Lely Splendimo 280M Mower review

Brent Lilley reviews the smart Lely Splendimo 280 M mower which is designed to limit and even prevent damage caused by obstacles in the paddock.

Mowers lead a fairly tough life. Normally they’re the first machine in the paddock for the season, meaning they bear the brunt of any misplaced items left in the field, like old wheel rims, water troughs and strainer posts.

More often than not, I leave organising machinery tests to the last minute, but not this time. Back in autumn I was faced with the task of knocking down what some would describe as a forest of sorghum which had got away on us due the wet weather, and had also hindered hay and silage making last summer.

With my recently purchased Lely Splendimo 280 M on hand, and knowing I had an upcoming Hay and Silage feature I needed material for, I decided to put the new mower to the test to see how it would handle the crop and the less than perfect conditions.

The Splendimo was attached to a 130hp tractor and although I was cutting and feeding a massive amount of material though the mower, the tractor never struggled. The manufacturer believes that it requires as little as 65hp, but I’d suggest you might want a little more horsepower than this. Overall the mower made a tidy job cutting the thick sorghum systems off cleanly and laying the crop down in a nice wide swath to dry.


Cutter bar

This model, along with all other Splendimo models from Lely, is fitted with their unique modular shaft-driven cutter-bar, which has been a stand-out feature of Lely mowers for some years now. The cutter-bar is made up of modules of mowing units that rotate left or right, with empty spacers in between them. These modules are then held together under immense 70-tonne pressure with a chrome-steel torque bar that runs the length of the cutter-bar through the centre of the modules. This system of using modular parts means that the variation of models on offer are all built using the same parts; if damage occurs, individual units can be sourced and replaced relatively easily, rather than the whole cutter bar needing to be written off.

The drive for the mowing discs comes from a steel hexagonal driveshaft that runs down the length of the cutter-bar under the centre of the discs, and because the power is transferred directly from the shaft through a 90 degree gear to each mower disc, it’s much more efficient than traditional gear-driven cutter bars which have at least two gears that lose power between each mower disc. The 90 degree gear under each mower disc module is sealed separately from the other modules that make up the cutter-bar and are grease-filled. This means whatever angle the cutter-bar is at, the gears will remain lubricated, unlike oil-filled mower beds that can be running dry when working on hills.

If a mower disc does happen to hit something really solid and unforgiving, then firstly the drive shaft has some flexibility that will allow the disc out of time, and then return without any damage. If this is still not enough then the shaft has been designed to twist or shear so that nothing else is damaged. Lely claims the drive shaft can be changed very easily and quickly, unlike major damage to a gear-driven mower.



The Splendimo is a top-mount mower, so the cutter-bar is hung below a steel frame that’s connected to the headstock through a robust steel arm. This arm with a pivot-point on each end is what allows the cutter-bar to not only float up and down, but because the pivot is directly over the centre of the mower bed it can float laterally side-to-side when working on undulating ground, regardless of what angle the tractor happens to be on.

A hydraulic ram between this arm and the headstock is used to fold the mower vertically into the transport position, or lift the mower on the headlands and to set the amount of downward pressure on the bed. This pressure is adjusted by opening a tap on the mower, then adjusting it using the hydraulics on the tractor to set the desired pressure. Increasing the pressure in this ram lightens the mower bed, allowing it to float over rough ground with the help of an accumulator.

The Lely mower also has a top-drive system where the power from the tractor comes across to a 90 degree gearbox above the bar, then down through the first disc to the cutter-bar. This does away with the need for an inner skid, which in turn reduces blockages.


Headstock and Break Back

The headstock is constructed out of heavy duty steel box section, with several different mounting positions for the lower linkage arms and the top link to ensure that the mower can be coupled to the tractor to maximise its full width, no matter how wide the wheel track is.

The mower frame is connected to the headstock with a single pivot point one side and a unique parallel linkage on the other, allowing the mower to ‘break back’ if an object is struck. A unique ‘S’-shaped bar in this linkage causes the mower to not only move backwards but also upwards, which raises the mower frame and increases the pressure in the hydraulic cylinder. This in turn makes the cutter-bar lighter to ride over the object or alert the driver to stop. The weight of the mower frame on the ‘S’-shape linkage then causes the mower to move back to its original work position once it’s free from the object without the need to reverse to reset the ‘break back’.


Quick Change Blade System

The quick-change blade system was probably the biggest disappointment for me on the mower; it’s just not as simple or as user friendly as some systems I’ve come across on other mowers. None-the-less I’ll do my best to explain how it works so you can arrive at your own conclusions.

The mower disc has a hole through it and the blade fits to it just like if it was bolted on, except instead of a bolt a small steel pin is used. This pin comes up through the blade then the disc, and is secured on top with a small clip made out of spring steel; it’s a similar principle as a circlip on a shaft. Whilst Lely provides a tool with the mower that makes the task quite simple and easier than undoing a bolt, you’re left with two small parts that can be easily misplaced in the grass when changing blades.


The Verdict

Overall I was happy with how the Lely Splendimo performed. I was impressed by some of the design aspects including the modular cutter-bar and the ‘S’-shaped linkage in the break back, which limits damage caused by unwanted items that end up in the paddock. Overall it’s a great option for those in need of a robust mower for the upcoming season.


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Photography: Brent Lilley

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