. The operator can tell how far the door is open from an easy-to-see guide on the front of the machine, and as the door is being opened grooves in the door help break up and dislodge material that could cause shelving.
To help solve any shelving problems with the material there is a moving side wall on the right-hand side (above the stone trap), which is on a pendulum type arm run from the bottom of the auger and works exceptionally well. The only downside here is rocks can jam between the arm and the front of the tub. Having the drive arm on the outside of the machine would solve this or a cover on the inside to keep the tub fully enclosed.
Auger and spread pattern
The large spiral auger, with the basic principle of bringing the material forward and weight onto the rear of the tractor, ensures confidence and safety in hilly conditions and has proven to be an exceptionally good idea as this hasn't changed from the start.
The discharge rotor is simply a rotating drum that is just under one metre wide, with individual paddles (which can be replaced) and this is what gives the machine the top quality spread pattern. Each paddle has a bolt-on tip (which is hard-faced with weld) and this process needs to be repeated as wear occurs to prevent the tip itself from getting worn.
One downside is that the rotor is mounted on the left of the machine, which, for some, is an unnatural direction to look over your shoulder but there is a very good reason for this. Put simply it reduces the amount of gearing in the machine as the left-hand rotor goes with the direction of the tractor's PTO and allows the rotor to generate high levels of operating torque, in turn creating an even spread pattern. The tray under the rotor is supported by two springs and is held in place by an over-centre lever that can be released if the rotor gets jammed. To stop large rocks from entering the discharge rotor there is a stone trap mounted on the opposite side of the machine. There are spring paddles mounted on the front of the main auger to feed material to the output rotor, which also flicks stones into the trap. It will fill up with muck during operation but stones will still successfully be forced in by the auger and it needs to be cleaned out after every job — which is simply a matter of undoing a couple of bolts. Once open, you may find it is solid with muck and no small stones as it only the big stuff that will cause the most damage that finds its way into the trap.
These machines are excellent in wet sloppy material as the fully-contained bin and large auger ensure all the material is extracted from the machine. To prove this, Gavin has spread drain cleanings and peat straight out of the machine, however bridging of material over the main auger can still be a problem, with certain types of material (particularly chicken droppings and straw bedding from the goat farm). However, by allowing it to sit outside and rot for a period of roughly a month prior to spreading makes it a breeze to spread. If you spread large amounts of dry material and very little sloppy wet muck, then a rear discharge spreader may be a better option as there will be no bridging problems. If you want a machine to do the lot, West has 30 years of experience behind its machines and even if the bridging problem is not exactly solved, it is at least manageable. And the fact that workshop manager Brian says if they buy another side discharge spreader it will be a West, then that's a good enough recommendation for me.
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