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Chop quality impresses at Norfolk demonstrations

Maize harvesting demonstrations organised by Thurlow Nunn Standen provided an opportunity for farmers to see the recently-launched Fendt Katana

Two mid October maize harvesting demonstrations organised by East Anglian Fendt dealer, Thurlow Nunn Standen (TNS), provided an opportunity for farmers in the region to see the recently-launched Fendt Katana self-propelled forage harvesters in action. David Williams reports.

The Attleborough demonstration provided a rare opportunity to see the only two Katanas currently in the UK working together in the same field. They are pictured with TNS and Fendt staff.

Two Katanas have been working in the UK this year, one in the north of England and one in the south, both operated by Fendt demonstration drivers. Full availability of the Katana 65, with 650hp, starts next year but the manufacturer has recently announced that it is expanding its range to three models, including the Katana 50 with 500hp, and a larger 850hp model, the Katana 85, which has its official launch at Agritechnica.

Initially three main dealers had been appointed to look after the Katana in the UK, covering the north, south and west areas of the country, but with the number of farms producing maize in the east of England increasing rapidly, the Norfolk demonstration days were arranged to allow potential buyers of the Katana to see it in action and decide if it would suit their needs. Thurlow Nunn Standen has six depots covering its Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridgeshire trading area and is considering adding the Katana to its long list of products on offer, so was keen to seek the views of its customers.

Growers from Norfolk and further afield took the opportunity to see the Katanas in action, and were impressed by the performance of the 650hp machines in the thick maize crop.

As well as the Katanas, there were new high specification trailers in use from Essex-based HM Trailers and Fliegl, all behind Fendt tractors, and at the silage clamp, adjacent to a brand new AD plant which was due to commence operation in the days after the event, there were clamp filling demonstrations involving a selection of machines.

The Challenger 765D special edition Viper, which had been admired by visitors to the Agco stand at many agricultural shows this year, was working with the latest version of the Sumo Quatro cultivator. In its very unusual paint finish it attracted considerable attention and with the 2013 show season having ended, the tractor is now part of the TNS demonstration fleet, and available to purchase.
The first demonstration was at Hall Farm, Tunstead, harvesting maize belonging to Aylsham Growers Renewables and the second was at Rookery Farm, Attleborough, the maize being grown for the new AD plant just a few miles away, the second event providing a very unusual opportunity to see both UK-based Katanas operating in the same field.

Many of the forage harvesters already operating in East Anglia have considerably more power than the Katana 65 machines, but Fendt claims that its chopping and cracking systems are very efficient, requiring comparatively little power. Both harvesters were equipped with Kemper 8-row maize headers and feedback from visitors to the demonstration was positive, many impressed with the output from the 650hp machines. The quality and consistency of chop was generally regarded as excellent and forage samples examined showed very few unbroken kernels.

The first run through the crop was made easy by the Katana’s impressive throw.

“We were delighted with the attendance and the response from potential users,” said TNS Fendt specialist Adam Inward. “The first day was mainly member growers from Aylsham Growers Renewables with other local maize producers, and the second attracted visitors from much further afield including Cambridgeshire and Suffolk. We were particularly pleased that some of the largest growers in East Anglia came to see the machines in action and their feedback and views were a big help to us in learning what features they look for and need.

“The quality of build, the chop performance and the output all came in for praise, and although the work rate of the 650hp machines impressed, most interest was for the forthcoming 850hp version, and we already have several requests for quotations to supply, as soon as the price and availability are confirmed,” he added. “The Katana has an easily-adjusted chop length from 21mm in grass to under 4mm for maize and at the Norfolk demonstrations we had the harvesters set up to chop to approximately 5mm, shorter than most local growers usually chop, but we were keen to demonstrate that even in the dense maize crop we were cutting, we could chop that short and still attain a good rate of work.”

Adam commented that staff from TNS had been enthusiastic about the Katana product since it was announced, but that the demonstration had impressed everyone present. “Many of our staff had seen the machines previously only on static display at shows, and familiarity with the Fendt brand meant that they expected the harvester to perform well, but seeing the machines in action as well as the positive feedback from those already involved in the business was very encouraging.

“Taking on the Katana franchise and providing the level of back-up that would be required by users would be a hefty commitment so being able to gauge the views of potential buyers at the demonstration days has been very useful, he explained.

