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Stephens & Sons Farm Makes JCB Loadall Pick of the Litter

Fri April 17, 2009 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Selling equipment in today’s market is a challenging endeavor, forcing equipment dealers to be ever more resourceful in prospecting other markets that have a need for non-construction related machines.

Such was the case recently when Atlanta JCB took a skid steer loader and a compact Loadall to Stephens & Sons Farm in Mt. Airy, Ga., for a demo, which resulted in a sale of two JCB 524-50 compact Loadalls.

Stephens & Sons Farm’s father and son team of Shane and Melvin Stephens was using telehandlers for contract chicken house cleanout and felt they needed a more efficient way of doing the work. Their initial thought was to purchase a skid steer, but after demoing a Loadall, they found what they needed was a change.

Stephens & Sons Farm needed machines that would help it remove chicken litter and the layer of sub base wood shavings, typically around 1 to 4 in., which is placed on the floor of the chicken house prior to putting in a new flock. Then, subsequently the waste material is loaded onto trucks. The old machines were hampering overall productivity, according to Shane Stephens.

“The process of putting new flocks in requires removal of the chicken litter, washing down the ventilation fans, and blowing out or washing the ceilings, and then putting in the shavings as bedding,” he said.

Prior to using the JCBs, Shane Stephens said his farm used a telehandler for the work, but overheating problems hampered productivity.

“During the summer, every 30 minutes and hourly during the winter, we were having to shut down the machines to cool them, seemingly as a result of the build up of feathers and debris,” Stephens said. “But the machine even seemed to run hot in outdoor applications, when it was cold outside. With the JCB machines, I never have this problem. I may have to wash out and clear the feathers maybe once a month at the most.”

Stephens added that his process of cooling the old machines would require him to go to the hose and take the air conditioner condenser out, wash it out, then wash out the radiator. “Now, I don’t have to do that with these JCB machines. I just blow some feathers out occasionally and that’s it, but not every time we use the machine,” he said.

Atlanta JCB made quick work of the modifications the Stephens needed to the JCB 524-50s.

“All we had to do was make a couple modifications to the machines [JCB 524-50 compact Loadalls] to make them more productive for chicken litter removal,” said Atlanta JCB Sales Representative, Brian Collins. “More aggressive tires were needed, so we changed them to an increased floatation tire that would roll over litter and not sink in. For balance, we added some counterweight in the event heavier, wetter litter was encountered in the chicken house cleanout. The customer needed a more environmentally friendly cab/air machine for this type of work, and the Loadall was the machine that provided this. And lastly, they needed to change the standard 1-yd. bucket on the machine to a 2.25 yd. bucket for maximum production.”

Their JCB Loadalls have now been in service for more than six months.

“The litter and shavings are traditionally light, but on average, the bucket is handling about a ton per scoop. We can do anywhere from two to 12 chicken houses in one day. It’s according to how many ’grow outs’ that have been on one bed of shavings. Our trucks haul this material into the Carolinas and Georgia for fertilizer. We have four trucks and three trailers for this and work with other trucking companies for hauling and have probably 10 to 15 trucks beside our own that we load on a regular basis,” Stephens added.

As a result, Stephens & Sons Farm has doubled, even tripled its productivity, according to Stephens. “For the money, these machines we purchased were a great investment and just what we needed,” he said.

Working with Atlanta JCB also has gone smoothly for Stephens & Sons Farm.

“They’ve [Atlanta JCB] been great,” said. “They always answer my calls and respond immediately, and come out to where I am if I need them. Luther Babb [service department] does a great job. He can come out and look at or listen to the machine and pretty much know exactly what the problem is.”

With Stephens & Sons Farm’s equipment resources in place and with the Stephens’s familiarity with the JCB 524-50 compact Loadalls, the company is now able to give a good turnkey job for its services.

“We do our own maintenance and have only had to rely on Atlanta JCB for one major issue where a piece of trash got hung in a valve,” said Melvin Stephens. “They [Atlanta JCB] took the trash out, put it back together, and we were right back to work.”

Stephens & Sons Farm is now set with its current equipment needs, but the company is looking to the future.

“We’re set with the machines we need, but we will look toward the future purchase of a skid steer for deep litter and cleaning out the corners of chicken houses,” said Melvin.

Melvin added that his company is loading different capacity trailers.

“We’re loading walking floor trailers, which at 13.5 feet is about as tall as you’re going to get, with great ease. We have our own trailers and for the 32-foot ones, we can load about 25 tons of litter on it in about 15 to 20 minutes with about 18 bucket loads.”

The JCB 524-50s will be kept busy, but Melvin expects they will be up to the task.

“We expect continuous work from these machines and put a lot of hours on them. We put over 1,000 hours a year on our machines, which is well above average for a telehandler,” he said.

Stephens & Sons Farm hauls materials from chicken houses to Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. The material is primarily used for fertilization of cotton, soy beans, pine trees, hayfields and of row cropping. CEG

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