t was dry and I had to come up with some sort of solution to try and trap some of the snow water (on forage stands),” says
Brenden Janssen of Vega, Alta. What he came up with was an implement, built in his own workshop, that improved water infiltration, along with aerating and breaking up hardpan caused by some extremely dry seasons. Janssen calls his implement a forage reclaimer.
He says he looked at some of the commercially-available implements on the market designed to do similar work, but he didn’t have much faith in them. “I figured in the long run they would create more compaction,” he says. “I spent about 200 hours designing and prototype testing to come up with this. I looked at a lot of different ways of approaching the problem.”
He believes that effort has paid off. Since building his first reclaimer in 1992, he has had the chance to test it over several seasons on his farm and others. He claims the results showed a 25 to 100 per cent improvement in forage yields, depending on the field and seasonal weather conditions.
Janssen says using the reclaimer on fields allows them to trap much more spring runoff than they otherwise could. Different soil types affect how much advantage any farmer would see from using it, but he thinks most farmers would likely see some benefit. “I believe there is a potential for anyone that grows forages, especially where there is a lot of snow but not a lot rain,” he says.
WORK DOWN TO 16-INCH DEPTH
When brainstorming his design, Janssen says he wanted an implement that would cut deep into the soil. “In grass I wanted to get just below the roots, about four or five inches.” he says. “For alfalfa I wanted to get at least a foot deep. So [the implement] had to be able to go from zero to 12 inches to adjust for the different kinds of forages.”
The reclaimer design is actually capable of working as deep as 16 inches. The shanks have a working life of about 400 acres in moist conditions, but that can fall by as much as half in very dry, sandy soil, however they can be resurfaced to extend their life.
Limiting penetration is done by setting the depth control on the tractor’s three-point hitch. “On any machine bigger than four shanks, there has to be gauge wheels on the outside.” Janssen says. Since building his first reclaimer, he has built and sold a few four-shank models. He is now working on a six-shank version for use on his own organic farming operation.
The exact materials used to build the reclaimers depends to some extent on what he’s had available to minimize costs. Typically, the shanks are made of three-quarter-inch steel, eight inches wide and spaced 32 inches apart. To prevent damage to them, each shank has a 5/8-inch shear bolt. Shanks are
Brenden Janssen says his farm-built subsoiler has helped improve water infiltration in forage stands during some very dry years, which has greatly improved his yields.
matched with a 16-inch coulter disc, positioned just ahead of them, to help cut through the sod. A spring-mounted, 9.50 x 8 pneumatic tire follows each one to pack down the edges of the cut and leave a smooth field surface.
The frame is made from 24-inch by eight inch by three-quarter-inch I-beams boxed on both the top and bottom with quarter-inch plate steel. The reclaimer connects to a category two, three-point tractor hitch.
Ideally, Janssen says, building the reclaimer frames from heavy-wall square tubing would be the best material. “It would really speed up the manufacturing process,” he says. In his farm shop, he has been cutting the shanks out of plate steel with an oxy-acetylene torch, but all that cutting and grinding is a time-consuming process. He believes finding someone able to cut them with a CNC machine would be worth the extra cost and time saving.
Using heavy steel has given the reclaimers a lot of strength, but some of that may be overkill he concedes. However, he says, using reclaimers in extremely dry soils makes for a very hard pull, and the extra strength has been a definite advantage. In moist conditions, the reclaimer can be pulled by a 70 horsepower tractor. But in very dry conditions power demand can go up to as much as 140 horsepower.
“With a 70 horsepower tractor, the frame doesn’t have to be nearly that strong,” he says. “But last fall I had a 160 horsepower tractor on it; then, of course, it does have to be stronger.”
Janssen has been selling his four-shank reclaimers for $12,000. With his soon-to-be-completed, six-shank model, he intends to do some custom work. He thinks being able to demonstrate the reclaimer’s benefits will be an advantage when selling them. “Guys are probably going to want to try it first,” he says.
Janssen can be reached at 780- 674-5920.