7 May 1999

BACK TO FUTURE WITH A TRAILED FORAGER…

While self-propelled foragers

continue to dominate the

silage making scene, there

still remains a useful role

for the trailed forager.

Geoff Ashcroft reviews the

players and shares the

views of a farmer who made

the move from self-propelled

back to trailed forager

CHESHIRE farmer Alan Baldwin has made the switch back to a trailed forage harvester after tolerating two frantic seasons of self-propelled foraging at the hands of a contractor.

"You can never question the output of a self-propelled forager, but it didnt suit our covered clamps," says Mr Baldwin. "Although we could get grass in quickly when the weather looked uncertain, it was just too fast. We couldnt consolidate the clamp properly, so silage quality suffered."

He spent £2000 on a a 12-year-old Pottinger Mex V and took control of his silage making to get the forage quality his cows deserve.

Tidying up

"We spent about £500 tidying up the forager and weve now made our own silage for the past two seasons," he says. "It takes about four days to get our 130 acres of first cut in the clamp instead of a day and a half, but I can take my time and I no longer feel pressured to get the silage made."

Mr Baldwin uses his 125hp Case 1694 on the forager, has two trailers running grass to the clamp, while a tractor and buck rake take care of the clamp – a far cry from one self-propelled forager, five trailers, two buck rakes plus an extra tractor for rolling, and then two labourers on pitch forks for when the buck raking got too close to the roof of the clamp.

"It was all just too frantic," he says.

As added insurance against the Mex V giving trouble, Mr Baldwin bought a spare forager at auction during the winter – a trailed Claas Jaguar 60 – for £180. It, too, has been serviced and is ready to go.

"It was a bargain and if the Jag only does a couple of hours work while the mechanic fixes the Pottinger, it will prove money well spent.

"If you make a bad job of silaging then it will haunt you all through the winter – and probably cost you a small fortune in bought-in feed. This way, we can take our time, pick and choose when we want to mow and forage – then we only have ourselves to blame."

Current trailed forager models in the Ivybridge, Devon-based Pottinger line-up include the Mex IV and Mex VI flywheel-type machines. The larger Mex VI offers variable flywheel speeds of 540rpm, 590rpm or 620rpm. Pottinger says it is a feature which enables the available tractor horsepower to be matched to the foragers capability.

Claas, though concentrating its main forage harvester development on a range of self-propelled machines, offers two trailed foragers in its range – the Jaguar 51 flywheel model for tractors in the 70-120hp bracket and the Jaguar 75MD precision chop model for tractors up to 175hp.

Designed for small to medium-sized farms, the Jaguar 51 is said to be capable of outputs from 8-12ha/day (20-30 acres), using a 1.1m diameter flywheel equipped with segmented knives. Three small knife sections are used to form one of 10 larger blades. Unlike the larger Jaguar 75MD, the 51 does not require tools to set the shearbar, says Claas.

In standard guise, two chop lengths are offered; 8mm or 15mm, achieved by swopping the feed roller drive gears to vary the roller speed. An optional gear set gives 5mm or 22mm chop lengths.

With the Jaguar 75MD, chop lengths start at 7mm or 18mm. It uses a 24-knife cylinder which carries segmented knife sections arranged around the circumference of the chopping drum.

Knife protection is afforded by a metal detection system located between the front upper and lower feed rollers, with the result that feed roller drive is interupted, should a metallic object be detected.

Roller crop press

Pick-up widths for the Jaguar 75MD are 1.75m and 2.2m, and both use Claas roller crop press, which is said to improve crop feed-in when working in short, dry crops or uneven swaths.

JF trailed forage harvesters marketed by WestMac differ from other models on the market by using an upward cutting cylinder rotor.

The company says the power requirement is much less than conventional cylinder machines because grass is not carried around the chopping rotor housing before being blown to the trailer – it is cut upwards, then thrown straight up the discharge chute.

There are three models in the JF trailed forager range, the FCT900, FCT1100 MkII and FCT1350.

The smallest model, the FCT900, is suitable for tractors in the 68-130hp bracket. Using a 24-knife, 72cm wide chopping cylinder, the FCT900 offers standard chop lengths of 7mm, 15mm and 30mm. Additional chop lengths of 5mm, 9mm and 12mm are also available, by changing the size of the pulleys which drive the feed rollers.

JF FCT1100 and FCT1350 models offer perhaps the largest chopping cylinders of any trailed machine currently available and have been developed with output in mind. Both use a 30-knife, 90cm wide chopping rotor and are suitable for tractors up to 200hp and 225hp respectively.

Almost nudging the self-propelled league, the FCT1350 comes with a 3.1m wide pickup and uses a cranked drawbar design which enables the machines wide pickup to pass beneath the drawbar when folding for transport.

Cylinder and flywheel trailed forage harvesters are also available from Kverneland (UK), under the Kverneland Taarup brand.

The 622 uses a cylinder chopping mechanism and is said to produce chop lengths from 4-22mm. Pick-up widths can be 1.8m or 2.4m for grass silage, while a two-row maize header and direct cut disc mowing attachment are also offered.

Those looking for greater output could perhaps be interested in the companys larger Ten-X flywheel forager.

Suitable for tractors in the 110hp-200hp bracket, the Ten-X uses eight knives on a 1.2m diameter flywheel. Chop length adjustment from 14mm, 19mm, 26mm or 35mm is achieved by changing the feed roller drive, in preference to removing knives. Kverneland says a full set of knives is required to maintain capacity with the minimum of horsepower. Blower paddles around the flywheel ensure grass reaches the trailers when side loading.

To avoid blockages, the company has developed a pto shaft-speed sensor which monitors the input speed of the driveline. If speed drops below a predetermined limit, power to the feed rollers and pickup is interupted to prevent the machine from being overloaded.

Uncertainty currently surrounds the future of Mengele trailed flywheel foragers – the SH25N and SH40N – sold in the UK through Rustons Engineering Co (RECO). The Bidell Group, who currently owns the Mengele marque, is currently in liquidation, which has put the brakes on forager supply this season.

"We dont anticipate many models coming into the UK the for the 1999 grass season," says Recos Viv Richardson. "But we expect the situation to improve in readiness for the year 2000." &#42