Investment in a wide-working mower and a new tractor to pull it has transformed the task of keeping turf pristine and trim for a Worcestershire-based grower.
The JCB Fastrac and V-Mow combination has slashed mowing time by as much as 75%, reducing the time taken to cut a 65 acre field from 6 hours with a 9m rotary roller mower to just one and a half hours.
“It’s really made a big difference,” says Peter Lole of Teal Turf, who produces lawn turf across the whole of his 400 acre farm at Kempsey for lawn renovations, landscaping and new housing projects.
The grass has to be trimmed regularly in the growing season – typically every other day – to keep it short but healthy and ready to harvest in thin strips. JCB Loadall telescopic handlers then collect pallets stacked with turf and load them on to delivery trucks.
Mowing is therefore a full-time operation in the growing season, and one that has been made a lot quicker with the spectacular 16m wide mower and a new JCB Fastrac tractor to operate it.
Peter Lole says: “We’ve not run a Fastrac before but a chance working demonstration by our local JCB dealer Ross Farm Machinery showed its potential. We originally intended using it just for cultivations and some trailer work but it’s turned out to be excellent for turf.”
The Fastrac’s 50:50 weight distribution and wheels of equal size front and rear are a great asset for this application because with big, supple tyres fitted it treads as lightly as any of the Teal Turf operation’s smaller conventional tractors.
Peter Lole emphasises that after sowing it is essential to cause no wheel marks at all.
“With a conventional tractor, it can be quite difficult to get wide enough tyres of different diameters that don’t screw up the four-wheel drive mechanism,” he explains. “With the Fastrac, we fit the same size tyres all round so that’s not a problem and where the tractor’s been there’s not a mark to be seen.”
Ross Farm Machinery sourced a set of Michelin 800/45 R30.5 CargoXBib low profile radial tyres from specialist farm and groundcare supplier Sam Moreton & Sons. They are designed for low compaction and low rolling resistance use on agricultural trailers but are proving ideal for the tractor’s turf work because of their supple carcase and flat rubber block tread.
Operator Ed Bullock says they also have enough grip for the other work that the Fastrac undertakes, including subsoiling, shallow topsoil cultivation, stone burying and broadcasting seed from an adapted grain drill.
He says: “I’ve used previous generation Fastrac tractors on our farm at home and the 4000 Series design really has moved things on, The 4220 is powerful enough to run the mower’s hydraulic pump using the economy pto setting, so the engine runs slower, resulting in less fuel consumption, and the stepless transmission makes it easy to drive at the ideal speed for the job.”
The tractor’s legal 60kph top speed, all-round disc brakes, and suspension on both axles – a unique feature of the Fastrac compared with conventional tractors – also makes it an ideal machine for trailer work, hauling in compost to mix with topsoil and making deliveries of the resulting blend for landscaping projects.
During the summer months, however, the JCB Fastrac is exclusively employed on the V-Mow, which is manufactured in Luxembourg by a fellow turf grower.
Its ‘V’ shaped folding frame carries 23 hydraulically-driven Ransomes Sport 200 Lite cylinder mowing units for a precision cut and a pto-driven pump powers the individual motors on each cutting unit as well as the hydraulic cylinders on the frame.
The drawbar is carried on the Fastrac’s lower linkage arms so that tight turns can be made using the tractor’s agile four-wheel steering, and satellite guidance ensures accurate bout matching with the wide mower – as well as the other implements it uses – to achieve maximum productivity.