AUTO FLAIL IS FASTER, EASIER
In the search for more output
when hedge cutting, one
Suffolk contractor has
invested heavily in Spearhead
Machinerys Auto Pilot flail
head float system.
Geoff Ashcroft reports
FROM Beck Row, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, contractor Brian Jarman operates a specialist hedge and verge cutting service throughout the fens. It is a workload which keeps him busy virtually all year round.
While there remains only a limited number of hedges to keep tidy for local farmers, the majority of Mr Jarmans work is carried out for the drainage authority, keeping the ditch banks free of reeds and rushes.
"There are, literally, miles and miles of waterways that need to be kept clear of weeds, to enable effective ditch maintenance to be carried out," explains Mr Jarman. "Its a demanding task with a hedge cutter, particularly when you have to constantly make adjustments to the machine when operating on rough ground."
But the recent addition of a Spearhead Excel 590 hedge cutter equipped with the firms Auto Pilot float system has changed Mr Jarmans outlook on the job.
"I no longer have to keep adjusting the machines flail head when operating on verges – it just floats and follows ground contours with ease," he says. "Auto Pilot has made my job easier and it has also allowed me to make a slight increase in forward speed – the job is not so slow anymore."
Mr Jarman also has praise for the quality of finish afforded by the machine.
"When the head floats, theres less scalping at ground level and theres also less stress put on the rear of the machine because the head doesnt drag on the ground, either," he adds.
"Auto Pilot is most noticeable when Im working on the spoil which has been removed from a ditch and not spread out properly," he says. "The tractor can pitch about quite a lot, which usually means my hands are working overtime on the hedge cutters controls – but not with the Spearhead machine. The Auto Pilot makes adjustments for me."
The Auto Pilot is a simple system which allows the flail head to float effortlessly over constantly changing ground contours. It uses a spring-assisted parallel linkage located on the end of the hedge cutters boom, onto which is mounted the flail head. As the head follows ground contours, movement of the parallel linkage actuates micro-switches which automatically controls the raise and lower functions of the main arm, so the flail head floats over ground contours.
But being used to a set of levers to control his previous machine – a 10-year-old Bomford 577 – Mr Jarman was initially sceptical about adopting the Spearhead joystick control and the Auto Pilot system.
"I didnt want anything too complex, or expensive – I just wanted to carry on trimming the ditch banks but with a more modern machine," he says. "But after trying the machine, I must admit that I was surprised at just how easy it was to operate. Auto Pilot is not a cheap option, but after using it, I would not want to go back to constantly tweaking levers all day long to keep the flail head in contact with the ground."
When Auto Pilot is not required, for example when cutting hedges, Mr Jarman simply disengages the system. Residing in the cab of Mr Jarmans hedge cutting tractor – an MF 698T – is the Spearhead control box, which comprises a proportional joystick control and a bank of electrical switches.
"The joystick allows precise control of the machine when Im not using the Auto Pilot system and it does enable very smooth movement of any part of the hedge cutter," he adds.
"Spearheads machine is much heavier than my previous hedge cutter and meant that I had to add ballast weights to the right-hand rear wheel and front end of my tractor to maintain stability," he says. "I should, perhaps, be using a heavier four-wheel drive tractor, but prefer two-wheel drive for its manoeuvrability. Two-wheel drive allows me to get right into the corners of fields to trim ditches and hedges without having to keep shunting the tractor into a different position."
Reach of Mr Jarmans Excel 590 is 5.9m which, he considers, is more than adequate for his work through the fens.
"Im not too far off retiring, so I hope the quality and reliability of this machine will ensure that this is my last hedge cutter," he says. *
Auto Pilot ensures a close shave
on uneven ground contours.
Right: Suffolk contractor
Brian Jarman reckons Spearheads Auto Pilot float system on his
latest hedge cutter has simplified machine operation and
increased his output when trimming banks and verges.
In-cab controls include a proportional hydraulic joystick and electric switches. "Theyre easy to live with," says Brian Jarman.