Higher capacity mower means a longer wilt time
THE arrival on the market of a mower conditioner offering a potential output of 60ha a day (150 acres) has enabled a Sussex farmer-contractor to take out the weak link in his silaging set up.
"Ideally we have always needed a single mower which could knock down a lot of grass in an eight-hour-day to maximise wilting time and feed two self-propelled forage harvesters," explains David Butler, managing director of Wealden Farming, Uckfield, who has just bought the UKs first 8.4m (28ft) cut Claas Disco 8000FC mower conditioner.
On the silage contracting side, Mr Butler handles 1619-1821ha (4000-4500 acres) of grass and 1011ha (2500 acres) maize from field to clamp. This is with two teams: One built around a Claas 880 self-propelled forage harvester; the other around an 860 model.
He also farms – under various arrangements – 1214ha (3000 acres) divided between a 750-head dairy herd and 809ha (2000 acres) of cereals.
With the mower operated in front of a 250hp Claas Xerion, Mr Butler reckons he has as much control as is possible over the total silage operation. "To date, we have only cut about 150 acres, but in good crops of grass, we are getting 20 acres/hour comfortably," he says.
"That output will be more than enough to get well ahead of the 880s silage team – which will be its main role – and, when feasible, support the second teams 3m Kuhn mower, Autoswather and 860 forager.
"It is all about keeping the customer satisfied. We can wait, within reason, for good weather then come in and knock all the grass down quickly in the best of the day. That gives the crop maximum wilting time to get up to 25% DM. As a result, the cows eat more silage and milk better off home-grown forage."
The 8000FC replaced two conventional mowers – a 2.8m (9ft) front/ 3m (10ft) rear combination – and a sub-contractor with a 3m mower.
"Contracting is all marketing, there are no subsidies," says Mr Butler. "We need the right size of kit to keep unit costs down. We are now getting the same width of cut with two machines rather than three and we have saved a man mowing."
But the Xerion is the linchpin of the system. "If we did not have the farm work to keep it busy at other times of the year, we would not have been able to justify the capital outlay on it and, consequently, the mower." *
"Contracting is all marketing, there are no subsidies. We need the right size of kit to keep unit costs down," says David Butler.
High output capability of the reverse drive Xerion 2500/Disco 8000FC combination gives Mr Butler as much control as is possible over when to mow and achieve optimum dry matter silage.