Fella TH 5204 DN Tedder review
As is often the case, it takes a difficult season to identify your machine’s weaknesses. This was definitely the situation for Brent Lilley, after a lot of rain last summer left few opportunities to get hay dried and baled.
For me, there were times throughout last year's wet summer where I was required to run two older tedders both under three metres, just to get over the ground and turn the hay during those small windows of opportunity. This got pretty tedious, not to mention wasted a lot of time and money running two tractors.
Over the winter months, a new, larger tedder rose quickly to the top of my machinery wish list, so I investigated the options. After checking out plenty of makes and models, it was the Fella TH 5204 DN tedder that stood out for me. In my opinion, the price was bang on, but there were a few other design and build features that prompted me to purchase one last September from Norwoods in Morrinsville.
The Fella's headstock system is quite unique as it uses a D-shape headstock that is fixed solid and vertically to the three point linkage of the tractor. The tedder is then connected to this headstock with a single, large diameter pin at the bottom and two compression/expansion rods at the top. This system not only allows the tedder to pivot on the frame when turning, but to float front to back following the ground contour, similar to, but more controlled than, a machine with a slotted hole for the top link pin. The large pin at the bottom point uses a pendulum brake to centralise and immobilise the tedder when it is lifted, to prevent it rocking and swinging around when turning on the headlands. The headstock is well-built from heavy tube steel making hitching to the tractor very simple.
Driveline and maintenance
The power requirement for this size of tedder is very low at only 30 horsepower and is transmitted from the tractor to a central gearbox in the tedder through a regular driveshaft, then out to the crown wheel on top of each rotor through an enclosed hexagonal driveshaft. Cleverly, the drive gears in the main gearbox disengage automatically as the machine folds, allowing the rotors and shafts to turn freely, preventing damage to the driveline, especially the universal joints at the hinge points.
Maintenance on the machine is relatively straightforward. Aside from the driveshaft, there are two universal joints and hinge points where the machine folds to be greased. The rotor heads are enclosed in a cast housing and are grease lubricated with two grease points on each. On a whole, the machine runs very smooth and quietly.
The four rotors on the machine are held together with square, steel box sections that house the driveshaft and also contain a hinge point on each side to allow the outside two rotors to be folded up with a hydraulic ram, giving the machine a transport width of 3m.
Cleverly, each of the wheels under the four rotors have three positions in which they can easily be set to adjust the height and angle of the tedder relative to the ground. This allows the angle of spread to be adjusted to match the ground and crop conditions.
The tine arms on the Fella are made out of galvanised, solid flat bar, rather than the usual steel tube found on most other makes. Whether this is stronger or not is hard to say, but it looks more than adequate to me. Because the arms are made of flat bar, it means the tines are bolted underneath the arm rather than around them. This gives the tines more room to flex so should lead to less breakages. A tine-saver is fitted as standard on Fella machines and goes through the top of the tine to prevent tines from being lost in the crop if they do happen to break.
Although there are people that will disagree with me on this, I believe that some form of edge spreading device is essential on a tedder to prevent the machine from throwing the grass into the fence on the first time around the paddock. Some of you, I'm sure, will argue that cutting the PTO rpm back works just fine, and it will the first time if you have a swath board on your mower, but as soon as you need to turn the hay more than once, you start to see the hay through the fence and in the un-mown grass at the edge.
This is where the Fella shines; it has a clever system that is standard on all their machines. A rope is pulled from the driver's seat of the tractor and as you move forward, the wheels under each rotor are turned at an angle where they can be locked. This causes the whole tedder to follow, offset at an angle, behind the tractor, throwing the grass inwards away from the paddock's edge. When you have completed the outside round, pull the rope again to unlock the wheels and return them to their original position. The tedder can be angled to the left or the right to suit all situations and driving styles. This is probably the best system I've seen, as the driver never needs to leave his seat to set it. The only fault is the lock has no stop, so the locking mechanism can slide too far past the required hole, angling the machine so far that the back tyre will rub against it. I have a black mark down the over-width panel now to remind me of this.
Over the past few weeks I've spread plenty of hay out of the mower swaths to dry and I'm really pleased with the Fella. It works exceptionally well, picking up two 2.8 or 3m mower swaths, spreading them out evenly and leaving the green material on the top. Equally, I've had the opportunity to turn hay that has been cut with a smaller 2m mower and it has still done a good job picking up three rows and spreading them out. So far this year, touch wood, I haven't had to turn any hay that's had any serious rain fall upon it, which tends to be a bit tougher as it sticks to the ground. However, with a lot more hay to be baled and heavy rain predicted over the coming weeks, the new Fella tedder has plenty more work in front of it. This size of model will be well-suited to farmers and small contractors like myself who are trading up from older, two rotor, 'egg-beater' machines and looking for an economical way to get their hay turned quickly and efficiently. For those with some serious acres in front of them, there are plenty of larger models in the Fella range built on the same principles of the machine tested here, but with more rotors.
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