MOWER THE MERRIER FOR HIM

28 March 1997




MOWER THE MERRIER FOR HIM

THE Vicon HPC or High Performance Conditioner was developed to speed up grass wilting rate and make it easier to produce a high dry matter silage.

And this was exactly what West Midlands dairy farmer Philip Thornycroft was looking for following recent problems with wet silage which, on occasions, was under 20% dry matter. A decision was made to change the silage system on his 300-acre High Trees Farm at Shatterford near Kidderminster.

"I think part of the problem was caused by increasing the width of the mower. It left a big swath and slowed down the wilting rate unless the weather was just right," he explains.

"My target is to make silage in about 24 hours, achieving dry matter levels somewhere between 25% and 30%. The HPC seemed to be the machine which could do the job."

One of the design features which attracted Mr Thornycroft was the brush type rotor on the HPC, which uses nylon bristles to condition the freshly cut grass and encourage faster moisture loss.

Brush conditioning of grass is not new, and Mr Thornycroft had been interested in the idea when an earlier version based on a development from the Silsoe Research Institute made a brief appearance on the market.

"I like the idea of a brush conditioner but there were problems with the early machines made by Kidd," he says. "I also like the way the HPC spreads grass – quite different from other machines because it gives a full width spread and leaves a more even layer."

Mr Thornycroft was, however, less enthusiastic about the price of the HPC. He paid more than £10,000 last year for the smallest model in the range – the fully mounted AM 2400 based on a 6-disc mower with a 2.4m working width.

With about 200 acres of grass for his 120-cow herd, a £10,000 investment in a mower conditioner sounds extravagant but he thinks the cost was justified.

"It is a big investment, but I dont think there is another machine which can do the same job. It worked very well last year and, although the weather was dull when we were making some of the silage – particularly the first cut grass – we were able to make our silage in about 24 hours. We were also able to keep the dry matter percentage at about 25 per cent or above."

Mr Thornycrofts HPC covered 250 acres last year, including more than 90 acres of first-cut grass and a small acreage cut for a neighbour on a contract basis.

The silage routine starts with cutting in the middle of the morning using the HPC. The crop is then left until the following morning, when it is rowed up with a twin rotor Kuhn machine ready for the forage harvester to start work mid-morning.

Work rate with the 2.4m HPC taking the first cut in a heavy crop of grass was about 1.8ha/hour (4 acres) working behind a 105hp Case Maxxum tractor.

There were some problems, and most of these were caused by incorrect adjustments – the mowing height was set too low which caused some scalping in the first field.

Another problem was a slow working speed through using the maximum setting for the conditioning rotor in a heavy crop. Adjusting to a wider setting achieved better results and improved output.

The only other problem was a cracked headstock, which was repaired by welding.

Although this was disappointing on a new machine, Mr Thornycroft says it was probably a one-off fault rather than a design problem, and Greenland will fit a replacement headstock under warranty.

It is an easy machine to operate, according to Richard Needs who uses the HPC at High Trees Farm. He says all the adjustments are easy and accurate, and routine maintenance is straightforward.

More than 100 of the 2.4m fully mounted AM2400 models have been allocated to UK customers this year, but most of these are already sold. The HPC range also includes the larger 2.8 and 3.0m trailed models plus the 3.0m front mounted HPC.n

Supplies of the new Vicon HPC mower conditioner from the Greenland group were rationed to just four machines last year. Michael Williams visited one purchaser to see if the HPC had lived up to expectations

THE Vicon HPC or High Performance Conditioner was developed to speed up grass wilting rate and make it easier to produce a high dry matter silage.

And this was exactly what West Midlands dairy farmer Philip Thornycroft was looking for following recent problems with wet silage which, on occasions, was under 20% dry matter. A decision was made to change the silage system on his 300-acre High Trees Farm at Shatterford near Kidderminster.

"I think part of the problem was caused by increasing the width of the mower. It left a big swath and slowed down the wilting rate unless the weather was just right," he explains.

"My target is to make silage in about 24 hours, achieving dry matter levels somewhere between 25% and 30%. The HPC seemed to be the machine which could do the job."

One of the design features which attracted Mr Thornycroft was the brush type rotor on the HPC, which uses nylon bristles to condition the freshly cut grass and encourage faster moisture loss.

Brush conditioning of grass is not new, and Mr Thornycroft had been interested in the idea when an earlier version based on a development from the Silsoe Research Institute made a brief appearance on the market.

"I like the idea of a brush conditioner but there were problems with the early machines made by Kidd," he says. "I also like the way the HPC spreads grass – quite different from other machines because it gives a full width spread and leaves a more even layer."

Mr Thornycroft was, however, less enthusiastic about the price of the HPC. He paid more than £10,000 last year for the smallest model in the range – the fully mounted AM 2400 based on a 6-disc mower with a 2.4m working width.

With about 200 acres of grass for his 120-cow herd, a £10,000 investment in a mower conditioner sounds extravagant but he thinks the cost was justified.

"It is a big investment, but I dont think there is another machine which can do the same job. It worked very well last year and, although the weather was dull when we were making some of the silage – particularly the first cut grass – we were able to make our silage in about 24 hours. We were also able to keep the dry matter percentage at about 25 per cent or above."

Mr Thornycrofts HPC covered 250 acres last year, including more than 90 acres of first-cut grass and a small acreage cut for a neighbour on a contract basis.

The silage routine starts with cutting in the middle of the morning using the HPC. The crop is then left until the following morning, when it is rowed up with a twin rotor Kuhn machine ready for the forage harvester to start work mid-morning.

Work rate with the 2.4m HPC taking the first cut in a heavy crop of grass was about 1.8ha/hour (4 acres) working behind a 105hp Case Maxxum tractor.

There were some problems, and most of these were caused by incorrect adjustments – the mowing height was set too low which caused some scalping in the first field.

Another problem was a slow working speed through using the maximum setting for the conditioning rotor in a heavy crop. Adjusting to a wider setting achieved better results and improved output.

The only other problem was a cracked headstock, which was repaired by welding.

Although this was disappointing on a new machine, Mr Thornycroft says it was probably a one-off fault rather than a design problem, and Greenland will fit a replacement headstock under warranty.

It is an easy machine to operate, according to Richard Needs who uses the HPC at High Trees Farm. He says all the adjustments are easy and accurate, and routine maintenance is straightforward.

More than 100 of the 2.4m fully mounted AM2400 models have been allocated to UK customers this year, but most of these are already sold. The HPC range also includes the larger 2.8 and 3.0m trailed models plus the 3.0m front mounted HPC.n

Mower in action. The Vicon HPC spreads the crop across full cutting width of the machine.

The HPC uses two high-speed conditioning rollers: One a ripple-edged cage type, the other a nylon bristle roller.

Philip Thornycroft with his 1996 HPC silage.


VICON AM2400 HPC


Vicon AM2400 HPC mower conditioner

&#8226 Machine type: Rear linkage mounted working width; 2.4m

&#8226 Cutting mechanism: 6 disc mower

&#8226 Conditioning unit: Brush type bottom roller and cage type top roller

&#8226 Price: £11,430


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