In all walks of life, it's always nice to be pleasantly surprised when an important purchase turns out to be considerably better than you were anticipating. Here's a fine example.
Early in 2019, Devon farmer Steve Horn came to the conclusion that the time had come to renew his grass rake. “We'd had it for 22 years, still with its original tines, but was getting a bit tired,” he explains, “particularly when asked to rake straight behind the mower, with grass that had been driven over on the forelands.
“We needed a rake, suitable for the baler, that would leave a good, square swathe gathering from at least six metres. Also, given the narrow lanes in this part of the country, it would need to have a narrow transport width without compromising on stability.”
After doing his homework, Steve found exactly what he needed at his local Massey Ferguson dealership, Alan Snow – an MF RK662 TRC.
Steve farms about 100ha on the western edge of Dartmoor, not far from Brentnor (“an old volcano with a church on the top” he reports) on what is known as Green freestone. He describes it as “very thankful land, with very high levels of selenium.”
From New Venn Farm at Lamerton, near Tavistock, he runs a beef suckler herd – 80 or so cows and their followers, 250 in all, with everything finished using home-grown barley and concentrates from a local mill. The 20-30 acres of barley grown here is as much for the straw as it is feed, with big bale silage (1200 bales) and stubble turnips following winter corn. “To justify buying good quality equipment, we also contract to neighbouring farmers, providing a full service if necessary,” Steve explains.
“In this respect, the rake plays an important role in the business, as the swath presented to the baler governs not only the shape of the bale, but also good wrapping with bale corners firm and square,” he adds. “This is significant, as we haul a lot of bales home from grass lets.
“With the 662, whatever the working width chosen, the height is automatically reduced for transport purposes to aid stability and avoid low branches. The geometry of the steering linkage certainly aids manoeuvrability and it travels well at speed.”
The headline specification of the RK662 TRC is: two rotors with side delivery, a working width of 5.75m – 6.65m and with 12/12 – 4/5 tine arms.
Steve, however, has his own feature list of positives:-
“- the swath width is adjustable by means of a variable cam track
- the gather width is adjustable, literally in seconds, with no hydraulics required
- there's a choice of one or two spools – again, in seconds – so any tractor can hook up. I prefer a single spool, unless you have a field with particularly angled forelands
- the grease nipples (invariably a problem on the universal joints) have been positioned with the operator in mind. I particularly like the greasing of every arm... although I've colour marked one, so I know when they've all been done!
- the arms have a smooth leading edge and each individual tine can be replaced
- it's great to have one set screw to control each ram lowering speed
- good to see the gearbox mounted in line with the rotors, which means that the universal joints are working more or less straight. This is in contrast to some brands that operate at an angle, which shortens their working life.
- and finally, one feature that's very important to us is the rotor chassis. Some of our customers are in the Tamar valley, where mining subsidence has left many uneven fields, and a chassis less robust would struggle to cope.”
Steve believes luck was on his side when he decided to visit Snows' depot, as he didn't know a great deal of MFs grass range. “We did a deal and had the rake within a couple of days,” he recalls. “This was quickly followed up by a visit from Alan Lake, the Snow's salesman, and Jamie Warner, Area Sales Manager, Hay & Harvesting, Massey Ferguson , who wanted to check the finer settings of the rotors to ensure a clean sweep, with minimum contaminates.
“I should say that was Alan's knowledge of the rake that led to me taking a second look and then going on to purchase it.”
What more could you ask?