The project was completed by West Wales contractor Graham Parkes, and the interesting part of the story is that this is still the mower he uses in his contracting business.
Riding shotgun on the machine soon illustrated for me why this mower is one of the best tools in the business.
The conversion took the thick end of a winter to accomplish on wet days and non-working weekends, and involved hiking the cab up and forward so as to get a drive shaft under it.
Then, the front part of the frame had to be re-engineered to make it sufficiently robust to take the weight of the three mower Claas unit. The mowers are so heavy that additional ballast is added over the back axle — necessary on the sloping fields of Pembrokeshire.
The completed machine is everything a driver could wish for. The hydostatic drive means the forward speed is independent of the engine rpm, so the mowing speed can be adjusted for conditions. The lever goes forward when conditions allow, and gets pulled back at headlands and when working short bouts. The sharp turning makes it easy to work around awkward pieces.
Talk to farmers who would never make or adapt equipment and they’ll tell you that the home-built is never robust enough, and won’t last many seasons.
But from talking to farmer-builders, the impression is that this is far from true, and this mower proves the point, as it has done 15 heavy seasons so far, and looks good for many, many more.
The 250 horse power engine provides ample power, always a necessity with big mowers. The engineering is simple and non-electronic. The cost is highly competitive; the forager has a value which is little more than that of the engine inside it. So the mower unit becomes the main expense.
Retired forage harvesters such as the NH 1900 are not difficult to find, and have a number of possible uses. We recently described one which was converted into a self-propelled hedge trimmer, with the machine mounted on the front in a similar way. The hydrostatic drive was as useful in this application; the machine changed direction and speed quickly, and at the command on a single lever. No clutch dipping, and finding that when you slow down, the all-important revs drop in concert, reducing the quality of work and slowing hydraulic systems.
nReaders in Ireland can get in touch with me here in Wales through the Irish Examiner office with their news of innovations large and small (021-4802365 or firstname.lastname@example.org).