Over the past five to six years, more and more contractors have been making the move to larger rakes to speed up the harvesting process. Gathering more grass into one swath in one pass results in less driving and less fuel consumption. This trend has followed the growing average horsepower of silage harvesters in Ireland.

Based in the village of Ardcroney near Nenagh in Co Tipperary, Niall Dwan and his son Alan run a contracting operation. The duo made the move to a Claas Liner 3600 four-rotor rake ahead of the 2021 silage season after having run a Claas Liner 2900 twin-rotor for a number of years.

They decided to hold on to the Liner 2900 after buying the new rake, in case it was needed for very heavy crops, to rake for the baler and in case the larger rake didn’t fit into some fields. However, a short while into the season, the team were surprised at how the new larger rake was well capable of working on all farms.

The operator

Machine operator Barry Shanahan said: “The first day the rake landed I really didn’t think we would be able to use it on a lot of farms. However, once I got used to it, the 3600 got in and out of gateways at its ease due to the positioning of the axle. The only thing to note is that it does have a tail swing. We operate the four-rotor rake at a forward speed in the region of 8-10km/h at 1,400rpm, and can cover up to 15ac/hour, with an average of around 12-13ac/hour.

“With the two-rotor rake, forward speed is a bit faster, while in good going we would cover 10ac/hour but average output would be back at around 8ac/hour.

“The same Case IH Puma 185 was used with the previous two rotor rake and is now being used on the four-rotor rake. Fuel consumption per hour is much the same, while output capacity has increased, meaning it is taking less fuel to do the same work. The four-rotor rake also moves each of the four rows, whereas the two-rotor rake pulled the two outer rows in on top of the middle row.

“This means it’s easier to pick the grass with the harvester’s pickup from the bigger rake as all the rows have been moved and none of the grass is left lying flat on the ground.

“Raking four rows together at a time compared to three rows with the smaller rake cuts out the need for a third headland run. With just two headland rows the corners are not as sharp and there’s less time lost,” concluded Barry.

Before they purchased the rake, the Dwans upgraded their 2019 Jaguar 870 to a new Jaguar 880, but at the time hadn’t intended on moving to the four-rotor rake. However, they noted that despite forward speed being reduced, output capacity still increased. Averaging a working speed of 8-10km/h, the Dwans recognise that intake volume is more important than increased forward speed. The new rake has a 45ft working width, and lifts four 10ft rows of grass at its ease, and more at times, compared to three rows with the older two-rotor rake.

Niall Dwan said: “We are very happy with the move to the four-rotor rake. The rake tractor is covering more ground in a reduced time, using less fuel.

“The only issues we have is where there’s bad tedding, we tend to use the smaller rake as the lumps are then that bit easier on the harvester. The big rake is also a great job for baling light crops.

“In general, our harvester’s forward speed has reduced, but we are getting through the ground quicker. We are filling the trailers quicker and we are losing no time on headland runs.”