If you could talk to the animals at Chester Zoo, they'd probably say how good the lawns and paddocks look after their John Deere machines have been at work.
The zoo currently runs a Z425 zero-turn mower, a TS Gator utility vehicle and a 2720 compact tractor, all supplied by local John Deere dealer Turner Groundscare of Tarvin, Chester. Horticulture & botany team leader Mark Hargreaves chose the new compact zero-turn mower after a visit to the IOG Saltex event in 2009, where he looked at about 10 different machines altogether.
"The mower is perfect for what we need, and has been an absolute godsend," he says. "We only have three hours to cut around 13 acres of grass before the zoo opens to the public at 10am, and it saves us a lot of time. One man can cut it all in a couple of hours, even including the car parks when necessary.
"It's light and extremely manoeuvrable, especially when cutting around our newly established borders and flower beds, and we can even use it in wet grass with no problems. The mower deck also features a mulching kit that allows us to cut and drop, which saves us 25 per cent on fertilisers throughout the year."
The TS 4x2 Gator is used every morning, carrying hosepipes, landscaping materials and as a general workhorse around the zoo. "The Gator does just about everything we ask of it, and is also a real help in getting various jobs done in time before the zoo opens each day," says Mark.
"It will run across any ground, especially on the grass in wet weather, and you wouldn't know it had been there. It's a very versatile machine, too - we regularly use it to tow a range of attachments, including a rake, brush, spreader and an aerator for spiking the lawns."
Andy McKenzie is a specialist keeper in the zoo's popular elephant house, which is the base for a John Deere 2720 29hp compact tractor equipped with a front loader and bucket.
"We use the tractor all day every day for general shifting and materials handling work," says Andy. "As well as cleaning out and reshaping the sand on the floor in the elephant house and out in the paddock, the tractor is also useful for towing tree branches and moving 1 tonne bags of grass for the elephants to feed on.
"It replaced an old lift dumper, as we needed something not just to pick up and transport the elephant dung, but to manage the sand as well, which this machine does well."
Horticulturist Andy Greenhaigh operating the John Deere Z425 zero-turn mower in Chester Zoo's newly planted fountain area, with team leader Mark Hargreaves on the TS Gator utility vehicle in the background.
Specialist keeper Andy McKenzie on the John Deere 2720 compact tractor in the zoo's elephant house.
Elephants in their paddock at Chester Zoo, which is maintained by the John Deere 2720 compact tractor - baby Nayan was born in July.