Buyer’s guide to direct-cut wholecrop headers

Increased use of direct-cut harvesting techniques for wholecrop silage and energy forage crops has not only brought added work for large farms and contractors, but also for manufacturers of forage harvester front-end equipment.

Working widths from the 4m Quickcut to the 7.6m Dominoni Domai cater for all sizes of forage harvester and output ambitions, and these purpose-built machines capitalise on disc mowing technology, using two or even three beds, built either in-house or sourced from familiar mower manufacturers.

Italy’s Dominoni and Zurn Harvesting in Germany take the latter route with Kuhn disc mower beds, while the Italian manufacturers Capello and Marangon prefer to build their own.

See also: Driver’s view: John Deere 8600 self-propelled forager

Understandably, Claas and Krone install their in-house mowing hardware, complete with the latest quick-change blades and drivetrain protection mechanisms.

One challenge for the independent manufacturers is to produce mounting frames and drive couplings that match the front-end arrangements of different foragers.

The harvesters themselves have been developed in recent years to include faster-running attachment drives to reduce torque loads, particularly when operating these hard-working direct-cut attachments.

Harvesting energy crops for anaerobic digesters places particular emphasis on being able to feed large volumes of material into the harvester’s feed rolls.

Capello and Krone jointly win the “mine’s bigger than yours” trophy for their 900mm-diameter, high-capacity feed augers, with Claas, Dominoni, Marangon and Zürn settling for slightly slimmer dimensions of 800mm or thereabouts.

A gearbox that forms part of an unusual “up-and-over” shaft and gear drive layout for the Claas Direct Disc is matched by the Zürn Proficut in providing a choice of three auger speeds for different chop length settings and ground speeds.

Capello’s Spartan provides a two-speed gearbox and the Domai and Marangon headers offer a choice of two speeds through interchangeable auger chain drive sprockets.

An additional version of the Claas Direct Disc 500 features a full-width, height-adjustable paddle roller to help crop flow when harvesting crops of low stature, while the hydraulically shifted push bars and canopies of the Domai, Marangon and QuickCut machines give them the ability to tackle very tall crops.

A hydraulic push-bar is also available on the Proficut from Zürn Harvesting, and on the Claas machines when the side knives are added to cut through taller, tangled crops.

The wild card in this collection of headers is Kemper’s 300 Plus series, designed primarily for harvesting row crops such as forage maize.

But with multi-directional capabilities and high-speed sawtooth blades, Kemper reckons they are also capable of harvesting any hard-stemmed crops such as wheat and winter barley – as well as spring barley on a good day in a proud crop.

Capello Spartan

The Spartan is a relative newcomer to the UK and is now being imported by WM Agri. It is available in three sizes and caters for all makes of forage harvester.

Combine header specialist Capello uses its own disc cutting bed design, with drive transferred to the outer discs by a low-level shaft spanning the back of the header frame to a pair of UJ-connected bevel gearboxes at each end.

Capello Spartan header in field

The Capello Spartan with hydraulically adjustable cover and integral crop pusher bar

Each of the round discs has a conical top with sweeper sections to propel cut material away from the quick-change blades.

Bed drives are protected by a shear groove on the drive shaft of each disc assembly, so the shaft can be replaced without dismantling the entire bed.

Specs

  • Models Spartan 520; 610; 700
  • Working widths 5.1m; 6m; 7m
  • Weight 2,860kg; 3,100kg; tbc
  • Discs 12 (2×6); 14 (2×7); 16 (2×8), oval, cone-topped, quick-release blades
  • Disc bed Capello, welded, rear-mounted shaft and bevel gearboxes to discs at each end
  • Bed protection Shear groove on individual disc assembly shafts
  • Crop gathering Floating auger, 900mm diameter, replaceable flight wear plates, two-speed reversible gearbox and chain drive
  • Top cover Hydraulically adjustable for crops of different height
  • List price Spartan 520 £44,507; 610 £50,071; 700 £tbc
  • Available from WM Agri

The Spartan’s 900mm-diameter floating feed auger has replaceable wear strips on the flights and is driven by chain via a two-speed gearbox providing chop length adjustment for different crops and end uses.

The header has Hardox steel wear skids and is carried on a pivoting adapter frame. Sensors for auto levelling are optional.

