Test: McConnel PA 6085 hedge mulcher
Everyone appreciates a clean, tidy, and straight hedge, whether you’re admiring the neighbour’s or own one yourself. But few of us know much about the machines that achieve these results. Jaiden sheds some light on the McConnel PA 6085 hedge mulcher.
McConnel PA 6085 hedge mulcher test
I caught up with Rhys Collins, a hedge mulching contractor who runs two McConnel mulches, and his most recent edition, the PA6085 – a popular choice for contractors as it offers a perfect balance of weight, power, and reach when combined with the 1.6-metre flail head.
Ryhs also owns a PA 5600, custom built with an 85hp pump — so if nothing else, he's gained an extra 400mm of reach in the new machine, but also benefits from a number of detail changes over its predecessor. These include larger oil filters, a higher capacity cooling system, a fully integrated debris blower option, and revised styling that also improves ground clearance.
Parallel arm geometry
This feature is a fancy way of saying self-levelling. Essentially, like a self-levelling loader, it keeps a pallet at the same angle, so you don't have to adjust the crowd as the loader lifts — the mulcher works in the same fashion. The operator can adjust the reach of the machine's arms, without the need to continuously compensate the head angle.Hy-reach geometry
The rocker pillar on the machine has a high mounting point, giving better clearance over fences and down banks, as well as allowing the head to cut very close to the tractor at any height within the cutting range, making it ideal for cutting hedges on narrow races.
Power slew and safety breakaway
Power slew enables the arm to rotate 100 degrees backwards from working position, letting the arm fold in to a compact transport position, and giving the operator the ability to cut out corners in the hedge or tight and steep spots that won't allow the tractor room to negotiate.
The power slew incorporates a safety breakaway system — so on the joystick, before you can slew backwards, you need to disable the breakaway to let the machine release the arm and cut out or fold up behind you. You can also opt for a non-power slew model, which uses a mechanical system to allow the dipper arm to break back if it comes into contact with a large object.
All McConnel flail heads have an adjustable front hood as standard, but while having it down minimises flying debris, having the hood up means larger growth can pass underneath to the rotor. To have the best of both worlds, Collins has the optional heavy-duty front flap kit, which uses a 'Domex' steel strip along the bottom of the rubber flap to increase working life. It also features a rubber protection bar that protects the front hood and flail head against heavy impact.
A wire trap system is also a standard feature. This takes care of any loose ends of wire picked up by the rotor, immediately cut by the wire trap, and then falling to the ground. This is a handy feature, although, if you ask any mulcher operator about when tyre side wall or glass window and wire meet, you'll soon find out (usually with some colourful language) it's often the bane of their life!
There are two drive systems for the flail head, either belt drive or direct drive. Belt drive allows the hydraulic motor to be mounted within the flail head width, which is the main reason Rhys chose this option. Bottom cuts and drop-over cuts are often fraught with obstacles, so maximum cutting from the head width is important and also protects the motor, as it is hidden behind the head should contact be made. The direct drive has the hydraulic motor on the side of the flail head casing. This enables the motor to directly drive the rotor shaft via a multi-spline drive coupling. Just like the drive options, the location of the hydraulic motor on the flail head can be specified to suit your preference. It can either be mounted out-board, like our test machine, or in-board, which is the closest side to the tractor. Again, the reason Rhys chose the out-board option is for the bottom cut — often the head is hugging the ground so having the drive on the far side is an obvious choice.
There are two rotor options — either the Multicut rotor on the test machine or the Omega rotor, which is for heavy-duty applications where up to four inches of materials are cut. The Multicut rotor is ideal for both hedge cutting and the T-shaped hedge flails, combined with the spiral layout of the lugs, mean only two flails are cutting at any one time for a smooth finish.
Pump and drive
AThe 85hp pump on the test machine is as big as McConnel makes and the pump requirements for a specific task vary. Roadside mowing will require less power, as a little-and-often approach is taken to verge mowing, so you could spec an eight-metre reach with a 70hp pump and be perfectly fine. However, because farmers are a frugal bunch, often hedge mulching is put in the 'we'll do it next year' job pile. Often guys like Rhys end up with three or more years' growth in front of them. This calls for more serious horse power, which is why the 85hp beast has been selected. Along with the various pump sizes there are two types of pumps. Piston pumps are available on the classic series machines (the 5600, 6400, 6500, 7700 and 8000 models) and gear-driven pumps, which were less popular in the past, now dominate almost the entire McConnel range.
The Revolution arm controller is the best improvement over the previous model, in Rhys's opinion, along with the soft-start rotor engagement, which ramps up power to the head rather than directing full flow to the drive motor all at once.
The controller provides eight proportional functions (four on the joystick itself and a further two on the stick itself). In addition to this, a further two buttons at the base of the joystick are programmable, so the auto break, back, rotor brake, soft start etc. can be selected on these buttons and the setup of the machine can be tailored to suit a preferred operating style.
Another addition to the new controller is a separate 5.5-inch colour display, which can be mounted anywhere in the cab and makes customising the machine considerably easier, and the main screen incorporates two speedo-looking graphs. These look like something out of the Fast and the Furious, but instead of boost pressure and NOS levels, they pertain to the PTO speed and the power curve. This simply allows the operator to glance at the screen and tailor ground speed to target, running the PTO at 540rpm, and then work the machine so it is operating at (or near) its peak power band, as indicated in the second graphic.
Admittedly, this is less likely to influence work rates when mulching hedges, as you need to watch what you're doing rather than stare at a screen — yet it's still interesting to see how power demands fluctuate during operation.
There is no doubt that staring at a hedge all day, every day is not only demanding on the mind, but I assume only a select few will have the ability to handle the boredom associated with this as well. Having said that, it's one of those jobs that allows you to see the results immediately (and so can the neighbours) — and like haircuts, there are only a couple of weeks between a good one and a bad one. But with the pride Rhys takes in the job, and his McConnel PA 6085, there are no bad hair days around here.
- Left-hand or right-hand operation
- Choice of three-point linkage or five-point mounting with axle brackets
- Parallel arm geometry with 6m reach
- Easy to maintain
- Power slew
- Hydraulic safety breakaway
- 85hp high-performance hydraulic system and 225L oil tank
- Tapered, seam-welded arms made from Domex steel
- Soft-start rotor engagement
- High capacity oil cooler
- Integrated debris blower option
- A temperature gauge would be handy to monitor oil temperature during long hot runs
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