A forage box is a must-have piece of kit for one-man-band farmers and contractors looking to get the grass in without turning to hired help.
Here Farmers Weekly catches up with Dylan Owen, Fron Farm, Talerddig, Powys, to see how his machine, a Pottinger Europrofi 1, has been performing.
Why a forage wagon?
We always used to get a contractor in with a trailed forager, but I was keen to take the silaging job back in house and was looking for a way of doing it without using too much labour.
The old-school forage boxes from the 1980s and ‘90s had a pretty terrible reputation, but when the new wave of machines with feed rotors began to come through in the early 2000s, I started to become interested.
Why did you go for a Pottinger?
Pottinger had a demo 40cu m machine that had been doing some testing work at an agricultural college. It had also been on the working plots at the Grassland show.
It came up for sale at just the right time, was the ideal size for us and only cost £21,000. The equivalent machine would probably be more than double that now.
How much work?
Pottinger Europrofi 1 specs
- Year 2002
- Capacity 40cu m
- Knives 32
- Axles Twin fixed
- Pickup width 1.8m
- Price paid £21,000
Since we bought the wagon in 2002, it has done 30ha/year on our own farm and about 120ha of contracting work for neighbouring farmers.
It’s all really local and we never haul more than half a mile, so we can usually clear about 24ha in a day. Our machine is as big as you could safely go on these banks, so it would be difficult to do any more than that.
What are its good points?
The best thing about the wagon is that it is so simple. It is 14 years old now and the only thing we have had to replace is the knives – but we’re only on our third set of those.
It’s also pretty easy to pull. I have our 160hp Massey Ferguson 6480 on the front and it has more than enough power to run it. However, I couldn’t get away with anything smaller, as it would get pushed around by the weight of the box too much.
We only tend to do one heavy silage cut here as the season is so short, so we will often have about 10t of grass on board plus the weight of the machine.
The build quality is also great – we have never broken a pickup tine and it is still on its original bed chains.
We are fairly fastidious about keeping it maintained though.
What are its bad points?
The tailgate is the biggest problem – it’s too heavy for the weedy hydraulic rams, so when it’s open, the rams flex and lock out.
Because they are only single acting, the only way to get it to lower is to drive off and let it slowly jiggle its way down.
We also had a problem a few years ago with some cracking on the knife bank. However, this was more our fault than the machine’s as we kept running it with knives that were a bit too blunt.
This put extra pressure on the frame and caused fractures to develop around the ram mounts and side frame.
We got a local engineer to weld it up and strengthen it and we haven’t had any problems since.
What is the silage quality like?
Our machine is fitted with 32 knives set at a fixed 43mm chop length. As long as we keep the knives sharp and the pick-up full, the chop length is pretty consistent.
But as always, the building of the clamp is the most important bit to get right. We always use side sheets and have recently started using the clear oxygen barrier sheeting too. We rarely get any waste.
Have you made any modifications?
The only modification we have made is to switch the wagon to run off the tractor’s load-sensing hydraulics, which has transformed the job. It’s as if the tractor has an extra 10hp and because it is not pumping all the time, the back end stays a lot cooler.
Would you buy another one?
I usually like to keep my machines fairly new and this is probably one of the oldest bits of kit in the fleet now.
However, there is so little that can go wrong with it and the price to change it would be so high that I’m not in a rush to upgrade.