Farm Machinery, Spreader

Muck Runner specialising in effluent handling

Family-owned business Muck Runner provides imported Pichon products that specialise in dairy effluent handling

In the six years after he started working on his family dairy farm in 1984, Tom Paltridge saw a significant expansion of the herd.

But the larger herd meant dairy effluent was starting to become a problem – the natural cow by-product that, if not managed properly, can have negative impacts on the environment.

An EPA designed effluent system, consisting of a weeping wall, underground pipes, a manure pump and a travelling irrigator, meant they were constantly reactive to blockages.

And, as the application of effluent was restricted to paddocks close to the dairy, these were constantly overloaded with nitrates due to high application rates.

Frustrated by what he saw as a waste of nutrients, Tom invented his own way to transport the effluent further by converting an old fuel truck.

He would pump the effluent directly into the fuel tank and then gravity feed the effluent out the back of the tank via six-inch pipe dropping onto a plough disc – a very rudimentary splash plate – 1000 litres at a time.

When he showed his invention to a visiting Irish farmer, the Irishman smiled and said we have tankers to do that job.

So, knowing that UK and European farmers had been spreading effluent on pastures for many years, Paltridge started looking for a workable and beneficial solution to manage the effluent produced on his dairy farm.

While on exchange in the United Kingdom in 1996, Paltridge attended a field day where he met Philippe Pichon – who had a stand for his family’s machinery manufacturing business, Pichon Industries.

Pichon’s business was family owned at the time and based out of France – selling vacuum tankers for sucking up and spreading dairy and intensive animal farm effluent, back onto paddocks.

Key to Paltridge’s dairy effluent problem, these machines were so impressive that he imported the first Pichon machine into Australia – starting his own business Muck Runner Pty Ltd.

“That encounter in the UK was the beginning of a life-long friendship between Phillippe and I, and a close relationship between Muck Runner and Pichon Industries,” Paltridge says.

Based out of Mount Gambier, South Australia, Muck Runner still sells Pichon machinery to farmers and contractors all over Australia.

The Pichon range focuses on muck (liquid or solid) spreading, a process of spreading manure on paddocks, using slurry tankers and solid spreaders.

Paltridge says all of these machines specialise in effluent handling – which can be manure from cows as well as the water that is used to keep yards clean.

Muck Runner imports Pichon machinery and assembles the units on site. Image: Muck Runner

According to Paltridge, effluent is a widely unused resource in Australia, but he has been using Pichon machines for many years to put effluent nutrients back on paddocks – assisting in growing pastures.

“The beauty of these Pichon machines is that the farmer already owns the product, and the nutrients are in the effluent, we can then use the machine to get those nutrients out to the paddock to grow the grass,” he says.

“And because they are mobile, we can use the tanker or spreader to target the paddocks that may be deficient in organic matter.”

Pichon speciality

Muck Runner solely focuses on the Pichon brand, importing these machines either for stock or for specific customer orders.

Based out of France, Pichon makes galvanised tankers, solid manure spreaders, slurry stirrers and tanker attachments for applying the effluent, such as trailing shoes, drip hose booms, and tine or disc injectors – handling dairy effluent and effluent from intensive husbandry overseas.

Tankers range in size from 5,000 to 20,700 litres, while solid spreaders range in capacity from 10 to 24 cubic metres.

The Pichon tankers, one of Muck Runner’s key product focuses, are used to suck up and transport manure and wash down water that runs into holding pits or ponds on dairies, piggeries and other intensive animal husbandry operations.

What ends up in the pit or pond is a wonderful organic fertiliser full of nutrients.

Paltridge explains the businesses’ vacuum tankers product as a pressure vessel.

“Being a system that uses vacuum, the air is sucked out of the tanker and then atmospheric pressure forces effluent in,” he says.

“When we go to the paddock, we pump air back into the tanker and that forces the product out.”

The benefit of this is that the Pichon tanker is only pumping air, not the effluent – leading to less problems such as blockages of pumps.

There are also no moving parts coming into contact with effluent.

Muck Runner assembles the imported machines on-site in its Mount Gambier workshop and provides them Australia-wide, with the Northern Territory and Canberra being the only two places the product hasn’t been sold to yet.

“Because we’re putting these Pichon machines together ourselves, we know our way around them,” Paltridge says.

Having this knowledge of the machines, Paltridge can be an effective problem-solver for clients – working out most issues with just a phone call.

Paltridge believes the Pichon machines are unmatched for quality, performance and longevity.

All machines are hot dip galvanised at 480 degrees, with up to 8mm thick steel on bigger models, have stainless steel valves, bolts and fittings and oversized axles.

Such features make for a machine that will last for generations and is a great return on investment.

“I use the same machinery on my farm as the ones we sell for Muck Runner,” he says.

The 9m shoe attachment places effluent directly on top of the ground, underneath the leaf of grass. Image: Muck Runner

In fact, the very first tanker Muck Runner brought to Australia is still in use after nearly 30 years.

It had been in use weekly on Paltridge’s farm but has recently been sold to another farm to continue its service, as Paltridge has now upgraded to a 20,700 litre tanker.

He currently removes four loads a week from his effluent pit for his 400-cow herd.

“That first tanker is still going after 30 years and is as effective as it was the day it was built,” he says.

New shoes

Muck Runner’s most recent sale has been a 20,700-litre tanker with a 9m trailing shoe attachment.

This attachment goes on the rear of the tanker and places effluent directly on top of the ground, underneath the leaf of the grass.

Paltridge says this tanker is hot-dipped galvanised to protect the 8mm thick steel from the corrosive effects of effluent – giving the machine a long lifespan.

The tanker has been fitted with a 14,000-litre/minute vacuum pump and has a plunger arm auto filler with turbo – allowing the driver to suck effluent from pits or ponds without getting out the tractor or dragging heavy hoses around.

With touch screen control and an electronic flow meter, operators can control the amount of effluent spread.

Recently, there has been increased interest using attachments such as trailing shoes and injectors to go on the Pichon tankers.

Paltridge explains that in doing so, effluent can be applied under the leaf of a plant, but still on top of the ground – therefore giving better utilisation of the business’ product.

“We want the poop back out on the paddocks, because that’s when it’s making us money!”

For more information on Muck Runner’s Pichon products visit or call Tom Paltridge on 0419 851 543.

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