Five years of patient research into anaerobic digestion has paid off for Grégory Hamel and his business partners. Earlier this year, the on-farm plant he and his three partners built came into operation. It’s now producing and exporting electricity into the grid, bringing a valuable extra source of income to the partnership.
“We ourselves had a lot of surplus manure,” he explains, “and we’re in an area where there’s a lot of organic matter.
“We saw the anaerobic plant as being a different way for us to recycle this surplus manure and produce energy from it.”
Run by the four partners under the uniquely French Groupement Agricole d’exploitation en commun (GAEC) legislation, the farm boasts 400 cattle – dairy and sucklers – spread over 150ha, and a turkey production unit breeding birds for the table. GAEC creates a family farm structure within a commercial enterprise, with pooling of inputs and capital. The anaerobic unit is managed by a separate company structure.
Cat® Machine the Perfect Solution
On such a mixed farm, mechanisation of routine tasks becomes essential if workloads are to be managed and completed on time, with minimal labour input. It’s why Hamel and his partners opted for Cat machines nearly 12 years ago, with the purchase of their first Cat wheel loader.
“We had that first model for five years. That was replaced by the current 924G, which we’ve had in operation for seven years.
“It’s so versatile. We needed a machine that would feed the cattle, unload the corn silo, load and fill the silage clamp, handle bales, bed down the cattle.”
It seems if there’s a handling job to be done, the Cat is their ‘go-to’ machine, thanks in no small part to its ease of maintenance and reliability. “We do most of the maintenance ourselves – oil and filter changes, the basic stuff,” reveals Grégory. “And for anything more complex, we’ve the service team at Bergerat, our dealer, to rely upon.
“But that’s pretty rare. We don’t have many problems with these machines.”
As a long-term Cat customer, Grégory knows the brand inside out. Alongside ‘reliability’, he cites ‘high-end’ as being one of two characteristics he associates with Caterpillar. He’s also aware how ‘high-end’ might be seen by some potential buyers as being a synonym for ‘expensive’ – and he has an answer to that.
“In the long-term, you get the price back. The 924G is seven years old and has 10,000 hours on the clock; during that time, there have been no mechanical faults.
“You’re buying reliability.”
He was recently invited to trial some of the company’s new machines, most notably the replacement for the 924G, the 926M.
“We’re really on another level with this machine,” he enthuses. “We’re used to the technology on the 924G, which is relatively simple and doesn’t offer too many settings.
“In the 926M, on the other hand, there’s a whole range of different settings. And it’s only when you use it, and start to explore those options, that you begin to see the full capability of the machine.
“The power of the 926M is noticeably better than the 924G. Add to that the larger carrying capacity and improved hydraulics, then its wider tyres, and on a job like corn compacting in the silo, it’s obvious that there’s going to be a much smaller impact on the corn.
“That’s after only two or three hours’ use, so I’m still really getting to know it. It’s a big improvement over the 924G, but I’m perhaps more tempted by the other Cat we’ve been trialling, the 918M. It’s more like our 924G, in terms of size, and the visibility is massively improved. That’s a great benefit in the sheds.
“For day-to-day livestock production requirements, I think the 918M could suit our needs even better.”