Last year I took a ride on this 30-foot self-propelled mower, and was amazed how easily it mowed a two-acre field.
You’d think the big machine was far too large and clumsy, but it tackled the job like a flyweight, in and out of corners, because the New Holland S1900 forage harvester on which the mowers are fitted turns on a sixpence.
Couple this with hydrostatic drive, which means the engine and PTO turn at a constant speed, while the forward and reverse speed can be altered at will.
So the owner and builder, Welsh contractor Graham Parkes, could ease the machine around the twisty headland at slow and variable speed, while the mowers were turning at a constant working rate. His left leg had little work to do, as there’s no constant clutch dipping, the machine being controlled by a single lever.
Graham Parkes is a very busy farm contractor, who works all the hours in the day in the summer. Yet, to keep himself out of the kitchen in the winter he buys a scrap forager for less than £10,000, and adds three mowers to the front of it, making a unique machine that works better than anything else in the county!
Getting the mowing done quickly can make a big difference to the silage operation, for a large-scale farmer or for a contractor. Trudging around with a nine-foot mounted mower takes time, and the job is often done in the early morning, when grass sugar levels are at their lowest. But cut in the afternoon and early evening, and the quality — in terms of sugars — is much improved.
This machine mows at up to 9mph, and its best performance was mowing 34 acres in 90 minutes.
As you’d expect, in heavy crops, the 280hp engine works at full capacity, but still delivers nearly 100hp for each section of the machine, not too different to mounting a 10-foot mower on a 100hp tractor.
Converting the forager was more than hanging a mower unit on the front. The power take off in the front needed a drive from the crankshaft, and addition of gearboxes and splines so that it rotated in the right direction. This drive is then split into three on the top of the mower deck, identical to the Claas system.
The mower units are mounted on a heavy frame at the front of the chassis, and the frame needs to take the weight and stress of the side units as they are raised. Also needed is considerable hydraulic power to lift the side mowers, which are much heavier than the original forager pick-up. With all this weight on the front of the machine, the back was too light in transport, so counterweights had to be added.
One unforeseen job was moving the cab, which was too far forward for the mower units to fit in front. So it went back two feet, and was dropped six inches.
The work progressed quickly once the problems and requirements were identified. All Graham’s engineering is done with strength in mind, and the result is that the machine, built more than 12 years ago, is still mowing up front for his big contracting business.
You can see more in my Practical Farm Ideas issue 12-3; some readers might also like to read how a forager has been converted into a self-propelled hedge trimmer, as many of the difficulties are similar. This is in Practical Farm Ideas issue 20-4.
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