Fendt's first grass outing at Grass and Muck
Fendt are now a full grass equipment supplier, Alistair Chambers reports

Fendt had a serious line-up of equipment from their new grass range at Grass and Muck 2018. This was the first time that the German giant had attended the event and chose it to launch their two major pieces of kit. One that is well-known but is a different colour is the Fendt Tigo wagon. This was the first viewing of this machine in the Fendt green.

The Fendt Tigo wagon was demonstrated for the first time.The Tigo was used to pick up grass and also as a trailer to collect grass from the star of the show – the Katana 65 forage harvester. This machine has done some work in Northern Ireland over the last couple of seasons but this was the first public viewing of the green machine in the Republic. The harvester produces 625hp and come with four-wheel drive as standard. This machine will be doing demonstrations over the next while and we hope to get a chance to drive it in the near future.

A Fendt rake was on hand to row up to the machines.

A Fendt rake was on hand to row up to the machines.

Listen: 10 ways to reduce crop damage on your potato harvester
With the bulk of the main crop potato harvest yet to get under way, growers should be aware of the main points in a harvester where potato damage is likely to occur this season.

The challenging year continues as the main potato harvest was delayed yet another week due to the rain from Storm Callum. Despite the extra cost incurred by growers this year and likely yields reduction, markets are holding firm and this year’s crops stand to be the most valuable since 2012.

Therefore growers can’t afford to lose any marketable crop this year at harvest time. The potato harvester can be a significant source of potato damage if set incorrectly. This article points out the top 10 areas where damage is likely to occur.

Listen to "Key point on a potato harvester to minimise damage" on Spreaker.

Spotting area of damage

Harvester damage can cause potato bruising, scuffing or splitting through rough handling, dropping them from a height or rubbing and hitting the potatoes against components of the harvester.

It is recommend to check samples of the crop regularly. Mechanical damage will be obvious but bruising may take some time to show.

By placing samples in a hot press or beside the kitchen stove overnight, any bruising in the crop will soon become apparent.

If finding the source of damage is proving difficult, then stopping the harvester mid-drill and collecting samples from locations within the harvester where damage is likely to occur (such as from the share, the web, the haulm separator and the elevator) and inspecting them for damage may help eliminate the problem.

Jamie Doyle of Grimme Ireland was on hand to discuss the main points to watch out for in the harvester which could cause damage at a recent Teagasc/IFA field walk in Balrothery, Co Dublin. While the discussion centred on a Grimme GT 170 trailed harvester, the points discussed will be relevant to any harvester.

1 Haulm topper

Before checking any points on the harvester, ensure the haulm topper configuration is correct. The topper blades have basic row width settings but this don’t necessarily mean they will match the shape and depth of the potato drills. This could lead to the blades cutting into the drill and damaging the crops. Lifting the topper may prevent this but may also poorly fail the haulm, leading to damage further into the harvester. Ensure the blades adequately flail the crop.

2 Share width and height

The share width needs to be matched to the width of the bed to ensure the crop flows evenly and smoothly onto the web. Adjust the pitch of the share so that the blade is in line with the start of the web. Potatoes can be damaged if the share is set too low, causing them to hit the web. Potatoes can also be damaged if the share is set too high, causing them to drop when reaching the web.

3 Diablo settings

The position and pressure of the diablo roller or rubber roller affects the flow of soil over the share. Too much pressure can compact the drill and cause the share to run shallower, possibly cutting or missing potatoes. Too little pressure can cause the share to push the soil in front of the diablo, altering the height of the share and causing an uneven feed into the web. Some growers have reported potatoes forming higher in the drill profile this year.

4 Discs setting

Ensure the discs are not set too narrow as they could cut through potatoes in the drill. If the discs are set too wide, this could cause stones or clods to carry onto the web. If the disk is set too deep, then this could make the share run shallow, cutting into potatoes. Be careful to ensure the width between the disk and the outer share isn’t too wide – no more that 20mm.

5 Sieve web

It is important to carry enough soil on the web in order to prevent potatoes rolling back and being damaged. One way to help with this is to decrease the web speed. Dry soil conditions have proven a challenge for some this year, making it difficult to carry soil on the web. Check for bent or worn bars which may cause potato damage and ensure the outer belting isn’t worn as potatoes may get trapped between the web and the side panel. Some growers have switched to narrower webs this year due to smaller than average potatoes.

