1 February 2002


Looking for maximum capacity for giving paddocks a quick trim? Then a trailed topper will

provide the solution, along with a number of other advantages. Mervyn Bailey reports

ALTHOUGH topping is one of those jobs that can be done at little cost, buying the cheapest topper around is not necessarily the best option.

These machines need to be robust to withstand running at speed across rough fields and capable of withstanding occasional assault by large stones, branches and other debris that finds its way into grazing paddocks.

For most farms, a basic tractor-mounted topper, typically 1.5-1.8m (5-6ft) wide, will suffice. But as farms gain more ground and the workforce dwindles, going to wider working widths will make the job easier to fit into a busy routine.

Some large mounted toppers, such as the Votex range, extend to 6.1m (20ft). But for stability, more so than power, such machines demand a good size tractor.

The principal advantage of a trailed topper is that a tractor of modest size, weight and power can operate an implement of generous working width. Most stock farm tractors will have no difficulty lifting a decent size topper, but the tractor must also be heavy enough to handle the implement safely during turns or when working on steep banks.

Transport width can also be an issue. While mounted in-line toppers are mostly constructed with a rigid deck, the largest trailed toppers have folding wing sections, allowing easier access down narrow lanes and through standard gateways.

Once in the field, however, offset trailed toppers offer some operational advantages. When cutting headland corners, the machine can be angled to produce a tight cut with good visibility of the cutting deck.

Trailed toppers are produced by a handful of Irish manufacturers. Abbey Machinery, Conor Engineering, Major Equipment – which also has a base in England – and Samuel J Wylie Engineering are the leading producers of such equipment.

Features common to all include hydraulic drawbar positioning, shaft and gearbox drive to the blade rotors and a spring-loaded drawbar.

Hydraulic changeover between transport and working positions is a more refined approach than tugging on a rope to release a catch and jumping the clutch to jerk the machine into position.

Shafts and gearboxes provide a more positive drive to blades than V-belts. Rubber doughnut couplings absorb modest shock loads and vibration, while shear bolts protect the driveline against damage from more severe impacts.

Abbey Machinerys two models have twin cutting blade rotors and, in basic form, a manually positioned drawbar. Hydraulic cylinder power is an option for changing between transport and working positions.

Conor Engineerings Grass Topper 8000TR has a cutting width of 2.45m (8ft) and will happily work behind a 40hp tractor, says the company. A wide angle pto is optional for users wanting to make especially tight turns.

The standard adjustable skids prevent the machine grounding over sharp undulations, while the rear wheels and the drawbar regulate cutting height.

In addition to its standard 2.74m (9ft) topper, Major Equipment produces the largest trailed offset topper on the market. The Major GrassTopper 12000 has a cutting width of 3.6m (11ft 10in), which – given a typical working speed of 7mph – results in a workrate of 6ha/hour (15 acres/hr).

The machines main cutting deck is 2.45m (8ft) wide, but it also has a 1.15m (3ft 9in) wing section that folds hydraulically for transport.

The big model shares many of its components with the 2.74m (9ft) GrassTopper 900T, which has shaft and gearbox drive to the overlapping cutting blades. Adjustable anti-scalping skids, the drawbar and the hydraulically positioned rear transport wheels regulate cutting height from 12mm to 205mm on both implements.

Optional stone protection is a unique feature of the trailed rotary topper from Samuel J Wylie Engineering. This comprises a hinged rail with fingers spaced at 100mm (4in) intervals, which activates the hydraulic lift circuit when it strikes an obstacle.

Oil released rapidly from a pre-charged accumulator extends the lift ram, raising the cutting deck quickly enough to clear any obstacle that would otherwise wreak havoc on the blades.

The 2.45m (8ft) Wylie Grass Topper uses drive shafts to transmit power to the cutting blades, which are overlapped and have damage-limited swinging tips.

Wylies second topper uses flails to cut material. Unusually, the 3m (10ft) cut machine has two staggered flail rotors rather than one full-width rotor. The idea being to eliminate a centre bearing and the strip of uncut material that would result, while also making accurate rotor balance less critical. Flails make it suitable for set-aside and rough pasture mowing as well as general topping. &#42

Samuel JWylie has developed an offset pasture topper that uses two staggered flail rotors to eliminate the strip of uncut material which would typically result when a full width rotor was used.

Abbey Machinery 00 353 6731278

Conor Engineering 00 353 91633197

Major Equipment 01524-850501

Samuel Wylie 028-8778 4420

Manufacturer Model Width Cut height Standard Drive Cutter Price

(m) (mm) tyres (£)

Abbey Abbey 8 2.45 50-200 750×14 Shaft/gearbox 2 blades / 2 rotors 2,579

Abbey Abbey 9 2.74 50-200 10×15.3 Shaft/gearbox 2 blades / 2 rotors 3,162

Conor Grass Topper 8000TR 2.45 12-205 750×14 Shaft/gearbox 2 blades / 2 rotors 2,885

Major GrassTopper 900T 2.74 12-205 10×15.3 Shaft/gearbox 2 blades / 2 rotors 3,600

Major GrassTopper 12000 3.60 12-205 10×15.3 Shaft/gearbox 2 blades / 3 rotors 6,750

Wylie Offset 8ft Rotary 2.40 25-250 6.00-9 Shaft/gearbox 2 blades / 2 rotors 2,950

Wylie Offset 10ft Flail 3.00 25-250 10x80x12 Belt 2 flail rotors 7,775

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