CAN YOU KEEP UP WITH RAPID-FILL FORAGER?
With the ability to fill
12t trailers in 45 seconds,
potential owners of Claas
most powerful self-propelled
forager, the 605hp
Jaguar 900 could need a
lesson in logistics.
Geoff Ashcroft reports
SO youre considering buying a 600hp-plus self-propelled forager to get even more silaging output. But what about the logistics of mowing, raking, hauling grass to the clamp site and then keeping up with the volume of grass as it arrives?
This was the dilemma facing Cheshire contractor Anthony Parker when he put the 605hp Claas Jaguar 900 to work last year.
"Its an awesome machine with an enormous appetite," says Mr Parker, who operates from Fields Farm, Audlem near Crewe. "We only wanted more power for maize harvesting, but when youve got the horses, youll use them wherever you are."
Such an admission saw the firm re-evaluate the way it mows, rakes, hauls and clamps grass after only a brief period with the 605hp forager.
"After only a few days on grass silage last season, we needed to step back and assess the whole foraging team. The mowing operation, raking, trailers and the clamp all fell under the spotlight to make sure we made full use of the forager. Without addressing these areas, we might just as well have bought a lower powered machine."
The Parker team forages about 4450ha (11,000 acres) annually, of which 800ha (2000 acres) is maize, 202ha (500 acres) is whole crop and the remainder is made up of three cuts of grass. For the task, the firm runs two foraging teams – one using a 310hp Jaguar 820 model, the other based around the 605hp Jaguar 900.
"The 900 replaced a 481hp 880 model and has hiked our daily output capability to about 350 acres between the two teams," he says.
"The 820 gang suits our customers who want to remain involved, either with clamping, trailers or mowing. The 900 gang is an all-out high performance team capable of demolishing 200 acres/day."
Mr Parkers first dilemma when opting for the 605hp machine was to give the hungry forager enough grass to keep forward speed at a respectable – and comfortable – 5-8mph. To do this, he ran three mowing teams last season – one using a Claas Disco Triple mower combination and two teams using front and rear combinations.
"It was successful, but lacked efficiency and for this year we will replace the two front and rear combinations with a second Disco Triple, so two tractors can each knock down about 9m of grass in each pass," he adds. "It will raise our total mowing capacity to 400 acres/day and give us some spare capacity ahead of the two foragers."
Mr Parkers four-rotor Liner 3000 rake then collects five 3m (10ft) swaths of grass into one, neat row.
"Its essential to get good swath presentation, or the foragers wont run fast and smooth," he says.
Mr Parker reckons the 820 team, with only 310hp at its disposal, pretty well looks after itself, so the next problem was dealing with the 900s massive output capability.
"We changed our 10-tonne trailers for 12 tonners, which really are big enough for this area," he adds. "We can handle most silage hauls with four trailers, but on long runs, we have access to additional trailers."
And back at the clamp, a JCB 414 loader made way for a more powerful 416 model equipped with dual wheels up front and a 3m wide push-off fork. "A push-off fork means we can spread grass in thin, even layers over the whole clamp, so consolidation is easier to manage. And being 3m wide, we can spread a 12-tonne load in three passes."
Mr Parker reckons a team effort is required to get the best from the 605hp machine. Careful planning among trailer drivers means they dont all arrive at the field at the same time, nor all return to the clamp simultaneously. The emphasis is on a smooth, albeit fast, flow of grass back to the clamp.
"If the weather is closing in and we really have to lean on the throttle, we have the ability to fill 12-tonne trailers in about 45 seconds with the 900."
But for all the 605hp foragers ability, Mr Parker is aware of the advantages that two similarly equipped teams can offer.
"Switching to such a powerful forager has been an eye opener, though it doesnt take much to slow the 900s output to that of a lesser powered machine," he says. "In some respects, I sometimes think we might be better off running two equally matched teams on grass, with 450-500hp foragers. Logistically, and financially, it would be much simpler to manage."
"But our future plans depend on how much silage we are asked to make. As long as the maize workload continues, it will take a lot to convince me that I need a less powerful machine for harvesting maize." *