Flexibility from Kverneland flails

While a bat-wing topper has traditionally been the obvious choice for those looking to tidy up pastures, stewardship schemes or for stubble management, Dorset farmer David McKie bucked the trend and opted for a pair of flail choppers.

Flexibility from Kverneland flails

His logic was simple – use both on one tractor where practical, or use them independently on the back of two smaller tractors where space and manoeuvrability can be challenging.

“Compared to a trailed bat-wing machine, opting for a front/rear combination of linkage-mounted flail choppers has brought much more flexibility to our business,” explains David.

Trading as RJ & S McKie, David McKie and his parents run a mixed farming operation comprising dairy, beef and cereal enterprises from the 1,000-acre Hound Hill Farm, Wimborne. Milk from its herd is available locally through several vending machines under the Allen Valley Milk brand.

Elsewhere, brother Joe runs a satellite dairy herd on 400 acres in Cumbria that also sits under the RJ & S McKie banner. Collectively, the brothers share knowledge and resources for the benefit of developing their respective farming businesses.

“It’s all about being efficient and choosing the right equipment for what we need to achieve,” he says. “But equally important is having dealers that can provide first-class back-up and support – and C&O Tractors is near the top of our list.

When it comes to field topping and stubble management, he says it was dad Richard’s conversation with local dealer C&O Tractors that led to a different solution at Hound Hill Farm.

“We quickly ruled out a trailed bat-wing for its physical size,” adds David. “We have a mix of field sizes, and some of the smaller paddocks would be awkward with a large trailed topper.”

 “And having one tractor with front linkage and pto meant we could consider a front and rear flail combination,” he says. “We settled on Kverneland’s FRO 280 for the front and an FHP Plus 250 for the rear. This gave us a generous total cutting width of around 5.3m.”

As the mid-sized model in a range of three FRO models, the 280 provides a 2.8m working width. It offers hydraulic side-shift for offset working, and with a double headstock design, it can be used on either end of the tractor without modification.

At 2.5m wide, the FHP Plus 250 is the widest of three and uses a parallel linkage to achieve a lateral offset. This linkage also means the chopper can operate above and below horizontal, which is useful for mowing ditch banks or embankments.

“We liked the idea of being able to use both flails simultaneously on one tractor in larger fields, making the most of a good work rate,” he says. “But we also have the flexibility of using both on the back of two smaller tractors, where space and manoeuvrability can be a challenge. And with the offset available, we can now do a lot of boundary work that previously would have needed to be done with the hedgecutter.”

David says that both flail choppers are equipped with rear rollers, which leave a high-quality finish, similar to a mown lawn.

“The quality of cut is excellent, while the rolled finish leaves a neat and tidy appearance,” he says. “If we’re clearing any overgrown areas with the FRO model up-front, it cuts a path for the tractor. Unlike a trailed topper, you don’t have to risk running the tractor in any undergrowth where punctures or other damage can occur.”

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