Mobility around the farm

Despite huge challenges Sam Bailey runs a 1250 hectare beef cattle property with Jenny his wife, former ABC Rural Reporter. They run a herd of about 180 Angus breeding cows. Sam uses a four wheel bike to get around the farm, drives a zero turn ride-on mower and has devised a hoist to get into farm machinery. He has also learnt to fly an ultralight aircraft and his next goal is to become the first quadriplegic in the world to fly a helicopter. He tells the story of how he achieved mobility….

Honda Odyssey

“When I first got home I couldn't get around the farm. My first mode of transport was this Honda Odyssey, powered by a two-stroke 350CC motor. The great thing about it was the fact it was all hand controlled, although it was a challenge getting in. Once in it, it had a big bucket seat with a full racing harness which saved my bacon many times. It was a great start because it allowed me to get away from my wheelchair but had a lot of limitations on the farm. I couldn't open gates, muster livestock or carry my dogs or anyone else. So I kept looking....

Four wheel bike

I finally found the solution to getting around the farm in the form of a four wheel motor bike. When I got my first one back in the early 90s they required modification via a handle on the foot gear controls but today I ride a fully automatic Honda 500CC four wheel motor bike. Its forward, neutral and reverse gears are easily accessible to the left of the handlebars. The only problem is that bikes are getting higher and I now need to use a small flat seat (I had built to help me get and off my zero turn mower). I transfer from my wheelchair onto the seat which slides onto a frame attached to the rear mud guard, then up onto the seat of the bike.

Ferris Zero Turn mower

In early 2007 I purchased a new zero turn Ferris ride-one mower because I was looking for a way of getting over the area I mow quicker, with the ability to get around the increasing number of trees we'd planted around the house and sheds. I settled on the Ferris mower because it was easiest to get on. We made a small flat seat which slipped onto the lever that holds the left control handle. The control handle than goes onto a steel peg on the front frame, giving me something to hang onto as I transfer. Once on the small temporary seat, I transfer across onto the comfortable bucket seat, and swap the temporary seat with the control handle. I reverse the process when getting off. Mowing is now an absolute pleasure.

Hoist gets me into machinery

One of the biggest frustrations for me early on was not being able to help with the farming on the place, which made up about 60 per cent of the enterprise at the time. Once I got up into the machinery, like the header, tractor, front end loader or dozer, it wasn't difficult to make minor modifications to drive them. The big challenge was getting up into the cabins because unlike a paraplegic, I had no upper body strength to drag myself up. Finally the answer came in the form of a small hoist (as seen below) the type often seen on the back of farm utes which I had modified to attach a seat to the end. The biggest problem was keeping it level when the hoist went up and down. We devised a see-saw mechanism which solved that problem. Now I can get in and out whenever and wherever I want, with the help of only one other person.

Wolverine is my new "legs"

Early in 2016 I acquired a Wolverine Yamaha Side-by-Side for getting around the farm which has been a major improvement on the four wheel bike. It has independent suspension making it much more comfortable which is important as I'm getting older. It is cooler in summer thanks to the roof, and warmer in winter because the half-windscreen and engine area protect me from cold wind. It also has an extra seat for a passenger and a rear tray for carrying tools, materials or the dogs. it required a modification similar to my car to put hand controls on the brake and accelerator, and the side panel was hinged to give me space to get in. (see below).

JCB Skid Steer is most useful tool

My most useful tool on the farm is my JCB 205 Skid-Steer, which has numerous attachments that can be used for jobs like moving around hay bales, feeding out cotton seed, repairing roadways and earthworks; digging trenches for laying water pipes for troughs, levelling, slashing, digging postholes and driving strainer posts. It required no modification because all the controls are by hand (see below). The JCB skid steer is the first to patent a side-opening door, which has made access much easier for me (at right).

The great thing about the JCB is it required no modification and I am able to get into it using the same hoist I use to get into the tractor, front end loader etc, thanks to the side-opening door. All I needed to do was remove the door strut so it opened completely.