7 June 2002


Wide trailed mowers and

self-propelled based

mowing systems appear

to offer plenty of capacity

for the contractors

silage-making operation.

Geoff Ashcroft looks

at two contractor

operations using very

different systems

WITH self-propelled foragers becoming increasingly more powerful, greater pressure is being placed on mowing systems to prevent harvesting equipment from being held up.

The options for those in search of high mowing output currently include wide trailed mower conditioners, or triple mower combinations often mounted on stripped-out self-propelled forager power units or wrapped around high horsepower tractors.

Contractor James Bell of Rebo Farm, Tetbury, Gloucestershire, opted to take the wide trailed mower route about six years ago and is now on his third 5m wide Kuhn Alterna 500 mower conditioner.

"The Alterna is a simple, high performance, rugged machine that suits our silage making system," explains Mr Bell. "It doesnt tie up a tractor like more complex front and rear combination systems and nor does it require a dedicated power unit that cannot be used for anything else."

Mr Bells silage making system extends to the Alterna 500 which achieves outputs of about 10 acres/hour on the back of a 240hp New Holland 8970 tractor. Grass is then raked up ahead of a 580hp New Holland FX58 forager. And for this season the firm has opted for a 14.7m wide four-rotor Kuhn 15021 rake to replace a 7.8m Claas Liner model.

"We had been putting 10m of grass into one, but the option of raking three rows together, to put 15m of grass into one swath in those lighter second and third cut crops will help to keep the forager working at a sensible forward speed," he says.

In addition to the simplicity of the machine, Mr Bell reckons he has the benefit of low owning and operating costs for the 5m machine. Though reluctant to reveal the terms of his latest deal for a Kuhn 5m mower, he says the cost to change a two-year old version for a new model was an offer he found hard to refuse.

"Spreading the costs of the mower over 3000 acres of grass silage and a further 1500 acres of haylage brings the cost of owning and operating to well below £1/acre," he explains. "And I believe theres more of a second-hand market for trailed equipment, than there is for self-propelled mowers."

But a new dilemma for the 2002 season might see Mr Bell rethink his mowing strategy.

More work

"Weve bought into another contracting business which has given us several thousand acres of additional silage work in the Bristol area," he says. "It means running a separate silage team in that area, using a 480hp FX480 forager which includes its own mowing outfit.

"We will have to see how this season works out, but the thought of saving on the cost of two tractors and two operators in favour of one high capacity self-propelled mower is an option I shall have to consider very carefully," he says. "If the costs and logistics stack up, one machine that can meet the mowing requirements of two silage teams will be a big step forward."

Above: Kuhn Alterna 500 gives the Bell operation a 5m cutting width. At 8mph, it is a system that can cut through 10 acres of grass/hour. The grass is then raked up ahead of a 580hp New Holland forage harvester.

James Bell reckons the Alterna 500 is a cheap option for high output mowing. "Before adding in the cost of tractor, labour and fuel, the mower costs less than £1/acre to own and operate," he says.