Bent or worn bars may cause potato damage.

6 Agitation

Web agitators can cause major damage if set too aggressive.

Web agitators can cause major damage if set too aggressively, if the crop is easily bruised or in dry conditions. Too much agitation can cause the soil to sieve through the webs too quickly and also cause potatoes to bounce on the web which will lead to bruising.

7 Haulm separation

The haulm roller should be set in a less aggressive position.

The haulm roller should be set in a less aggressive position with feed fingers (if present) set higher to prevent damage. If haulm separation becomes as issue, raise the haulm roller to increase its aggressiveness and lower the feed fingers. When digging crop with large volumes of haulm, raise the feed fingers to prevent blockages.

8 Cleaning units

Crop should be over the separators for the least amount of time as possible.

There are many different types of separators in cleaning units but, in general, crop should be over the separators for the least amount of time as possible. If the separators are set too slow, however, crop may build up in the machine. If they are set too fast, crop may bounce over the separators, causing damage.

9 Cart elevators

The speed of the elevators should be as slow as possible in order to keep up with crop flow.

Elevator speed can also be a cause of damage. If the elevator speed is too high, this will throw potatoes into the trailer/box, causing significant damage. The pockets of the cart elevator should be around two-thirds full and the speed should be as slow as possible in order to keep up with crop flow.

10 Off-loading

When filling boxes, a chute can be fitted to the end of the elevator to reduce fall and damage.

Finally, when bulk filling into the trailer, ensure the elevator is as close as possible to the trailer bed in order to minimise the drop. Layer the bed of the trailer first, from front to back, then gradually fill the trailer. When filling boxes, a chute can be fitted to the end of the elevator to reduce fall and damage. Fill boxes from the middle.

Read more

Main potato harvest under way

IFA potato report: potato yields back but quality good

Watch: growers still awaiting final Diquat decision

Is your straw blower set for the winter workload?
Peter Thomas Keaveney offers readers some tips on servicing a straw blower ahead of the winter housing period.

As Irish farms grow in size and with ever-increasing straw prices, straw blowers are becoming more and more popular. The use of straw blowers has proven to greatly reduce the amount of straw used in addition to reducing labour hours.

Many straw blowers on farms may have been parked up in early spring and, as the autumn begins to close in, the housing of animals will soon be on farmers’ minds. Like any machine, a regular service interval will play a huge role in determining the machine’s lifespan.

We take you step by step through servicing a used 2016 McHale C460, a straw blower that is used on many Irish farms.

Gearbox

The oil in the gearbox should be changed once per season or after 500 hours of use. To change the oil, open the drain plug at the bottom of the gearbox, draining all the existing oil.

The waste oil should be collected and properly disposed of. The drain plug should then be closed up.

Next, the breather at the top of the gearbox and the plug in the middle of the gearbox should be removed. The oil should be replaced by filling it via the breather at the top of the gearbox.

Gearboxes from different manufacturers will require different amounts of oil. This particular gearbox requires five litres of 80W/90.

The oil in the gearbox should be changed once per season or after 500 hours of use.

Rotor

The rotor on this machine is belt-driven from the gearbox. As a result, the cover should be removed and the tension and condition of the belt inspected. The belt is easily tightened by adjusting the tensioner between the two pulleys.

Typically, these machines run on 56 knives, but can be fitted with additional knives. The condition of the knives should be checked. If the edges are blunt or damaged, the knives can be turned around, as they are double-edged. If the knives are worn and if they have already been turned then it may be time for a new set. Each new knife will set you back €6.15 including VAT. The rotor runs on two bearings which should be occasionally greased through the centralised grease points.

Blower

The blower will usually operate maintenance-free. However, farmers should open the service plate at the front of the machine to check the positioning and condition of the shear knife.

To do this, it is essential that the tractor is turned off, the control box is disconnected and that all safety procedures are adhered to before inspecting the shear knife.

The knife should be positioned 1mm to 2mm above the tip of the blower. If it needs adjusting, there are two adjuster bolts either side of the housing that can be altered.

This V-shaped knife may need to be sharpened if it is damaged from contact with foreign objects such as stones etc.

Conveyor floor

The conveyor floor is driven by a hydraulic motor. The tension of the chains should be inspected. It is advised to have 50mm slack between the slat and the floor.

