With forage wagons seemingly back in fashion, Farmers Guardian and The Irish Farmers Journal got four of the leading manufacturers together for an on-farm group test.
There is no denying self-propelled forage harvesters will always have a place when it comes to shifting silage, especially for contractors who need the speed and efficiency.
However, over the past 20 years, since they were last in vogue, forage wagon sales have risen considerably, up to 90 units per year.
Whatever the reason for buying one; whether it is the pursuit of taking control of silaging, rather than being in a queue, or a cost reduction exercise, or the idea of a rougher chop for better digestion, there certainly seems to be a forage wagon renaissance going on.
So with forage wagons in vogue, we decided to put four of the leading manufacturers to the test - Pottinger, Strautmann, Lely and Krone.
One of the key aspects of the machines we wanted to look at was operation and functionality, which is particularly important when assessing what these machines are like to work with on a daily basis.
Performance is important too, but with varying specification of machines and varying crop conditions and fields, this is more difficult to achieve, although speed of filling, crop flow and chop quality were all taken into account. Other areas we would be looking at were set-up and serviceability.
To try and get a good comparison of the wagons, each manufacturer was asked to provide about a 30cu.m capacity (actual volume) machine, which is the equivalent to about 50cu.m of compressed silage - a figure which some manufacturers like to quote.
The reason for this size choice is its popularity among farmers and contractors.
However, due to demonstration demands and machine availability, the four machines did vary in size and specification, so only limited comparisons were made, with individual verdicts drawn up for each machine.
To see what these machines were made of, we tasked them with 80 hectares (200 acres) of second cut silage to clear on a farm which threw up varying crops, field sizes and shapes, and distances to travel.
Power for all four machines came courtesy of New Holland, who supplied identical, 200hp T7.200s.
These came fitted with the firm’s latest IntelliView 3 touch-screen terminal with task control, which came in useful for checking machine IsoBus compatibility.
Four innovative features became apparent, one for each machine - Krone’s clever suspension system, Lely’s movable headboard, Pottinger’s Autocut automatic sharpening system and Strautmann’s CFS system.
As is often the case with these comparison tests, it would be great if one machine had all these functions. That would also be boring.
After spending a few days with these machines, we can safely say their reputation as a rattle box has been shaken off. All four machines were very smooth.
Compared to managing a fleet of staff and machines on a self-propelled team, it is a very relaxed way of silaging, with only yourself to shout at when it goes wrong.
Leaf loss and crop left in the field is also kept to a minimum. Chop quality was much of a muchness between the machines, with the way the crop is presented to the feed rotor the biggest determining factor. But on the whole, chop quality was impressive - not too many stragglers.
If you are to get the most out of these machines, we recommend plenty of power and tractors with load-sensing hydraulic capabilities.
You might think travelling will slow the operation down, and it does to a certain extent. But speed of filling is made up in the field with all the machines romping on in heavy swaths at about 14kph.
All wagons seemed to hardly make a dent on the land, but we had an exceptionally good summer last year. One downside, according to some users, is going up wet hills can throw soil into the pickup reel, contaminating the crop - you just have to plan your route.
And that is the good thing about forage wagons, you can plan your route where you want to start and finish.
The Krone was the definite surprise of the bunch, mainly because prior to this test not much was known about it. But it certainly delivered in terms of performance, build quality and definitely ease of use.
Its control box was particularly impressive, with a good level of reassuring information displayed. Despite its 35cu.m capacity, it did feel quite a handy machine to use and was agile both in-field and yard.
It seems quite a robust machine too, giving you the confidence to push on. And it is not too power hungry either, as we discovered when we tried it behind a lesser tractor.
So, if you are in the market for a forage wagon, then Krone is seriously worth considering.
Hats off to Lely for pushing the development of forage wagons and using what was once wasted space above the rotor and drawbar.
As a result, the Lely, even though it was not much longer than the 35cu.m capacity Krone, actually had 9cu.m more load space. One question though, where can you put an additive tank now?
Build quality is mostly superb and it uses a substantial-looking chassis, although, it is slightly let down by some scrappy interior tin work with some quite hefty burrs. At the rear too, its floor motor’s pipework does look exposed and vulnerable to collisions.
That said, it is a cracking machine to use, and with some more gee gees on the front, I am sure the performance would be seriously impressive.
Having operated the Torro 5100 over a couple of days, it was becoming easier to understand why Pottinger wagons do so well in the marketplace.
Build quality can only be described as excellent and operation is simple.
The clean finish afforded by the cam-track type pickup reel was impressive. Granted, it has more moving and wearing parts than a cam-less version and will require a bit more greasing, but for picking up grass cleanly it is hard to beat.
At the end of the day, it really comes down to user preferences.
And for shear convenience, the Autocut automatic knife sharpening system is a must - saving both downtime and fuel. All it needs now is a split knife bank to offer more chopping options.
Overall, given the manufacturer’s market strength, Pottinger’s forage wagons are hard to ignore when debating which one to buy. And with more features being developed all the time by the Austrian firm, the Torro looks set to get even better.
The Strautmann performed well throughout the test and certainly has the potential to save fuel, assuming the CFS roller is as effective as claimed. We have no reason to doubt that.
The cam-less pickup will attract those looking at the service side, and the double-edge knives are such a simple way of extending the knife and wagon operation time without having to re-sharpen them. While not to the degree of the Pottinger Autocut system, it is a simple method of increasing fuel savings and does compensate for not being able to split the knife bank.
From our impression of the machine, you can see why it should be on someone’s consideration list.
Krone MX 350 GL
Lely Tigo XR 75
Pottinger Torro 5100
Strautmann Mega-Vitesse CFS 3401
|Medium compressed volume||56cu.m||75cu.m||51cu.m||57.6cu.m|
|Maximum permissible weight||21,000kg||24,000kg||20,000kg||21,000kg|
|Feed rotor dimensions||1,640mm wide by 880mm diameter||1,750mm wide by 800mm diameter||1,450mm wide by 800mm diameter||1,640mm wide by 840mm diameter|
|Theoretical chop length||37mm||37mm||35mm||39mm|
|Maximum number of knives||41||45||39||40|
|Chopping options||0, 20, 21 or 41 knives||0, 22, 23 or 45 knives||0 or 39 knives||0 to 40 knives|
|Pick-up reel working width||1,900mm||2,000mm||1,850mm||2,000mm|
|Number of tine bars||Five||Seven||Six, using a cam track system||Six|
|Overall external dimensions||2,550mm (W) by 9,550mm (L)||2,750mm (W) by 9,750mm (L)||2,550mm (W) by 9,080mm (L)||2,550mm (W) by 9,290mm (L)|
|on standard tyres||by 3,875mm (H)||by 4,000mm (H)||by 3,980mm (H)||by 3,990mm (H)|
|Standard tyres||710/45 R22.5||710/50 R26.5||600/50 R22.5||710/40 R22.5|
|Brakes||Hydraulic standard, air optional||Air as standard, hydraulic optional||Hydraulic standard, air optional||Hydraulic standard, air optional|
|Minimum power requirement||125hp||200hp||133hp||140hp|
|* The Krone floor chain system has welded seams between the chain links so only the whole chain assembly can be sold. Price quoted is for a pair. One whole chain is £253.|
Krone MX 350 GL
Lely Tigo XR 75
Pottinger Torro 5100
Strautmann Mega-Vitesse CFS 3401
|Tine bands (stripper)||£19.38||£11.65||£18.06||£49.00|
|Floor chain links||£506.43*||£23.77||£10.45||£19.50|