Depending on how your silage season went, you may be contemplating your next trailed forage harvester buy. Before you make the decision of what is available, James Rickard put the latest machines to the test.
With recent trailed forage harvester developments from Pottinger and JF-Stoll, and the former Mengele chopper now in Lely clothing, we wanted to find out how they would compare in a group test.
But with now only three makes of trailed forage harvester available in the UK, you might think the trailed concept is just about dead.
Having faced near-extinction from the introduction of high capacity self-propelledmachines, and more recent competition from the forage wagon renaissance, does the humble trailed chopper have a future? Well, according to the remaining manufacturers - yes.
With a UK market of about 90 trailed machines and each manufacturer accounting for about a third of that, JF-Stoll’s Martin Holden says: “As long as there is still a market, we will keep producing and developing them.” This is a sentiment re-iterated by Lely and Pottinger.
Lely demonstrator Dan Woodward says: “For many UK farmers, the trailed chopper represents a way for them to take control of their silage season. Benefits include fuel savings when compared to a self-propelled, and better quality silage because the farmer can chop when he wants.”
Pottinger’s Shaun Groom adds: “The European market for trailed machines has pretty much dried up. The UK is about the only place which still uses them, and certain remote parts of Eastern Europe and Russia, where they use them for maize.
“In catchy seasons such as this year’s, the trailed machine can prove to be a valuable asset.
“Many farmers this year found themselves in a queue for the contractor and have resorted to dragging their old trailed machine from the back of the shed.
“Pottinger has also experienced several farmers almost panic buying trailed machines.”
With all three manufacturers up for a showdown, and a heavy first crop of silage beckoning, the stage was set. However, Pottinger had to pull out due to an over-confident farmer folding the manufacturer’s last available machine in half on a hillside.
Undeterred, we put the JF-Stoll and Lely head-to-head in a battle between the chopping cylinder and flywheel concept.
Apart from putting the choppers up against each other, we were keen to see the manufacturer’s latest developments. Not least, JF-Stoll, which has updated its 1050 machine with the 1060. It now features a crop press roller on the pick-up reel, increased pressure on the feed rollers, a larger diameter and heavier chopping cylinder and more vents around the cylinder for increased draft.
As for the Lely Storm 130 P, it has not really changed since its Mengele days.
It does, though, get updated controls and a new hydraulic draw bar with adjustable pin. But, would lack of development be its undoing, or is it a case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’?
To keep things fair, both machines were run together in the same conditions, with power provided by two identical Case IH Puma 160s, with a rated power of 160hp (200hp boosted when carrying out pto work).
Certainly the JF-Stoll has the edge on overall capacity, and it is definitely the easiest to use in-field.
Crop flow through the pick-up reel was particularly impressive, and its extra width really helps, even if it is a little wide on country lanes. Its redesigned chopping cylinder and extra vents made a noticeable difference to draft.
Even though its construction does not look as beefy as the Lely’s, there are still plenty of old 1050s and 1100s, well into their teens in use today.
The folding spout is a luxury and, unless your circumstances dictate you really need one, we would recommend a more manageable option.
Overall, we really rated the Lely Storm, but some developments would be good additions - a wider pick-up reel with a crop press roller and revised controls and electro-hydraulics.
Parked next to the JF-Stoll, the Lely appears to have the edge when it comes to build quality. The metal used in the structure, and especially the pick-up reel, is a lot thicker.
Without doubt, the Lely’s stand-out characteristics are its monstrous draft provided by the flywheel and its ability to handle lumps. Chop quality was excellent too.
Spout extensions are available for it - essentially the JF-Stoll’s was too big and the Lely’s was too small.
Choosing between these machines is difficult as they both have good and bad qualities. It is a shame we could have not thrown Pottinger’s Mex 6 forager into the mix to see how it would have fared.
Depending on options, prices for both machines are comparable and we know from experience both foragers last well with proper maintenance. For a machine such as this, the biggest deciding factor would probably be service back-up.
All that aside, though, if we had to choose, based on sheer capacity alone, we would go for the JF-Stoll, but only just. With a bit of development, we would probably go for the Lely.