Berti Mulcher review

By: Mark Fouhy


Berti Mulcher review Berti Mulcher review
Berti Mulcher review Berti Mulcher review
Berti Mulcher review Berti Mulcher review
Berti Mulcher review Berti Mulcher review
Berti Mulcher review Berti Mulcher review
Berti Mulcher review Berti Mulcher review
Berti Mulcher review Berti Mulcher review
Berti Mulcher review Berti Mulcher review

When it comes to keeping a Katikati orchard running smoothly, the Berti topper is the chosen tool of the trade for the Topp family.

Different occupations have different tools of the trade they can’t do without. The builder has his favourite hammer, the doctor his stethoscope, the road worker his shovel. For orchardists, it is probably a set of secateurs – but in Hugh and Martin Topp’s case, the Berti Mulcher takes top spot.

In orchardist terms, the Berti mulcher really is the Topp family’s equivalent of the Swiss army knife. The versatility of this machine saves them time and capital, as this one machine can take care of a range of jobs. The ability to keep the orchards looking so good is credit to both this hardworking family and their tough-as-nails Berti mulchers.

In operation since 2002…

Hugh has been operating the Berti we used for this test since 2002, some 13 years, and considering the tough life of an orchard mulcher, it was still in pretty good shape. The paint has faded a little over time but otherwise it is still in perfect working order.

Hugh has made some minor modifications, adding a tow ball so they can pull a trailer without taking the mower off. He has also removed the rakes at the bale and welded up these holes. This has been done partly to suit the work he does with his machine, which can include chipping up tree branches.

There is only a short list of things the Berti doesn’t handle so well, which includes concrete blocks and large rocks on river terraces. Flax and very long fescue can also provide a challenge, wrapping around the horizontal rotor.

Like the Topp’s family orcharding business, Berti is now into its third generation of mulching mowers, with the latest TFB-Y version of the Berti pruning mulcher being released at the 2015 New Zealand National Agricultural Fieldays.

Thanks to the Farmgard team, one of these new models was waiting for me at the Topp’s orchard, so I can give you a quick overview of some of the additional features the new machine has to offer.

Berti5

Operation

For best results with the Berti orchard mulchers, you need to select 540 PTO speed. To achieve the best mulching/mowing, I recommend tractor revs of 1500rpm, which Hugh uses for grass mowing.

For more serious mulching 1750-2000rpm, which with the gearing of the Berti mower will give a rotor speed of around 2300rpm. This helps give suction of material from the ground – leaves, prunings, etc. – up into the machine to begin the mulching process.

The Berti muchers use a three-cut system: an initial cut with the flails as it is mown and sucked up into the machine, and the second cut is by way of a coarse comb on the front edge of the mower (behind the tractor), with a final cut through a finer comb which is mounted on the top side of the mulcher.

When it comes to orcharding, the finer the mulch the better. Hugh expects his Berti to leave an almost park like job on grass, munching its way through woodchips and prunings along the way.

Part of the key to operating the Berti mulcher is using the rear roller in conjunction with a hydraulic top link. They don’t really operate any skid type system to stop them digging in, so it is up to the operator with the toplink for adjustment. Sometimes getting it wrong on grass will allow the mower to roll the grass in front of it, rather than cutting it.

The side shift mounting system allows you to stay more in the middle of your rows, and still mow right up to the vines.

Another new feature on the new TFB-Y is the tapered front right hand edge of the mower, which helps it skid past obstacles rather than hooking on them or mulching them up.

Design/new features

One of the key features to look for in a mulcher is strength. The Berti machines achieve this strength using high-quality Domex steel, 12mm thick, and double skinned in the mulching chamber to decrease noise and denting. Using the high strength steel, the Berti TFB-Y 200 comes in at 760kg.

Keeping the total weight of the machine down is good, with a lot of orchard tractors being lower horsepower machines like Martin and Hugh’s 60- and 75hp New Hollands. For this reason the latest model has also been fitted with a double clevis mounting to take both Cat I and Cat II linkage, to cope with both smaller and larger tractors. The Berti can be run on as little as 50hp and up to 110hp.

With the front right-hand corner of the mower tapered to allow the mower to easily skid past objects, there are no other protrusions, bearing housings or bolts to catch along the rest of the body of the mower. Enhancements have been made to the mulching system on the latest Berti with a new angle profile welded inside the front of the mower, to create greater suction and mulching of material.

Berti have also added new cast and forged counter combs, which Martin and Hugh agree look to be an excellent addition. One of the best new features is the automatic belt tensioning system, taken from the bigger forestry designed Berti machines. This system saves maintenance time while providing greater drive with more belt contact with the drive shafts, with less wear with the belts being correctly adjusted. Upgrades also include the addition of a heavier duty gear box.

Berti2

Servicing/maintenance

Daily maintenance is pretty quick and simple with two grease nipples on the rear roller, two on the main rotor, two on the headstock of the hydraulic off set and the knuckles on the PTO drive shaft.

On the latest model, Farmgard is fitting a quick release cover for the PTO at the gear box end, which makes greasing easy and removing the PTO a piece of cake; no more jammed fingers. You do need something like a clip or key to get the quick release clips undone, as a safety precaution. Less regular but the gearbox oil does need checking and the other major is belt wear.

Another improvement with the latest TFB-Y version is the auto belt tensioning system. Not a new system as Berti has been using this on bigger forestry type mulching machines, where it has worked well. The system is pretty simple using a spring loaded roller to keep tension on the belts preventing them getting slack. In doing so it actually increases the drive available, by up to as much as 30 percent.

Another time saving, and again not a daily task, is checking flails for damage or anything else that may have found its way under the mower. A full length flip top head as Hugh calls it, makes this easy to check. By removing one bolt on either side, you have good access for checking anything under the mower, without having to get under it – another good safety feature.

The verdict

Having not had a lot to do with mulchers in general, I came away very impressed with what you could throw at the Berti mulcher and what it would spit out the back. I would say Martin and Hugh are certainly onto a good thing.

Given the service they have had from the Berti machines to date, and some of the great features of the latest TFY-B model, I can’t see any reason why they would purchase anything else.

Pros

  • Well built, sealed bearings so moisture, dirt or anything else cannot get in and cause damage.
  • 10/10 for usefulness in an orchard situation, being able to mow grass and leaves through to pruning’s or trees without changing machines is a big time saver.
  • Generation III improvements will only enhance the Berti reputation, automatic belt adjustment, quick release PTO shaft cover making greasing easier, tapered front right corner to minimise the chances of getting hooked vines or posts.
  • Price, the price for a brand new Berti is still around the same as it was 13 years ago when Hugh bought his last one.

Cons

  • The Berti mulcher doesn’t quite produce a sports ground finish. However it does a more than acceptable job, without requiring the capital outlay for a finishing and mulching mower.

Read the full review in issue #218 of Farm Trader magazine. Subscribe here.

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