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Significant opportunities to boost production from forage are possible through use of more advanced grassland machinery technology, according to KUHN UK’s Katie Calcutt.

Speaking at the lunchtime seminar slot at Ripon Farm Services annual New Year Show at the Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate, she explained the benefits of using a belt merger over conventional raking and provided an overview of the more innovative bale wrapping technology that offers cost savings, greater operational efficiency and improved forage quality.

KUHN’s Merge Maxx 950 belt merger, on show at the event, was the initial focal point in the seminar, this machine offering a viable alternative to a four-rotor grass rake. With two adjustable, variable width and bi-directional merger belts, the Merge Maxx offers a maximum grass pick-up width of 9.50 metres. The bi-directional design also provides multiple windrow delivery options: forage can be delivered into a single central windrow, a single lateral windrow (left or right side), two lateral windrows (one either side) or a central and left or right lateral windrow.

“Operational efficiency is a big factor with the belt merger, such is its capacity and flexibility,” said Ms Calcutt, “but there are also significant advantages in terms of forage quality.

“Auto-regulating rollers at the front and side of the pick-up unit self-adjust their position according to crop thickness. These in turn pass a consistent and constant supply of forage to the merger belts, thus enabling the machine to produce a uniform, airy and faster-drying windrow which makes it easier for the subsequent baler or chopper to collect large volumes of material: for forage harvesters this can equate to a 2-3 km/hr increase in forward operating speed.

“The Merge Maxx is also designed to collect a clean crop with minimal impurities, with this being controlled by three key design elements: articulated pick-up skids, powerful lift-control springs, and pivot points which provide vertical and angled ground clearance.  As well as ensuring good forage quality, less debris within the swathe also translates to less time and money spent on replacing blades and other working parts on the forage harvester or baler.

“The Merge Maxx can handle a variety of materials, including the most delicate forage crops as well as straw, and always preserves the full nutritional value of the harvest.”

 Katie Calcutt went on to cover bale wrapping, pointing to available technology that has the potential to improve forage quality and increase the efficiency of operations.

 “Making the best quality forage should be the priority for most, so for baled silage that means achieving a tight seal with sufficient wrap in the right areas to minimise the risk of air ingress during transport and storage,” she said. “KUHN offers technology such as 3D wrapping, a system that packs a tighter bale by removing more air and ensures the edges of the bale are better protected by creating a 20cm overlap across this vulnerable zone.  It also prevents rigid grass stems from puncturing the first layers of film by applying the film in the same direction that the bale is turning on the wrapping table.

“It’s important to have the optimum number of layers of film, and that will vary depending on a number of factors. On many KUHN bale wrappers or baler-wrapper combinations, there is the option of the Intelliwrap automated bale wrapping control system. In addition to allowing the flexibility of selecting single layer increments, this system combines sophisticated electronics and hydraulics to continuously monitor film overlap during the wrapping process to create the ultimate control and flexibility in a vital function.

“If speed of operation and efficiency of film use are priorities, then KUHN’s e-Twin system will be of interest. This technology is available on several round bale wrappers and applies two layers of film simultaneously, thereby reducing the amount of labour and fuel required to wrap a bale by up to 50%.  The system makes further cost savings by pre-stretching the film by up to 90% so that one roll of film can cover a larger number of bales.”

With greater production from forage a key part of future sustainable livestock farming, Katie Calcutt concluded the seminar by stressing the importance of modern machinery technology to improving efficiency of operations and the quality of conserved feed.