Its cover and integral crop pusher bar are hydraulically adjustable to cater for crops of different height and a hydraulic-drive side knife can be added.

Capello auger

A 900mm-diameter auger gathers crop cut by Capello’s own disc bed

Claas Direct Disc

A height-adjustable paddle roller, designed to provide a reliable flow of material from the cutterbar to the auger in low crops, is a unique feature of the Claas Direct Disc 500P header.

Also available in standard form without a roller, it can have side knives at either or both ends and a full-width pusher bar is optional for taller crops.

Claas Direct Disc in field

The Claas Direct Disc has a divided disc cutterbar with drive to each end via overhead angled shafts and gearboxes

Two Disco Max Cut mowing beds are employed, each with top-down drive from overhead angled propeller shafts and bevel gearboxes to the outer discs.

A wave-shaped leading edge places the quick-change blades of the flat-topped discs as far forward as possible.

Mechanical balance control and skid-assisted ground pressure control aims to achieve a consistent mowing height.

Specs

  • Models Direct Disc 500/500P; Direct Disc 600/600P
  • Working widths 5.1m; 5.9m
  • Weight 2,700kg; 2,900kg
  • Discs 12 (2×6); 14 (2×7), squared off oval, flat-topped, quick-change blades
  • Disc bed Claas, bolted, angled overhead propeller shafts to bevel gearboxes driving penultimate discs at each end
  • Bed protection Overload shear point on individual disc assemblies
  • Crop gathering Spring-loaded auger, 800mm diameter, three-speed shaft/gearbox drive, non-reversible
  • Top cover Fixed, lift-up central access panel, optional height-adjustable crop deflector bar
  • List price Direct Disc 500 £54,200; 600 £70,040
  • Available from Claas UK

There is a three-speed drive to the auger via an end-mounted gearbox (plus chain transfer to the optional paddle roller on the P version) for different working speeds and crop volumes, with a hydraulic clutch enabling the cutterbar and auger to be started up in sequence under full power.

Claas Direct Cut header

Regular Direct Disc has just an 800mm gathering auger but the ‘P’ version also has a height-adjustable paddle roller to help keep short crops moving

Dominoni Domai MPD

Two or three Kuhn GMD disc cutterbars are used in the Domai MPD direct-cut header, which is available in two sizes for any forage harvester make.

Drive from the forager goes to the left side of the header, where two speeds are available to cater for different crop volumes and working speeds by swapping sprockets for the auger drive chain.

Power is channelled to the cutterbar from a large-dimension chain in an oil bath by shafts into the top of the outer discs of each bed.

Stats

  • Models MPD-612L; MPD-760
  • Working width 6.1m; 7.6m
  • Weight 3,150kg; 3,920kg
  • Discs 16 (2×8); 20 (2×6 + 1×8) oval, flat-topped quick-change blades
  • Disc bed Kuhn GMD, welded bed, chain and overhead shaft/gearbox drive to outer end discs
  • Bed protection Disc clutch inside the header drive transmission
  • Crop gathering Floating, 800mm diameter auger, two-speed chain and sprocket reversible drive
  • Top cover Hydraulic adjustment for access and to improve performance in different height crops
  • List price MPD-612L £poa; MPD-760 £poa
  • Available from Frank Taylor Combines

The cutterbars have oval-shaped, flat-topped discs, which can be fitted with bolted or quick-change swinging blades.

Hubs are replaced by unbolting and lifting out individual assemblies along the all-gear drivetrain, which is protected by a disc clutch inside the header drive transmission.

Generous hydraulic adjustment of the push bar across the front of the cover caters for crops of different heights.

Kemper 300 Plus

The 300 Plus-series row-independent attachment is designed as a universal tool for harvesting any crop with a stalky stem, such as forage maize, wheat and winter barley, even when undersown with a leafy crop.

Each of the four models from 4.5m to 9m uses from six to 12 high-speed rotary cutters equipped with Tungsten carbide-coated sawtooth blades.

Kemper 300 Plus-series header

Kemper’s 300 Plus-series row-independent headers used mainly for maize can work successfully in pretty much any stalky-stemmed crop

The blades and gathering rotors are powered by an enclosed gear train incorporating a standard or optional liquid-cooled friction clutch.

