Normandy Station is located in Roma, Queensland, about 515km northwest of Brisbane. Owned and operated by third generation farmer John Lethbridge, the station is a mixed operation spread over 12,000 acres. Normandy Station grows around 1,100 acres of wheat, 500 acres of oats and runs about 3,000 ewes, 200 goats and ‘a handful of cattle.’
Lethbridge recently purchased a SDLG LG946L wheel loader from CJD Equipment to perform a lot of the general farm maintenance work around the property. He had previously carried out many of these tasks on a bulldozer.
Lethbridge explains that the SDLG LG946L wheel loader is a far more versatile machine, ideally suited to performing day-to-day jobs around the property.
‘I’m currently fixing and building contour banks, as well as carrying out general farm maintenance, like fixing dams. For instance, after some heavy rain recently, I used the wheel loader to fix a couple of dams where the water cut straight through them and sliced a big gorge. The great thing about the SDLG LG946L wheel loader is that I was able to take dirt from elsewhere, whereas with the bulldozer you have to push the dirt up to the site. In that particular case, I went down the gully, dug a hole, and brought back the dirt to do the job,’ Lethbridge said.
Normandy Station has also been utilising the SDLG LG946L wheel loader to prepare fence sites and for gravelling work.
‘I’ve got a 2km road to the boundary and I’ve started using the wheel loader to gravel parts of that. As time goes on, I’ll start gravelling more of the bad areas on the access to the place. There’s one spot where water comes through and, after heavy rain, it’s impossible in a vehicle, so I’ll put a gravel path through there,’ he noted.
The SDLG LG946L wheel loader comes standard with a Volvo compatible quick hitch “euro hitch”, which allows the operator to change the attachment without leaving the cabin.
‘I’m currently modifying a 15 ft stick rake that I previously used on the bulldozer. If we have a drought, then I’ll be able to do some stick rake work in the wheel loader, instead.
‘You won’t find many professional stick rake operators with bulldozers these days. The wheel loaders are far quicker – you get so much more done in a day with it. I need to get an attachment bracket from CJD Equipment, then I’ll be able to drop the bucket and attach to the bracket using the quick hitch system,’ Lethbridge remarked.
‘I’ve also put a set of scales on it and have started using it to weigh containers of grain. Now I can measure the grain out in 2 tonne lots instead of making estimates, which is what I used to do,’ he said.
While the SDLG LG946L wheel loader has performed flawlessly since Normandy Station acquired it last year, Lethbridge explains that – although he’d heard good reports about the machine from other operators – it was CJD Equipment’s customer service that was the main factor in his decision to make the purchase.
‘CJD Equipment have a man in Roma. If I had bought a wheel loader in Brisbane or Toowoomba and then had issues with it, I would have to pay a guy to come out here to the property and then go back and that all costs money – you’re looking at a couple of hundred bucks before they’ve even started on the job,’ he pointed out.
Normandy Station had an existing relationship with CJD Equipment. It had previously purchased a second-hand Volvo tracked bobcat from an independent seller; it had some electrical issues and, after struggling to resolve the problems, Lethbridge noticed a CJD Equipment sticker on the machine and decided to contact them to see if they could provide any assistance.
‘I have to say, the guy I dealt with was extremely patient with me. I don’t believe they sell that machine anymore, but he was able to research the history of it and managed to come up with a few little tricks that resolved the issues in the end,’ he recalled.
Last year, Lethbridge was at FarmFest, Queensland’s largest annual commercial agricultural business event, in Toowoomba; he noticed that CJD Equipment were exhibiting and decided to visit the booth.
‘Because I’d dealt with them recently, I saw them at FarmFest and thought I’d make myself known. They are a very professional company. Anyway, we got chatting and – what do you know? – four months later I bought a SDLG LG946L,’ Lethbridge related.
Hiring a wheel loader and getting a contractor in to do the work was never an option for Normandy Station.
‘Because the SDLG LG946L is such a reliable, all-round machine used for a wide variety of jobs, you don’t want to be waiting around for a contractor when something needs to be done. When work needs to be done – and it’s often urgent – it needs to be done right away. You need to have the equipment available then and there,’ Lethbridge highlighted.
Lethbridge jokes that Normandy Station hasn’t had the SDLG LG946L long enough for him to make any comment about the lifespan of the wheel loader, except to say, ‘I have no doubt that it will outlast me.’