28 November 1997

Shovel just whats needed

Larger foragers have led to

demand for greater handling

ability at the clamp –

Matbro has responded with

a high performance loading

shovel. Geoff Ashcroft gave

it a workout

WITH 170hp under its hood, Matbros LS350-170 loading shovel has been developed specifically to match the high output of self-propelled forage harvesting teams.

"Silage making is becoming faster, and with more powerful self-propelled foragers appearing every season, many telescopic handlers are struggling to cope," says Brendan McGrath, Matbros sales and marketing director.

As a consequence, Mr McGrath sees a split appearing in the handling sector. "Telescopics are better suited to cope with the output from most trailed foragers, while the high capacity self-propelled machines will benefit from a dedicated loading shovel to prevent a forager from standing idle," he says.

Mr McGrath estimates the European self-propelled forager market to be about 1500 units, a third of which he reckons are already accompanied by loading shovels, a sizeable market to go at.

Production of the LS350-170 is scheduled to start at Tetbury in the new year and although the first couple of seasons are deemed to hold a tentative start, the firm eventually hopes to be producing between 300-500 units a year.

"Our earlier loading shovels – like many others on the market – were developed for industrial markets and not properly matched to the demands of agriculture," says Mr McGrath.

With the LS350-170, the firm is convinced it now has an all-out ag-spec machine. So what has improved? farmers weekly went to Tetbury to find out.

Visually, the LS350-170s rear end has undergone the same corporate styling of the smaller TR250-110 telescopic handler, but that is where any similarity ends.

Scaling the dizzy heights to the cab is a two-handed affair with access to the cab only from the left-hand side. Interesting to note, though, that there also steps on the right-hand side of the cab which Matbro says are for use only when using the window as an escape hatch.

Design helps

Prospective buyers will also appreciate the effort put into the cab design to smooth those long days spent pushing grass into a clamp. A high seating position, curved glass windscreen, deep side windows and four cab pillars help all-round visibility.

Over the front, the loader arm geometry is fairly unobtrusive and, while looking to the sides, there is no longer a blind spot between the front and rear wheels. Peering over your shoulder, it is easy to catch sight of the massive rear counterweight when reversing.

An air-suspended seat provides a jostle-free ride, although our test machine with wide profile 620/75 R26 Michelin M27 tyres was prone to bouncing at its 25mph road speed, carrying a heavy 3m (10ft) wide muck fork.

Stopping the outfit is a dual-line power braking system, charged from the hydraulics. Not so much a gradual system, as an effective one. Trying to apply the brakes in a smooth and progressive manner it is easy to end up with a rearranged face pressed up against the windscreen.

Air-conditioning and heating is much improved over the previous machines retro-fit system. Designed into the cab, it is below the seat, with filters used for incoming and recirculated air.

But it is the loaders joystick control which offers the biggest breakthrough in productivity after the cross-cab migration of the forward-neutral-reverse function. It resides on top of the joystick, in the guise of a black rocker switch and duplicates the function of the standard steering column control stalk.

The standard forward/reverse control stalk on the column also has a twist-grip function to select gear ratios in the six-speed powershift box. Frustratingly, the twist grip selection operates the wrong way round to change up and down.

Yet to simplify the twist operation, only gears two to five can be selected via the twist-grip. Fifth-sixth is an automatic change up when road speed exceeds 12.5mph and vice-versa when slowing down from its 25mph maximum. First gear can only be selected by using the kickdown function.

Kickdown gives access to the next lower gear and is available from two preselected gears: Third and second. It is activated by a button on the side of the joystick. Changing up after using the kickdown function can be achieved manually by pressing the kickdown button a second time, or automatically by changing direction.

Plenty of push

Each gear selected is displayed on an instrument panel on the steering column, and is prefixed with an F, N or R.

The combination of 11t operating weight, 170hp engine, torque converter/powershift transmission and limited slip differentials means the LS350-170 will push, and push, and push.

Stockpiling muck, it took a manure-drenched concrete surface and first gear when pushing into the pile to unsettle the machine and get all four wheels spinning. One would expect it to move 12t loads of silage in its stride.

If you are contemplating a 500hp-plus forage harvester, the Matbro LS350-170 should not be overlooked.n

11t operating weight combined with 170hp engine, powershift box and limited slip differentials means LS350 seldom struggles to find grip. Surfaces are no more testing than this muck-covered concrete pad.

Majority of instrumentation is on the right-hand console. Armrest-mounted joystick control now carries forward-neutral-reverse rocker switch (in addition to usual steering column-mounted stalk).

MATBRO DATA

&#8226 Model LS350-170.

&#8226 Engine 170hp John Deere 6.8-litre PowerTech, 6-cyl turbo.

&#8226 Transmission Clark-Hurth 6-forward, 3-reverse powershift with torque converter.

&#8226 Breakout force 7.3t.

&#8226 Bucket capacity 2 cu m.

&#8226 Operating weight 11t.

&#8226 Price About £65,000.