Lamma 2013 saw the debut of one of the first hedgecutters which combined forward reach and telescoping characteristics. Jane Carley meets one of the first purchasers of a Shelbourne Reynolds VFRT.
Yorkshire farmers and contractors GE and M Stockil specialise in hedge cutting and verge mowing as well as offering a bale wrapping service, and when the time came to purchase a new reach arm machine, the new VFRT from Shelbourne Reynolds caught the eye.
“I like variable forward reach machines as the cranked forward head gives a much better operating position, with no need to look back,” explains Tom Stockil, who works in partnership with father Michael, “And this was the first on the market that also offered a telescopic arm. The extra reach is useful on both hedge and verge work as we have some big embankments locally to cut up and down, but the machine remains compact and easy to transport.”
Proportional electronic controls are described as ‘very responsive’ by Tom Stockil.
Working in a 10 mile radius of their base at Markington near Harrogate, the Stockils are flat out with hedge cutting from the opening of the new season in August, following the combines. They progress to grassland farms and roadside work through the winter, cutting in tandem where possible for maximum efficiency. From May, grass cutting for highways authorities slots in alongside bale wrapping and in July, the pair tidy up gateways in preparation for the harvesting teams.
“I reckon to put about 1,400 hours a year on a reach arm machine,” says Tom Stockil. “But the VFRT is so much quicker that it should come down a bit. The rotor has three spirals rather than two and the standard flails are heavier than on other machines that I have used. Belt drive means that the rotor spins faster and there’s the option to open the hood right up to get heavier material in and cut faster.”
He suggests that on two-year growth, the improved cut and the 1.5m wide head can save him two passes; closing the hood down on roadside work keeps the material contained and reduces the amount of debris to be cleared up.
The Shelbourne Reynolds VFRT combines a cranked forward arm with a telescopic action, for improved reach and operator comfort.
Electronic proportional controls in the cab can be adjusted for sensitivity to increase or decrease the speed of head and arm movements which Mr Stockil comments is useful on different jobs, allowing the operation to be tailored to the terrain.
“The telescopic arm and VFR work together to make it easier to cut around trees and it is very good in corners – the arm can work behind the tractor wheel so you simply back into the corner without the need to slew.”
Shelbourne Reynolds’ design places the oil cooler on top of the oil tank rather than below, which he points out as a good feature as it tackles the rising heat and is out of the way from debris.
Currently fitted to a New Holland TS115A, the hedgecutter is to be partnered by a slightly larger tractor this year. “It’s heavier than its predecessor, especially with the 1.5m head, so the tractor is a bit light on the offside,” comments Mr Stockil. “Ideally we’ll be looking at 140-150hp which will also give us more weight.”
Opening the hood on the 1.5m head increases working speed and tackles two-year growth.
The VFRT was delivered in August 2014 and he says that Shelbourne Reynolds has worked closely with them to tweak the new design for the optimum performance.
“It is extremely well built, with a huge main lift ram and very heavy duty pins on the arm - it easily lifts the head even at full reach. All the service points such as the filters are very easy to access.”
“We were also impressed that the company wanted to sell a machine that suited our needs rather than direct us to the most expensive in the range – this is a 6.5m model which is a nice compromise between reach and compactness.”
Mr Stockil suggests that the policy is normally to keep machines seven or eight years, but with an increasing workload replacements may be more frequent in the future.
Plans are also afoot to add a third machine to complement the VFRT and Michael Stockil’s McConnel PA65.