Contractors are in the middle of their first cut silage campaign north of the border.
Andrew Faulkner reports
VISITORS to last months Grassland 96 could be forgiven for thinking there is just the one method of making top quality grass silage: Mow, scatter across the field, gather back up and chop.
But, believe it or not, there are still those who reckon there is an alternative. And Scottish contractor D M Carnegie is one of them.
The South Grampian-based firm operates what most would call a traditional UK silaging system: Mow one day, pick up the next. Target dry matter is 25%.
"In this arable/beef region, most farmers are happy with 25% dry matter, and see little benefit in going higher than that," Dave Carnegie explains.
"Getting dry matter up to 30% and above with big tedders and rakes brings an extra cost – a cost most of our customers are happy to do without. Secondary fermentation can be a problem too."
Mr Carnegie has other reasons for avoiding the big tedding/raking equipment, now so dominant south of the border. Stones are a big problem in his area and he reckons rakes, when sweeping across a full width, tend to gather in too many. Forager, farmer and cow, alike, are none too keen on the result.
The one concession Mr Carnegie does make to higher dry matters arrived at the firms base earlier this month. An ex-demo Volac Swathwilter is now used to fluff up and narrow swaths in front of the Carnegies eight-year-old New Holland S1900 self-propelled forager.
"Because the Swathwilter has a slight sucking action, the tines can be set just clear of the ground. That means stones are far less of a problem," Mr Carnegie says.
The machines ability to tighten the swath is of benefit because the forager only has an old-type, 2m (6ft 7in) wide header; this was previously unable to cope with two 3m (10ft) mower swaths laid side by side. Ideally, the forager would be replaced by a machine with a wider header, but on just 200ha (500 acres) of grass and about 40-80ha (100-200 acres) of wholecrop the S1900 will have to do several more seasons yet.
Tractors are another matter. With the impending arrival of a New Holland 4900 big square baler, Mr Carnegie is currently debating over choice of a bigger flagship for the 35-strong tractor fleet. Although neighbours have been known to drag the massive Hesston-built baler with as little as 125hp, Mr Carnegie is taking the recommended route and looking for 150hp+.
Not a heavy, high hp enthusiast – current flagship is a 110hp New Holland 8240 -, he is after a tractor that is still versatile enough for year-round general work.
A prolonged spring barley planting campaign saw a procession of demo tractors hitched up to a hired 4m (13ft) Vaderstad Rapid drill. These included a 180hp MF8150, a 155hp Case Magnum 7210, a 135hp JCB Fastrac 1135, a 240hp Fiat G240 – the G170 was not available – and a 135hp New Holland 8360.
Obviously not all the tractors are directly comparable, but Mr Carnegies completely subjective comments go something like:
• MF8150: Too heavy for what we want. Dynashift gearbox was probably the smoothest of the bunch.
• Case Magnum 7210: Didnt try the tractor for long enough to get true impression. Again, too big.
• JCB Fastrac 1135: Superb suspension but turning circle was too wide when drilling – had to shunt on the headland (4ws not then available). Just the one clutchless split also a downside. A tractor with its place, but not at the Carnegies – for the moment.
• Fiat G240: Impressive, particularly with Super Steer axle, but too heavy.
• New Holland 8360: Good all-rounder and compromise between high hp and lighter weight. Big improvement on 40 Series.
Odds-on favourite, as you might have gathered, is New Holland 60-series. Preferred model is the 160hp range topper, the 8560; similar weight – 5.45t against 5.25t – to demo 8360, but packs a 30-horse bigger punch.
Deadline date for final decision: The Royal Highland Show.
• Work undertaken: All arable and livestock operations except specialist root crop work such as planting, stone/clod separating and lifting.
• Machinery fleet: 30 tractors (80-120hp), seven combines, two forward-control MB Trac sprayers, a range of conventional sprayers mounted on MB Trac tractors, New Holland Ford S1900 self-propelled forage harvester and four self-propelled lime spreaders.
• Labour: 35 full-time.
The Carnegie foraging fleet in full flight. Inset:Dave Carnegie.