Review: McIntosh MultiCrop 800 silage wagon
When Mark Masters and share milker Marc Jackson, of Toko in Taranaki, went in search of a new feed-out wagon for their 490-cow dairy farm, it was the McIntosh MultiCrop 800 that caught their eye.
Quite often, people think that, once calving and mating is finished, the workload for the dairy farming collective is on a downhill slope, having a two-month 'holiday' until the cows calve again. However, this time of year can often be one of the busiest, with maize harvesting, new grass being sown, cattle drying off and lots of ferrying of food stockpiles around the farm to keep the others milking.
If you are feeding out to large numbers or doing multiple loads each day, the need for reliable and user-friendly feed-out gear will be at the top of your wish list, as was the case for Mark Masters and Marc Jackson, who needed a robust wagon which would be used mainly for feed-pad feeding.
These Taranaki farmers decided on the McIntosh from C B Norwoods, Stratford, not only for its reliability and ease of use but because of the narrow wheel width and the extendable side feed, meaning they could get close to the bins to reduce wastage, which was the problem with their existing wagon.
Feeding mainly maize silage and PK blend, the overhang of the floor chains to the large 1200mm feed belt and the sloping foot of the rear tail gate got the seal of approval.
For the test, we had their most popular model, the MultiCrop 800, which has a capacity of 12m3 but pales in comparison to the largest model they make which has a 25m3 capacity and would look more like a moving house than a silage wagon coming down the road.
Design and build
The main difference you first notice about the McIntosh, over and above the majority of other wagons on the market, is that they are fully welded. Walls, floor and sides are all fully seam welded, which significantly increases the strength of the machine to tie it all together. The manufacturer does this using 3mm pressed steel with both vertical and horizontal ribs, giving the sides their strength. The bath tub design keeps tyres 10cm inside the width of the wagon which is a big plus on feed pads.
All machines have bumpers fitted to protect the side feed and mudguards to keep the wagons clean, which are removable in case they get bent (which they will). The skinny drawbar is also a positive for me, as you can often run out of turning room on the pad and ideally you want to avoid having the workers all crossed up with the wagon in a heap.
The amount of oil coming out of the tractor will determine the speed of the feed belt and the elevator while the floor is controlled through a control valve which allows the feed speed to be controlled from the cab with the large handle. It is also fitted with a pressure relief valve to prevent overloading both the elevator and floor chains so it backs off the pressure if there is too much weight on the elevator chains.
To help with longevity, the floor chains are driven through a heavy-duty reduction gearbox while the elevator chains are still chain driven for easy maintenance and repair rather than direct hydraulic drive (although this is an option).
Our test machine was fitted with all the fruit in the side feed department, with both the optional 200mm hydraulic extension and the 1200mm-wide belt, over and above the standard 900mm. Both of these options suited Masters and Jackson as they need to be able to feed big squares through the wagon. This is also accommodated by the larger belt and the hydraulic extension, ensuring all the feed is in the bins without having to actually drive in them to achieve this. When you look at the belt, it is quite a grunty-looking thing thanks largely to the oversized drive rollers equipped with a tracking strip to prevent slipping and to keep the belt true.
My only gripe about the side-feed was that when loading it, if the belt wasn't extended out, loose feed such as maize fell between the elevator chains and off the side of the belt and onto the ground. This wasn't a huge problem on the concrete loading area on this particular farm, however if you were loading on a pit without a concrete floor, majority of this would end up being wasted.
Our test wagon was fitted with scales, and both Masters and Jackson particularly liked the simplicity of the system as it was easy to explain to staff. All you do is simply tare the wagon before you start and what you see on the read-out is what you get. The monitor is easy to see and swivels to a good height when feeding.
A more deluxe version is available, with floor control being one of the appealing additional features. The system itself works by placing four cylinder cells under the body, with a double chassis arrangement. This is done to retain a fully supported drawbar while still utilising the added strength of the fully welded construction.
One thing I have learnt travelling around testing wagons is that there is a clear line in the sand between what South Island farmers and North Island farmers want. I have seen a few of these wagons in the South Island, which have been unable to withstand the punishment of feeding multiple loads on a daily basis to different mobs of cattle. This is usually seen on long carts that bounce around a lot when empty, causing cracking in the welds in the side supports, as well as chains stretching and breaking requiring constant attention. To me, this isn't entirely the wagon's fault, as McIntosh offers two chain options, 10mm and 13mm floor chains, and in addition to this three and four-chain floor drives can be specced in the larger wagons.
If farmers mostly feed pit silage with a shear grab and have staff feeding out 90 percent of the time, up-speccing the floor chains to the 13mm option for an additional $2500 is really money for jam, and if you just visually look at the 13mm compared to the 10mm it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that it won't take long to rack that up in repair bills.
These are great versatile wagons and where they really excel is on feed pads, feeding basic mixes. Sure, they will never be as good as mixers, but for half the price it's the same old story: you get out what you put in.
- Pressed, welded steel construction 'ties' the machine together
- High quality paint finish with the smooth side walls makes the machine look sharp and stop feed shelving on corrugations
- Large cross conveyor
- Extendable side feed belt
- Sloped foot on tail gate to reduce wastage
- Feed belt is positioned under the floor chains to catch fine materials such as palm kernel
- Large discharge hole allows easy access to elevator grease nipples
- Simple to use scales with easy to see digital read out
- Timber extensions are easy to replace if broken when loading rather than damaging the steel sides.
- Walkway is mounted high which is a long way to throw up bags of minerals (and further to fall)
- Feed falls between the elevator chains and the side wall and spills onto the ground off the feed belt when loading.
- Vertical side supports are cut and welded which creates a weak point for cracks to emerge
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