10 mower-conditioners under the spotlight

As the first flush of spring starts to make us think of getting the kit out of the shed in preparation for silaging, we test ten of the most popular 3m mounted mowers for ease of use and technical performance.

For those thinking of investing in a new trailed mower, it’s easy to be a bit overwhelmed by the choice. All offer their own list of ‘unique’ features, and there are at least ten manufacturers claiming to make mowing run more smoothly.

We, alongside European test partners Le France Agricole of France, Top Agrar of Germany and Dutch publication Boerderij, chose ten of the most popular 3m (or as close as possible to) trailed mowers for the test. This accounts for around 95% of the mowers sold in Europe today.

The test was carried out over a week in the middle of May 2011 in Northamptonshire. Given last year’s early start to grass harvest, and the fact that any test like this has to be organized so far in advance, it was close to impossible to achieve ideal conditions.

The end of first cut silage was determined largely by being able to catch heavier crops between showers. The test site was located in Northamptonshire on a mixture of new and established leys.

Power Farming will be publishing the results for each of the mowers over the next 10 days:

1. Kuhn FC 313

2. Pottinger Novacat 305 H ED

3. Krone Easy Cut 320 CV-Q

4. FellaSM 310 TL KC

5. Lely Splendimo 320 MC

6. JF Stoll GXS 3205P

7. Kverneland 3132 MT

8. Vicon Extra 632 T

9. John Deere 331

10. Claas Disco 3100C

The test comprised three separate stages, and tried to replicate how farmers would assess any machine they had on demo, with a few extras that we used clever gadgets to work out.

Usability

Each mower was thoroughly explained by the manufacturer, then we were left to ourselves to assess how easy it was to hitch and unhitch the unit, how straightforward it was to set and maintain each machine and how easy it was to operate it in the field

Power requirement

Mowers are power-hungry beasts and when it comes to mounted mowers, one thing you want to make sure of is that your tractor can run it as efficiently as possible. We tested each mower at idle, running with and without the conditioner unit using a power dynamometer.

Dry matter

At the end of the day, the whole purpose of knocking down grass is to make high quality, palatable fodder for livestock. So, regardless of how each mower operated and how much power it uses, it has to do the job you buy it for. We used independent dairy specialists, Kingshay, to measure dry matter over a set period to see how each mower performed.

No test would be complete without its fair share of hiccups. And as anyone working with any sort of farm machinery in the field knows, it can seem that it’s one thing after another.

The power test dynamometer is a clever gadget that sits between the power take off shaft and the tractor and, using a complex arrangement of strain gauges, measures how much power it takes to drive an implement.

Unfortunately, after the seventh mower was tested, during unhitching something went awry, leaving the pressure in the mower and causing the shaft to bend when the mower was let down. This meant we were unable to measure the power requirements of the John Deere, Fella and Vicon.

Rain stops play…

The intention was to carry out dry matter testing in three-hour periods over 24 hours. However, overnight rain forced us to reduce this to 15 hours. This was enough to get enough information to assess each mower.

Pete and Richard Burbage, contractors near Flore in Northamptonshire for lending us fields for mowing and their yard, tools and support during the week’s test period.

Froment Testing Solutions (http://www.froment.co.uk/) for providing us with the power test dynamometer (and for being so understanding when we broke it).

Kingshay Independent Dairy Specialists (http://www.kingshay.com/kingshay/index) for conducting the dry matter tests and staying up around the clock to measure every three hours.