This should be checked by lifting the slat off the floor and measuring the distance.

Two tensioners either side of the back door can be used to adjust the conveyor chain. It is very important to check the condition of the chains and the U-bolts holding on the slats and replace if necessary.

PTO

The PTO shaft should be removed from the machine. The sliding profiles should be taken apart and checked for any bends. The sliding profile, the head and the crosses should be all greased. The lock pin should be inspected for wear. Most straw blowers will be fitted with wide-angle shafts so it is essential that the additional grease points are also greased. It is vital that all PTO covers and guards are fully functional. Covers are inexpensive to replace and ensuring operator safety is crucial.

Hydraulics and electrics

The control box should be connected up and all machine functions should be run through to ensure they work. The condition of all hydraulic hoses should be inspected for corrosion or damage. For those working in yards with an incline or for those working the machine in fields, the hydraulic hoses that run underneath the back door should especially be inspected.

There is a hydraulic inline filter at the front of the machine. The filter element should be replaced once per season. This filter will set you back €98 plus VAT. All rams should be checked for any leaking seals and the ram rods should be checked over for any corrosion. The main valve should also be inspected for any leakages.

Tyres and axle

The vast majority of straw blowers on the market are either mounted on the lift arms of the tractor or rest on a single axle, usually a static axle. A check over can be as simple as checking the torque on the bolts.

Tyre condition and tyre pressure should be assessed. Tyre pressure should be based on manufacturer recommendations.

The hubs should be opened up and the adjustment should be checked on the wheel bearings. They may need greasing.

Claas roll out new round baler
Claas has recently unveiled an updated Rollant 540 fixed chamber round baler.

Claas is certainly no stranger to the baler market and first introduced the Rollant round baler back in 1976, 42 years ago. This round baler was the first roller based system on the market, essentially the foundation of today’s fixed chamber balers.

The latest baler in the Rollant range recently revealed by Claas has a stronger chassis, new rollers and offers the option of either net or film wrapping.

New rollers

The new Rollant 540 produces bales that have a diameter of 1.25m (4.1ft) and a width of 1.22m (4ft). The updated round baler has a completely redesigned baling chamber including 15 new rollers that are manufactured from 4mm thick steel plate. These rollers have a serrated profile which according to Claas helps to maintain optimum bale rotation even under moist conditions. The machine is fitted with new hardened stub shafts, 50mm in diameter. These stub shafts are located on the input drive side of the baler. All bearing and power transmission functions are performed via these stub shafts. The new stub shafts are now bolted to the roller body, and can be individually replaced if necessary. Claas are now fitting the rollers with new double race bearings. The drive sprockets now use a roller spline system.The rams for the back door are located horizontally on both sides of the baler, to reduce the pressure and stress exerted on the tailgate and ram components, for maximum bale density, pressure of up to 180 bar can be applied.

All of the baling rollers on the Rollant 540 are driven from the left hand side of the baler. Each roller has a direct drive, and according to Claas this results in a “uniform force distribution to the rollers with a lower power requirement”.

Chain lubrication

The updated Rollant comes with beefed up running gear, including both chains and sprockets. The main drive and rotor are fitted with 35mm(1.25 in) chains while the tailgate rollers are driven with a 25mm (one inch) chain.

To help reduce the stress on the chains, Claas has manufactured roller sprockets that are larger in diameter. As a result, more of the chain will be in contact with the sprocket teeth at any one time.

The chains are lubricated via an eccentric pump. The lubrication interval can be altered from the control terminal. All the lubricating nipples of the MPS and tailgate are combined on the right-hand side.

Pick-up reel

The Rollant 540 is fitted with a 2.10m wide pick-up reel. The pick-up has two lateral feed augers that feed the material into the rotor. The baler’s optional chopping mechanism has 15 knives and according to Claas these knives have “a theoretical cut length of 70 mm”.

The knives can be swung in from the cab, and have individual protection against collisions with foreign objects. If a blockage occurs, the cutting floor can be lowered via the control terminal in the cab.

Net or film wrapping

The updated Rollant baler offers the user the choice between applying net or film wrapping. A user friendly ramp on the right side of the machine makes the task of loading the wrapping system that little bit easier. A replacement roll of either film or net can also be carried on the baler. For operating the baler, Claas have offered a choice between three options, the Claas Communicator, the Operator terminal or the ISOBUS terminal.