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In addition to boosting output, the triple mower’s use of BX swath groupers lets the outfit put three into one, which avoids rehandling the delicate crop.

“We had been using a contractor with a front and rear mower combination with a grouper,” explains Steve Smith, farm manager at WH Gittins & Sons’ Wykey Farm. “But as demand has grown and production has increased, we found ourselves in need of better output and greater efficiency. And that included being in control of when and how much we cut.”

WH Gittins has been growing around 200 acres of lucerne for the past few years, adding it to the farm’s rotation which includes wheat, oilseed rape, triticale, energy beet, rye and maize.

It identified an opportunity to produce dried, baled lucerne for high-end dairy customers, with any surplus baled and wrapped for re-sale, or ensiled for its AD plant.

Lucerne is harvested on an almost continuous cycle throughout the growing season. Cuts are taken in quantities that suit the farm’s on-floor drying capacity, which can often see blocks of crop mown on a weekly basis.

“After a 24-hour wilt, we harvest the crop by forage wagon, and tip directly onto our drying floors,” explains AD plant and drying floor manager Sam Dutton, pictured. “With this much wider mower, we’re filling the forage wagon more efficiently, collecting three swaths instead of two.”

Supplied by Battlefield Machinery, the ISOBUS-ready mower is plug-and-play on one of the farm’s JD 6215R tractors. With CommandPro, Sam Dutton has total flexibility over controls and functionality. The front mower is run through the CommandPro joystick, with the butterfly rear assigned to the secondary joystick.

“I can lift and lower the rear mowers together, or individually,” says Sam. “And the 3332FT front mower is equipped with optional hydraulic folding outer guards, which is a neat touch.”

Another neat touch he likes, is the auto stop and start of the grouper belts, when the mower is raised or lowered.

“It’s a very easy mower to set-up and use, and being ISOBUS, I can tailor the controls to my own preferences,” he says. “Contour following is superb, the bed suspension works very well, and I have three preset bed pressures in the control box.”

Wykey Farm gears its production around available space on its five drying floors.

“We have the resources to dry crops,” says Sam. “But what we lacked was the ability to make full use of those facilities. Now we can mow on demand, and I can comfortably drop our weekly acreage in about 90 minutes.”

Sam says typical yield is around 10 tonnes/acre, but yield variation makes it challenging to determine exactly how much of an area to mow, to fill available floor space. Too much crop creates too deep a layer that hinders the drying process; and too little crop wastes resources.

“We aim for 15-20 loads per week with the forage wagon,” he says. “Sometimes it would fill the floor space, sometimes not. By taking control of mowing, we have the ability to just go and cut a little bit more with the triple mower, should we need an extra two or three forage wagon loads to maximise drying floor space and efficiency.”

Crop is gradually dried over a 7 to 10-day period, and is turned on a daily basis using a buckrake on either a tractor or telehandler. Once the target moisture of 8-10% is achieved, Lucerne is baled straight from the drying floor using a local contractor’s big square baler complete with linkage-mounted Hayxit 19 hopper and conveyor that feeds crop directly into the baler’s pickup.

“Knowing how adjustable the conditioner is, we weren’t overly worried about using a steel tine conditioner for lucerne – it had other uses for grass and whole crop rye, and will probably cut around 1,000 acres/year,” says Sam. “The conditioner hoods are fully opened in lucerne, so the tines are used only to transport crop onto the swath belts.”