28 April 2000


COME spring, father and son silage-making team John and James Graves look forward to filling up the clamp.

Literally, in fact, as their buckrake is mounted on the front of the tractor rather than in the more traditional position on the rear.

"Mounting the buckrake on the front just seemed more logical; we had a decent tractor and wanted to utilise it properly," says John Graves. "Using it on the back, like we used to, is much more of a struggle."

Converting the 85hp Massey Ferguson MF 390 used at the time took little effort. To save on expensive bracketry and keep fitting simple, existing loader brackets were used to attach a Farm-Force 2t capacity SS20 Silage Special front linkage. Fitting, says John Graves, took barely an hour.

In addition to the more user-friendly operation and convenience of the front-mounting arrangement, the Graves wanted to increase work rates at 88ha (220-acre) Sewell House, near Carlisle, Cumbria, to keep up with their own 700 to 800t silage production and occasionally helping out a neighbour with clamp work.

"Work rates were very slow with the buckrake on the back because the tractor had only four reverse gears," says John Graves. "Working forwards gave us a choice of 12 gears, and that improved cycle times no end."

Using an 11-tine Wylie push-off buckrake, the outfit could clear a 6t trailer load of grass silage in just four goes, and without giving the tractor a lot of stick. Fuel economy, operating costs and general wear and tear benefited from the fact that the engine did not always have to be wound up to full revs to compensate for low gearing.

A further improvement in operating convenience and performance came when the front linkage and buckrake were transferred to a newer MF 390 with shuttle gearbox. This machine copes more easily with repeated changes between forward and reverse.

Fitting the linkage to this tractor takes about 20 minutes and involves just four bolts and two linchpins. Hydraulic services feed two single-acting lift rams to raise the linkage and a double-acting ram to work the buckrake push-off gate.

When buckraking duties are over, the front linkage earns its keep transporting round straw bales, using a twin spike adaptation of an old buckrake. &#42

Above: A 6t trailer load

can be shifted in four goes using the front-mounted buckrake, says John Graves.

Left: John Graves and

son James (in cab) like the

idea of looking ahead when carrying a load up the clamp.

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