Juscafresa SAJDLD 28
Every once and a while you come across what can only be described as an ingenious piece of machinery with a lot of careful thought put into its design and build. This was most definitely the case this month when Brent Lilley checked out a self-harvesting forage wagon from Juscafresa.
With the number of dairy goat farmers in New Zealand on the increase and most of these goats being housed indoors and fed freshly-cut green feed grass, I figured the piece of machinery I'm testing this month could prove very popular among this emerging industry, as it'll take care of the whole job from cutting, picking up, chopping, transporting, and feeding out the green feed.
In early February I headed over to a large goat farm between Matamata and Tirau in the Waikato, to see the Juscafresa wagon in action. Matamata Ag Centre is the sole agent in New Zealand for Juscafresa and was kind enough to arrange the test. With the hot, dry summer starting to bite, you can see from the photos we were a little short on grass, but nonetheless, it was still an impressive machine to see working.
Starting at the front of the machine is the twin drum mower taking care of the business of cutting the grass. The mower is 2.1-metres wide and fairly similar to a regular drum mower using two counter-rotating, dish-shaped drums with four blades on each to cut, lift, and then feed the crop backwards into a steel catchment plate at the bottom of the feed elevator. Under each cutting drum is a separate dish allowing the mower to follow very closely to the ground without scalping and contaminating the forage with soil.
This entire drum mower is independent of the chassis of the machine and is effectively hung on the front of the wagon on four large springs with adjustable chain links to set the height of the mower, whilst allowing it to float over the ground. A vertical hydraulic ram uses a chain system to raise and lower the mower, tucking it up high under the drawbar out of the way when it's not in use.
The mower is driven directly from the tractor's PTO through a driveshaft with a slip clutch, and uses a hydraulic piston clutch on the mower gearbox, controlled from the cab. This allows the mower to be disengaged while the PTO is still running the hydraulic pump, powering the rest of the machine (more about that later). When mowing, the hydraulic drawbar is used to swing the wagon out to the right of the tractor, allowing the crop to be cut without the tractor running it down.
Behind the drum mower is what Juscafresa calls the 'feed elevator', which essentially lifts the grass from the back of the mower up and into the forage box. This uses triangle-shaped teeth on a chain-and-slat setup to drag the cut material from the back of the mower upwards against steel guide bands. At the top of this feed elevator the teeth drag the material across a bank of nine knives spaced across a width of a little under a metre, giving a theoretical chop length of around 100mm. The feed elevator, like everything else on the machine, is hydraulically driven through two independent hydraulic motors.
In my opinion, the knives are a feature to be improved on, as each of them are individually fixed with two bolts to the back wall of the feed elevator, so the only way of taking them in or out is to unbolt them all individually - a somewhat tedious task if you don't require them, or they need sharpening. They are also fixed solid and therefore won't move out of the way if a solid object, such as a rock, gets into the forage.
Forage box and dispenser
The forage box is built in the same way as most other wagons on the market, with steel box section uprights and pressed steel side panels for strength. A door on the left-hand side, above the wheels, gives easy access to the inside and, on the top, bars with nylon rope keep the crop inside when you go tearing down the road. On the steel floor of the wagon are the two chain-and-slat floor chains driven with twin variable speed hydraulic motors at the back of the machine.
At the back of the forage box is the dispenser unit and a cross conveyor to take care of feeding the forage out once you get it back to the shed. The dispenser uses a vertical chain-and-slat setup to tear the forage away from the bulk of the load, then drop it onto the cross conveyor, feeding it to the left or the right, similar to a conventional feed-out wagon. The dispenser is mounted to the forage box on hydraulic rams so it can be moved away from the pressure of the load when starting, or if there is a blockage. When not in use, the cross conveyor can be pulled in under the back of the machine out of harm's way with a hydraulic ram.
The whole machine is mounted on a steel box section chassis and rides on flotation tyres, on tandem axels with rocker suspension to give low compaction and a smooth ride. As mentioned earlier, a sturdy hydraulic drawbar is used to tow the wagon, able to offset the machine when mowing and also helping to get what is a rather long machine in and out of tight sheds. A hydraulic jack is handily incorporated into the drawbar to make coupling straight forward and easy.
For such a complex machine it is rather simple to control. Mounted on the back of the mower gearbox is a hydraulic pump powering a closed-circuit, on-board hydraulic system with a decent sized reservoir and an oil cooler. A bank of electronic valves control the flow of oil to the various hydraulic motors on the machine and are operated with a control box in the cab of the tractor. This is a great setup, keeping the horsepower requirements low at 110hp and doing away with a load of hoses to hook up.
Whilst the control box isn't the flashiest I've seen, it is kept relatively simple with all the controls laid out on toggle switches, dials and a joystick. Luckily for me, Matamata Ag has relabelled the controls to English - I don't know about you, but my Spanish is a little rusty. What's great to see are indicator lights included with the toggle switches', so when something is on, there is no confusion. Another great feature is the big red 'kill' button to stop the machine in an emergency.
About the company
Juscafresa is a company, I'll admit, I had never heard of before testing this machine, but with a little digging around, I found out a bit more about it. The company is based in eastern Spain and, since the 1960s, has been manufacturing agricultural machinery including manure spreaders, tip trailers, self-loading forage wagons and forage shredding trailers. It now builds an extensive range of machines, focusing on covering all possible applications and responding to the demands of farmers operating in a range of conditions.
Matamata Ag Centre is the sole importer of Juscafresa wagons in New Zealand and it backs this up with a nationwide parts and servicing resource.
The Juscafresa wagon is going to appeal to a small but rapidly expanding market where you'll currently find most people using a regular loader wagon with a pickup, plus a tractor with a front mower. The Juscafresa is an all-in-one, without compromising on its functionality. The drum mower on the front follows the ground excellently without scalping and as the crop is fed straight into the feed elevator, there is very little risk of soil contamination.
The on-board hydraulic system lowers power requirements, with only one set of hydraulic hoses and a hydraulic jack in the drawbar coupling.
Uncoupling the machine is very straightforward and easy. Although there is room for improvement, the Juscafresa is a well-built machine with some great design features, appealing to anyone feeding animals using a cut and carry system.
- Drum mower follows the ground excellently without scalping
- No soil contamination as the grass never touches the ground after cutting
- Hydraulic drawbar to offset the machine when mowing
- Two variable speed floor chains with twin drive motors
- Low power requirements due to a closed-circuit, on-board hydraulic system
- Easy to use control box in the cab of the tractor
- When removing knives, they need to be unbolted individually and are fixed into place without the flexibility to move when a foreign object enters the feed
- At nearly 10m long, it isn't the easiest machine to manoeuvre in and out of tight spaces
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