7 June 2002

FORAGER HAS POWER TO SPARE

Until Krone brings the 780hp Big X forager out to play,

the Claas Jaguar 900 remains king of the power league

with its 605hp, 16-litre Mercedes V8 engine.

Geoff Ashcroft sought the views of a Devon contractor

who operates such a powerful machine

WITH 605hp, the Claas Jaguar 900 self-propelled forager could hardly be described as wanting when it comes to available engine power.

And for one Devon user, it offers capacity to spare.

"I hire in extra tractors with drivers to pull my silage trailers, so I do not want to see them hanging around in the field waiting for me while I am foraging," says Peter Windemer of Wooda Farm, Townlake near Tavistock, Devon. "The Jag 900 has enough capacity to spare, although it does mean I do a small amount of waiting between trailers, but it keeps my hired-in tractors working to full capacity while I am paying for them."

It is sensible logic and suits the way that Windemer Contractors operates.

"We do not have enough work to keep a team of men employed all year round, so we make use of those with their own tractors at peak periods. It also eliminates the need to buy extra tractors that will only work for a few months each year."

Before switching to the 605hp forager, Mr Windemer ran a Jaguar 880, itself a powerful machine with almost 500hp on tap.

"But it was always on the limit and we suffer at the hands of catchy weather, so it was easy to fall behind with the 880," he says. "And putting five swaths into one with a Liner 3000 rake also proved too much for the 880. The easiest option was to find more power."

Where the 880 could achieve spot work rates of about 15 acres/hour, the 900 is capable of over 20 acres/hour, though actual output is much less. Mr Windemer says 180 acres/12 hours is a comfortable daily output.

"The difference is phenomenal," he says. "Against the 880, the Jaguar 900 has over 100hp extra, which goes to the chopping cylinder."

With the ability to dispatch 12t trailers in less than four minutes, Mr Windemer is pleased with the way the big Jaguar fits in with his workload. Bought in 2001, the machine has completed a full season of grass and maize, which last season amounted to 1740ha (4300 acres) of grass and 445ha (1100 acres) of maize.

Varied grass crops

"Customers want anything from one cut to four, so grass crops vary tremendously," he says. "But with the four-rotor rake we can keep the forager busy and working at a sensible forward speed of about 8kph in most crops."

While he has few complaints with the forager – a suspended cab similar to that used on trucks and better sound-proofing are his biggest concerns – the Devon contractor has considerable praise for the fuel efficiency of the Jaguar 900s 16-litre V8 Mercedes engine.

"It is very efficient and uses no more than 16 litres/ha (1.5gal/acre), which makes it as efficient, if not more so, than a tractor and trailed forager doing a fraction of the work."

The extra foraging output generated by the 605hp machine has brought about a slight change in the trailer fleet for this season – Mr Windemers two remaining 10-tonners will make way for 12- tonners, giving a uniform fleet size.

"We cant make use of larger trailers because of the narrow, winding lanes in this area," he says. "Short hauls from field to clamp means we can manage with four trailers, though they all have following axles to help manoeuvrability around the lanes.

"I have always maintained that I would run one silage team efficiently – albeit on a large acreage – rather than run two teams at half speed. And to do that, I need to have plenty of forager capacity at my disposal, which I believe we now have with the Jaguar 900."

Cheaper costs

But would he buy a more powerful forager if it were available? "Without a doubt, as long as it is not physically any bigger," he says. "For me, the higher the forager capacity, the cheaper my costs become, particularly as I am paying for tractors and drivers on an hourly basis."

But Mr Windemer warns that costings do demand a careful approach. "While fuel, labour and equipment prices have all gone up, rates have not. It makes it harder to justify buying high performance silage equipment particularly when rates are averaging out at about £93/ha when they should be more like £124/ha.

"But the ability to complete our existing workload in less time leaves more chance for a better quality of life, particularly if we have the capacity to avoid working 18 hours a day and seven days a week when silaging," he says.

It is an approach that Peter Windemer might just have realised. &#42

Peter Windemer is pleased with the output and fuel efficiency of the Claas Jaguar forager. "The higher the forager capacity, the cheaper my costs become," he says.

Getting ready to work: Now in its second season with Windemer Contractors, the 605hp Jaguar 900 offers capacity to spare. "Extra capacity makes it easier to catch up after bad weather," says Peter Windemer, who used the 900 last year to ensile 1740 (4300 acres) of grass and 445ha (1100 acres) of maize.