Reliability and consistent performance in a wide variety of conditions are top of Elgan Bowen’s list of requirements when he chooses a mower conditioner.
He cuts over 809ha (2,000 acres) of grass in a typical season as part of a silage contracting operation that harvests a total of 1,416ha (3,500 acres) around Crymych in Pembrokeshire.
With both dairy and beef farmer customers increasingly aware of the importance of quality forage, Elgan says the pressure to deliver is as high as it’s ever been.
“When it comes to mowing, the priorities are for a clean cut and a well-conditioned swath,” he says, “and we’ll soon hear about it if the job is not done to the required standard.“Timeliness is also critical, more often than not. Farmers want to harvest the grass at the optimum growth stage or take advantage of good weather windows, so we need to maintain high work rates and avoid any delays that may result from breakdowns.”
Trading as K T and A E Bowen, the contracting business focuses mainly on grass during the summer months, with a five man team covering the entire operation where required, from mowing through to harvesting for clamp, round or square bales. Two mowing outfits are currently used, one being a triple gang, or ‘butterfly’ configuration, and the other a front and rear mounted combination.
The newest machine into the fleet is Kuhn’s FC 3115 D mower conditioner, which has been used as a prototype as part of Elgan’s front and rear mounted combination for two years prior to its official launch in 2020.
This 3.1 metre machine gives an operating width of 6 metres when used with a front mounted unit and includes all the latest cutter bar technologies and drive line engineering to ensure the efficiency and reliability required by the busiest contracting business. It is also vertically folding, which adds the significant beneficial features of compact transport, great manoeuvrability and reduced loading on the tractor’s rear wheels.
“One of the challenges we can face as contractors is access to fields, particularly getting in through narrow gateways, so in addition to the operation of the mower itself, we have to think about transport and manoeuvrability,” Elgan adds. “
The vertically folding feature on this mower conditioner gives it added value when it comes to tight gateways and narrow lanes. But that’s only relevant if the machine is reliable and produces the required level of performance in the field.
Kuhn builds its top of the range mower conditioners with both large scale livestock farmers and busy contractors in mind. They include a number of key features designed to deliver the combination of performance and reliability that are so vital when forage quality is on the line.
LIFT-CONTROL suspension is an exclusive feature on Kuhn mowers and mower conditioners and is key to the FC 3115 D’s in-field performance. In conjunction with powerful and constant pressure control, this technology allows precise ground following to ensure a clean cut and minimal soil contamination of the forage. This also provides an effective safety mechanism, whereby the machine moves backwards and upwards if hitting an obstacle, before moving swiftly back into work. This minimises damage, whilst maintaining efficiency of work.
The FC 3115 D also features Kuhn’s patented OptiDisc cutter bar, which has an asymmetric disc design that combines a quality cutting performance with high crop flow characteristics that help maintain efficiency of operation whatever the conditions. OptiDisc also includes features such as large diameter gear wheels and Kuhn’s Protectadrive safety within the disc bearing housings. This ensures the machine is robust in work with minimal maintenance requirements.
Replacing wearing components is an inevitable part of any contractor’s routine and, with mowers and mower conditioners, that first and foremost means the blades.
On the FC 3115 D, Kuhn’s Fast-Fit system is a standard feature, which Elgan sees as a major advantage.
“Maintaining a good set of blades on the mower is critical to its performance,” he says, “so the ability to change them with a simple lever as opposed to using spanners to loosen and tighten nuts and bolts will save us hours and hours over a season."
The conditioning unit on the FC 3115 D is a heavy duty pivoting steel finger system. Conditioning intensity is easily adjustable by switching between two rotor speeds and/or setting the conditioning hood in one of five positions.
“It’s important to be able to set the conditioner according to crop conditions or customer requirements,” concludes Elgan. “Again, if this is a quick and simple operation, it saves time and allows us to get on and do the job more efficiently.