Triple-mounted mowers increase mowing swath
The quickest way to get more field work done in your time window is to increase your implement’s working width. That’s exactly what the emerging trend of triple-mounted mower conditioners can accomplish for forage growers.
Using a front-mounted mower paired with two rear mowers on one tractor is a widely used practice in Europe, where it’s common for tractors to be outfitted with front PTOs and front three-point hitches.
Bi-directional tractors, which allow farmers to reverse the operating station and look out the back of the tractor during operation, were the first step toward using three implements in U.S. fields. Pioneered by Versatile and further developed by New Holland, bi-directional tractors proved themselves in mowing and loader applications, providing better visibility compared with conventional tractors.
"We sold our first reverse station tractor in 2001, and to date we’ve sold more Fendts with the reverse station to run butterfly mowers than with front PTOs," explains Ralph Witmer, CEO of Witmer’s Inc., an equipment dealership in Salem, Ohio—and the first Fendt dealer in the U.S.
While bi-directional tractors are still commonplace on many farms, larger operations and custom harvesters are looking for highly profitable solutions to improve productivity and efficiency with a machine that can serve multiple functions throughout the year.
The versatility of a modern high-horsepower tractor decked out with a front hitch and PTO is often a better fit for these types of operations. The tractors are commonly used with a
triple mowing system, to haul manure and work the fields in the dairy region surrounding the Great Lakes.
Before it was officially available, farmers interested in the front PTO configuration had few options. They imported European models or sourced a front hitch and PTO from aftermarket suppliers LaForge or Zuidberg. These solutions were often costly.
Eagerness to adopt the front hitch and PTO has led many farmers to purchase equipment without fully understanding the underlying safety and operational concerns. For example, European standards for PTO spline type, revolutions per minute and rotation differ from traditional North American standards. Farmers need to consult their local equipment dealer to ensure they are making the best choices so they can properly configure a tractor and front-mounted implement.
Expanding popularity. Mostly thanks to the existing market in Europe, manufacturers now offer a spectrum of mowing implements to match a variety of cutting and conditioning needs.
Triple-mount mower models are available from Claas, John Deere, Krone, Kuhn, Massey Ferguson and Pottinger.
The Massey DM1398 features TurboLift hydraulic flotation that adapts to ground contours.
The option of adding a front PTO and hitch ranges from $10,000 to $15,000, depending on the manufacturer. Most manufacturers recommend that farmers use a 190-hp or higher tractor to operate a triple-mounted mower conditioner.
The trend has picked up enough that Case IH, Challenger, Fendt, John Deere, Massey Ferguson and New Holland include the option on their order sheets. Farmers are also realizing that a tractor with a front PTO and hitch is a better fit compared with a self-propelled mower.
New Holland first offered an integrated front PTO with the launch of its T7000 Series in 2009. It continues to be available on newer models.
"The T7 LWB and the T8 Series can handle the triple mowers," says Sean Dorosz, tractor marketing manager for New Holland. "The tractors have the front hitches fully integrated into the unit. The closer the distance from the front mower to the tractor’s front axle, the better cutting and flotation of the unit. The New Holland T7 and T8 tractors offer some of the best integration distances in the industry."
Cut and condition up to 40 acres of hay an hour with John Deere’s triple-mounted system.
Case IH also offers the front PTO and hitch option on Magnum, Puma and Maxxum tractors.
John Deere started offering a front PTO option in 2011 on its 7R and 8R Series tractors. To pair with those units, the company introduced the Triple-Mounted Mower-Conditioner that provides a cutting width of almost 29' and a 10' transport width.
After acquiring Fella Equipment, AGCO introduced the Massey Ferguson butterfly mowing system, which pairs DM Series mowers with 7600 Series Massey Ferguson tractors. When teamed together, they provide a 30' cutting width and a compact 10' transport width.
"We designed the front mower to be more heavy-duty, like its counterparts that are used in Europe," says Jason Wire, hay products marketing specialist for Massey Ferguson. "Also, if the tractor has a CVT transmission, there is a special forager mode to increase its efficiency."
New Holland will be launching its new MegaCutter 530 rear-mounted triple-conditioner and MegaCutter 512 front-mounted mower-conditioner in the near future.
"In total, the MegaCutter mower-conditioners will boast a wide 29'6" cut. The wider cut of the front mower will allow farmers to use large flotation tires and improve the in-field maneuverability of larger high-horsepower tractors," says Gary Wojcik, New Holland’s crop preparation marketing manager.
Trend to continue. "Front PTOs will be increasing—it’s in its infancy," says Fendt dealer Witmer.
"There are a lot of ideas out there that if farmers didn’t travel, they wouldn’t know about them," he adds.
Witmer credits his five trips to Agritechnica, the world’s largest indoor farm machinery show held in Hanover, Germany, for his first look and impression of the front PTO concept.
"There are so many theories of how to farm, and we have a diverse customer base," Witmer says. "Our goal is to help farmers find the solu-tion they want."
"The triple-mounted mower concept provides the right solution for some customers," he says. "With bigger farming operations, they are mowing a lot of hay."