Auto steering for row crops and electro-hydraulic header height and lateral tilting over undulating and/or very stony ground is also available for consistent stubble height, minimal
risk of forage contamination and reduced wear.

Specs

  • Models 345 Plus; 360 Plus; 375 Plus; 390 Plus
  • Working width 4.5m; 6m; 7.5m; 9m
  • Weight 2,050kg; 2,5350kg; 3,250kg; 4,000kg
  • Discs 6; 8; 10; 12 with saw-tooth blades
  • Disc bed Kemper shaft, gearbox and gear-train drive to blades and rotors
  • Bed protection Regular or liquid-cooled friction clutch
  • Crop gathering Tined rotors
  • Top cover None; pusher bar manually adjustable for different crop heights
  • List price 345 Plus £57,157; 360 Plus £78,260; 375 Plus £100,828; 390 Plus £119,803
  • Available from Anker Machinery

The three narrowest models fold hydraulically to 3m transport width, while it’s 3.3m for the 9m version. They come complete with protective shields and hazard lighting.

Kemper header

The Kemper headers have a series of tined rotors pulling the crop onto saw tooth discs

Krone X Disc

Propeller shafts along the back of the X Disc direct-cut header frame take drive rightwards to a self-tensioning chain driving the auger and to the left via a right-angle gearbox for the mowing bed.

The welded bed houses a continuous train of large-diameter idlers meshed with a smaller drive gear for each of the 14 “top hat” oval discs.

Krone X Disc direct-cut header

The Krone X Disc direct-cut header in action on a Big X 780 forage harvester

Impact protection is provided by Krone’s Safecut system, comprising a roll pin in the sprocket drive shaft that shears, and a mechanism that lifts the disc and its blades clear of its neighbours.

An overrun clutch allows the discs to slow to a stop when the header drive is disengaged.

Specs

  • Models X Disc 620
  • Working width 6.2m
  • Weight 2,800kg
  • Discs 14 (1×14) oval top-hat discs with quick change blades
  • Disc bed Krone, welded, spur gear disc drive from left-hand bevel gearbox behind bed
  • Bed protection Safecut shearing roll pin in sprocket drive shaft and disc lift mechanism
  • Crop gathering 900mm-diameter auger, replaceable auger flight wear plates, single-speed chain drive, reversible
  • Top cover Fixed frame, three lift-up openings for full-width access
  • List price X Disc 620 £61,575
  • Available from Krone UK

Replaceable Hardox steel wear plates are fitted to the 900mm-diameter floating auger, which is run at a single speed and is reversible in the event of an intake plug, and hydraulic-drive vertical side knives are available for working the header in tall crops.

Krone X Disc

A large-diameter 900mm auger gathers crop cut by the oval-shaped top hat discs

Marangon MDR/Foldbar

There are two distinct direct-cut headers from Italy’s Marangon – the rigid frame MDR 6014 (adopted as optional equipment for New Holland Forage Cruiser harvesters) and the three-section Foldbar 6216. Both offer similar working widths.

The folding model has up-and-over wing sections for a 3m transport width to avoid dismounting the header, and an optional support wheel to reduce road-going weight.

Marangon Foldbar header

Automatic couplings and proximity sensors allow the Marangon Foldbar header to be put into working configuration from the forager cab

There are automatically-aligned couplings and proximity switches for the drive shaft that traverses the back of the header unit, which connects with bevel gearboxes on the eight-disc centre unit and four-disc wing sections.

As on the rigid model, the Foldbar features Marangon’s own cutterbar, which has a continuous series of large-diameter idlers inside the welded bed to transfer drive to individual gears for each of the flat-topped circular disc assemblies.

These are said to be more resistant to impact damage than oval-shaped discs.

