When farmers eventually get into the field to produce forage, running accurate machinery that has been precisely set up, is key to reducing impurities and improving forage quality.

The wet winter across Scotland has highlighted the importance of quality forage to sustain livestock conditions when housing indoors and reduce the dependence on external feed costs. Lessening impurities at harvest allows farmers to maximise the quality of the forage produced and this starts with operating the correct machinery.

According to Rhodri Jenkins, grassland product specialist at Kuhn Farm Machinery, now is the time for farmers to be assessing their harvesting machinery.

The Scottish Farmer: Rhodri JenkinsRhodri Jenkins

“Reliability is such an important factor and regular maintenance and replacement to run modern implements with innovative technology will continually help to reduce contamination. Farmers may be considering changing from a rake to a merger, introducing a baler wrapper combination, or contemplating film binding. All of these are modern ways to reduce impurities in the forage.”

Rhodri advises assessing the whole system before the season begins, to allow farmers to familiarise themselves with any changes and maximise the benefits. Part of this could be moving to wider machinery for extra capacity to beat the weather windows, or changing to a modern tedder, with improved ground adaption to reduce impurities in the forage.

“Tedders are often seen as a small part of the system, but poor tedding is an easy way for contamination to enter the forage. Setting up a tedder correctly is key to prevent tines contacting the ground and releasing dust, stones, and soil.”

Features such as Kuhn’s ground save control allow individual rotors on tedders, up to 17m wide, to oscillate independently of the carrying chassis, which means they follow the ground contours, rather than the angle of the machine. Rhodri says the small rotors and wheel design offer 50% less scraping and a faster drying time.

The Scottish Farmer: Knowing how a new baler with film binding works before harvest can make a huge differenceKnowing how a new baler with film binding works before harvest can make a huge difference

Farmers should also consider if changing to an asymmetrical tine length with a longer outer tine, from an identical length twin pronged option, could be useful for their systems, as Rhodri explains.

“This design allows the longer tine to engage the forage earlier, lifting it away from the sward, before the inner, shorter tine clears the rest of the crop. It ensures a complete mix of forage for even drying, and all the forage is gathered in from headlands.”

Adjusting cutting height for different crops and fields is so important for users mowing different areas. The wet weather will have affected some fields more than others, while there could also be wheelings that are larger than normal, so assessing the conditions before firing up the mowers is key. Rhodri says it isn’t only contamination that could be at risk either.

“Mowing blades contacting the soil will almost certainly bring impurities into the forage, but operators also risk damage to machinery and potentially unnecessary downtime at a key time of the year. Setting up implements for the conditions is crucial.”

The final area in forage preparation is rowing up for a following forager or baler, and, many farmers are considering belt mergers to replace rakes to reduce impurities.

“An incorrectly set up rake could allow stones and debris to enter the swath as it moves material across the top of the sward. In comparison, a belt merger employs a pickup reel to flick crop onto a belt to deposit it into a row, with the belt transporting the forage and not the sward.”

Mergers can also allow farmers to increase working speeds by up to 3kph with various working angles on the suspension system to reduce sward damage. It offers farmers a way to move forage into the swath that is free from impurities, he said.