The two Katanas were demonstrated by Fendt sales support specialists for self-propelled forage harvesters; Alan Haycocks (left) who has been looking after the machine in the north of England this year, and Andrew Davies who has been with the south-based machine. “We started the UK maize harvest in early October having been on grass until then,” said Alan. “The whole demonstration season has been very successful. Fuel consumption is impressive and works out at about 0.45 litres per tonne of maize harvested. It takes just five seconds or so to move the kernel processor in or out of its work position, a useful feature when alternating between grass and crops such as wholecrop or maize. Because it is so simple and quick users will engage or disengage it as needed, saving wear and tear and fuel.
“We receive a lot of positive comments from those trying out the Katana for the first time. The cab is comfortable and well laid out and users of Fendt tractors always comment on how similar it is to the tractor cabs. Visibility is good all around, and the suspension means the ride is excellent even on rough ground. Access for maintenance is good, the in-line engine providing accessibility from both sides. Operating costs and fuel consumption are very low and this is clearly important to users. I was involved with the Katana through much of its development and users were asked about the features and performance they wanted to see. Fendt listened and the resulting machine has what is needed. It has been a positive first year for us,” he said.

TNS Fendt specialist Adam Inward (left) is pictured with HC Beales & Co partner Charles Saffel. HC Beales is a family farming business and the owner of the land used for the second demonstration day. A long-standing customer of TNS it runs Fendt machinery and had supplied tractors and manpower for the demonstration. “We believe the Fendt tractor is the best on the market by far,” explained Charles. “The reliability is superb, they give us great fuel savings and the back-up we receive from TNS is second to none. Having had an opportunity to drive the Katana I found it very similar to the tractors and it was easy to get the hang of the controls even though I hadn’t operated a forager previously. Overall it is quite impressive, it does a good job in the field, the chop quality and cracking performance is excellent.”

The TNS show unit provided a useful elevated position to watch the Katanas operating in the tall crop of maize.

On the clamp at the brand new AD Plant which is being operated by SS Agripower three machines were in operation. It was the first public demonstration of the latest agricultural specification Caterpillar 924K wheeled loader (left) . There was a conventional Fendt tractor, heavily ballasted and with a hydraulic-folding silage blade (centre) and there was a more unusual looking machine; an adapted snow piste basher, being demonstrated in public for the first time.

Two high specification Fliegl trailers were in use. Both had hydraulic emptying, which could also be used to compress the silage in the trailer to increase carrying capacity. The smaller model (pictured) was a Gigant ASW258 version with twin axles, rear axle steering and 30m3 capacity. There was also a larger tri-axle ASW391 version, with a huge 45m3 load space.

The PistenBully piste basher is powered by a 430hp Mercedes Benz engine and weighs in at 11.2t, and UK importer Harry Kester of Off-Piste Agri says his company has begun selling the machines in the UK after having bought one and used it successfully this season on his own farm. “We produce maize and wholecrop silage for an AD plant and next year will be producing grass silage too,” he explained. “We were concerned about the safety of our operators working on the clamps, and in May this year we brought a machine over for trials. Our own machine is a 300hp version, which has plenty of power, but we have brought across this 430hp model for demonstrations and there is also a 600hp version available. The rubber tracks provide plenty of grip and good stability, but they also provide good compaction, vibration during use providing the pressure we need. We had silage tested this season and the density and quality proved ideal.”
Harry acknowledges that for some users the potentially short working season on the clamp might prove a concern. “It has a 3m travel width, and we operate on the clamp with a 4m blade,” he explained. “The vehicle is available with front and rear linkage and a PTO, and this season we are planning to use our farm machine for the drilling as well as other field tasks as it has the potential to be very versatile.”
The cost of the 430hp model complete with the 4m hydraulic-folding blade, an adapted cooling system and air conditioning is 125,000.

TNS is a dealer for HM Trailers, manufactured in Essex, and one of its demonstration trailers was in use at the event.

TNS is a main dealer for Kverneland products. Pictured with the 8-row Optima trailed drill are TNS harvest specialist Matt Boardley, and Kverneland key account manager for Kent, Sussex and East Anglia Don Campbell. The Optima displayed had a mechanical drive, but can also have electric drive, and was an HD version suitable for drilling in to mulch with up to 129kg coulter pressure as standard and an additional 100kg available using spring pressure, making it suitable for operation at higher speeds up to 12-14kph.
The drill also had a fertiliser application system fitted, each metering unit feeding to two outlets, one almost directly below, and the other, through a fan to one of the external sections and Don explained that by using this arrangement it has been possible to achieve application rates up to 300kg/ha with ease.
The metering units use a vacuum to draw the seed to the metering discs and two-stage singulation includes a coarse adjustment to cater for a wide range of seed sizes while a fine adjustment ensures reduced doubles. A pair of tapered press wheels press, and closes the surface over the seed.
Don said electric drive systems such as Kverneland’s Geocontrol are gaining popularity, providing accurate headland control even when rows meet at an angle, and providing seed savings up to five per cent. Geoseed goes a stage further allowing synchronisation of seed placement, maximising growing area for each plant and ensuring a constant feed for the harvester. Geoseed is available for spring 2014.

The Challenger Viper looked even better working in the field with the new Sumo Quatro than it had done at the many shows it attended this year.

Feedback from visitors regarding the new foragers was very positive and several requests for quotations were received by TNS staff at the demonstration days.

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