Specs

  • Models MDR 6104; Foldbar 6216
  • Working widths 6m; 6.1m
  • Weight 2,600kg; 3,900kg
  • Discs 14 (1×14); 16 (1×8 + 2×4) round, flat-topped, quick-change blades
  • Disc bed Marangon, bolted structure with torque-limiting shaft, bevel gearboxes, and idler gears to left-hand disc
  • Bed protection n/a
  • Crop gathering 830mm-diameter auger, spring-loaded, chain driven with multiple speeds using different sprockets
  • Top cover Hydraulically adjustable to suit different crop heights
  • List price MDR 6104 £54,450; Foldbar 6216 £89,300
  • Available from Quickcut GB division of Ryetec

Crop is drawn to the centre of the header by an 830mm diameter spring-loaded auger, driven from the disc driveshaft by a transfer chain with sprockets of different sizes supplied to adjust the auger speed for different crops.

Apart from having a rigid frame and 14 discs, the MDR model has much the same features, including a hydraulically-adjustable cover to cater for different crop heights.

Marangon Foldbar 6126

The Marangon Foldbar 6126 in transport mode – a support wheel is available to reduce weight on the machine

Quickcut Genisis II

The Quickcut QC4010 uses a 4m Marangon cutterbar and is the narrowest direct-cut header available, so is suited to farms and contracting outfits covering smaller acreages.

It comprises 10 round, flat-topped discs driven by a lateral shaft and bevel gearbox, then a torque limiting shaft to a second bevel gearbox for the bed.

Quickcut QC4010

The UK-built 4m Quickcut QC4010 uses a Marangon disc bed and is for smaller acreages and forage harvesters

The welded bed structure contains a continuous train of idlers rotating separate drive gears for each disc unit, with ultimate impact protection provided by shear pins within the individual lift-out disc assemblies.

However, the rounded shape of the discs, which have bolted or quick-fit blades, is said to cut the effects of an impact compared with oval designs.

Specs

  • Models QC4010
  • Working width 4m
  • Weight 1,900kg
  • Discs 10 (1×10), round, flat-topped mid-discs with top-hat paddle discs at both ends
  • Disc bed Marangon, bolted, torque-limiting shaft, bevel gearboxes, idler gears to left-hand disc
  • Bed protection Shear pin on individual disc assemblies
  • Crop gathering Chain-driven single speed floating auger 830mm in diameter
  • Top cover Hydraulic height adjustment for taller crops
  • List price from £41,875
  • Available from Quickcut GB division of Ryetec

The 830mm-diameter fully floating auger is designed to deliver a uniform feed of cut material in tall or short crops. A fully perforated top cover can be opened on for access, and when chopping tall crops.

Zurn Proficut

A pair of Kuhn Optidisc cutterbars are at the heart of Zurn’s Proficut headers, providing 12 and 16 squared-off oval discs on gear-driven beds.

Drive from the forage harvester goes via a propeller shaft to a four-section powerband, then to an overhead full-width shaft with bevel gearboxes sending drive into the outermost discs of the two-part bed.

Zurn Proficut direct-cut header

Zurn Proficut direct-cut headers are available for Claas, Fendt, John Deere and New Holland forage harvesters

Discs are driven by a continuous series of gears protected by a shear-off vertical shaft in each disc assembly, accessible individually to insert a replacement.

The 808mm-diameter auger with replaceable wear plates on the flights is driven by shafts and chain through a three-speed gearbox for different feed roll rpms, cutting lengths and crop volumes.

Specs

  • Models Proficut 530; Proficut 700
  • Working widths 5.3m; 7m
  • Weight 2,960kg; 3,250kg
  • Discs 12 (2×6); 16 (2×8), squared-off oval, flat-topped, quick-fit blades
  • Disc bed Kuhn Optidisc, welded, propeller shaft drive from main gearbox to four-section powerband and full-width shaft with bevel gear drive transfer into top of outer discs
  • Bed protection Protectadrive shearing disc shaft replaced within individually removable disc assemblies
  • Crop gathering 808mm-diameter auger, three-speed shaft and chain drive, replaceable auger flight wear plates, aluminium/stainless steel auger trough floor
  • Top cover Manually opened access panels with separate hydraulically-adjusted crop deflector
  • List price Proficut 530 £60,910; Proficut 700 £65,530
  • Available from Zurn UK Harvesting

It operates above a trough floor constructed from aluminium reinforced with stainless steel.

On the fixed-frame cover, two lift-up panels provide access to components and an optional crop deflector bar is adjustable for height to cater for different crop types.

Crop deflector bar

The optional crop deflector bar is adjustable to for different crop types and heights