As silage season swings into top gear, your efficiency and productivity will be underscored by a decent swather. Upgrading that old, tired one at the back of the yard might be a good move.
Swathing is a task often given to the new guy in the crew, to build him some character and see how long it'll take for his head to cave in with boredom. However this remains an important job, as often large foragers or wagons with high charge-out rates rely on the task to be done correctly. Personally I don't mind swathing occasionally ('occasionally' being the key word); you cover the ground quickly and get tangible job satisfaction from completing nice straight rows and clean corners.
Our test machine is a Liner 2700 with a 6.8-7.4m working width, and is one of three in Andy Davy's arsenal. He is a big fan of Claas gear (borderline salesman actually); everywhere you look around his yard it's 'Claas green', so I thought I should seize the opportunity to take some snaps while the Liner was on a different green tractor, just to keep his rose tinted glasses in check.
I will expand on a few key reasons (as I see it) why the Liner has been so successful for over 15 years, and will touch on a few options that are found on the larger four rotor swathers in the Liner range.
Rotor housing and cam track
The cam track on the Liner gets its strength from its graphite iron construction, where the large diameter and gentle rise of the track allows for smooth running of the tine arms. This also results in clean raking and a reduction in fatigue, even with extensive use in our often challenging environments here in Godzone.
The cam track is built tough to handle gnarly conditions and is encased in robust cast housing. Large, structurally strong tube diameter arms along the entire length help reduce breakages. If something is hit (because eventually it will be), the tine-arm bending point is located outside of the rotor housing, which makes replacement easy as you don't have to pull the thing apart. For added strength there are dual bearings on the tine arm that help with horizontal and vertical loads, which in turn protects the cam track rollers. One thing I did notice about the new series of Liner swathers is the addition of an extra arm on each rotor. This not only helps with picking up conventionally mown grass (which likes to hug the ground), but also if an arm is lost your swathing quality isn't effected as much as with older Liners'.
Drive line and Maintenance
In another new improvement for the Liner, the main drive is distributed to the rotors via an auxiliary gearbox. The drive train is located on top of the main chassis for easy maintenance, although the specific ratio in the gearbox ensures minimum loads and optimum service life. The drive also has a free-wheel mechanism which comes as standard with each individual rotor to protect against overload.
Drivers' and owners' alike will be pleased to hear there are now long greasing intervals, with 250-hour lubrication requirements for drive-shaft universal joints, and 50-hour lubrication requirements on the drive shaft to the tractor.
Again, when talking improvements over the older model swathers, higher headland-lift undercarriages and the auto-folding curtain all help produce a cleaner swath. The lifting plays a big part in this, with the new Liner registering more than half a metre of clearance and the swath curtain simultaneously lifting. Of course, this also allows you to run over headland with increased confidence.
When lowering the rotors into the row, the rear undercarriage wheels touch first guaranteeing the front tines don't dig into uneven ground.
Mounting and Steering
Like the majority of swathers on the market today the rake is mounted to the plough arms and steering is controlled as the tractor turns. The rear transport wheels of the swather are controlled via a series of linkages, meaning that the wheels follow in the tracks of the tractor's back tyres.
On the Claas a new sturdy inverted U-frame attaches to the tractor, allowing maximum space for the PTO shaft with turning angles of up to 80 degrees. Stickers and a guide allow for quick reference for the driver to tell where the main turning angle is, although if the tractor has dual wheels the turning angle is likely to be reduced. I also like the storage for the drive shaft (it folds up easily to keep it off the ground) and the Stable easy-to-use parking stand which to unlock, you push the knob in rather than pull it out: a trick for young players.
As most contractors have come to expect from Claas equipment, you get a solid, reliable machine that can handle the tough New Zealand conditions. As usual with large European manufactures you can get a list of optional specs as long as your arm. Some of these have little benefit to your bog standard cocky or contractor, however many are very impressive and when time is of the essence, efficiency and ease-of-use can make all the difference to your work.