Trailed cutting units, such as tractor and gang mowers, are likely to be the ideal choice for large sites. This particular kind of cutting, which will produce by far the lowest mowing cost per square metre per year, may be a financial necessity for local authorities and contractors.
Tractors take the strain
Of course, not all professional users of grass-cutting equipment are concerned with high work rates, but productivity is a priority where the grass is extensive. The equation is simple: the higher the mower’s work rate, the greater its cost-effectiveness per hectare. Work rate is determined by the width of cut, speeds in operation and transport, manoeuvrability and versatility.
Selection of tractor-mounted or trailed cutting equipment will involve factors such as topography, access to the sites and the required standards of finish. Running costs and reliability should also be investigated.
Level ground presents few problems for mowing; undulating ground will require units that have floating heads or are articulated to minimise scalping.
The cylinder mower is usually chosen where a high-quality finish is paramount — although rotary and flail mowers these days give acceptable cuts. Although they use the same cutting mechanisms as pedestrian and ride-on cylinder mowers, gang mowers tend to have a cutting cylinder of a larger diameter, and both it and the bed knife or bottom blade will be tougher to cope with the work involved. Gang mowers usually have three-, five-, seven- or, occasionally, nine-cylinder units, and they can be trailed or direct-mounted to the tractor.
For a cylinder-mower finish, trailed gang mowers that are driven by land wheels will be the cheapest. They are simple to hitch and use, and have a lever-operated clutch to engage and disengage the drive from the wheel to the cutting unit. For transport, cutting units must be hitched into the transport position and locked in place.
Other trailed gang mowers are driven by the tractor’s pto and through a gearbox or hydraulic pump and motor on each cylinder. Tractor- or direct-mounted gang mowers also feature a hydraulic motor drive on each cylinder unit.
While the hydraulic gang mower would be expected to operate most of the time with all its cutting units in work, the hydraulics mean that units can be raised and lowered again while mowing. This makes the machine much more manoeuvrable and enables it to operate in areas that would be impossible using the full cutting width.
In addition, the hydraulic motor on each cylinder allows the driver to select the best cylinder speed for the conditions at the time. Experienced operators match the combination of cylinder speed and tractor forward speed to give a range of cuts.
Putting the weight behind
Rear-mounted rotary mowers — mounted on the three-point linkage and supported by castor wheels — are available in various sizes. Such mowers may be height limited by chains so that they float over uneven ground. They may also be in gangs of three, five or seven, and articulate over undulating ground without scalping. Another type is the full-width roller mower — mostly with three blades. Rotary mowers are usually pto-driven through a gearbox and v-belts. Height of cut is adjusted with the castor wheels or roller. Engine-driven rotary mowers are available for use with small tractors and all-terrain vehicles.
Flail mowers, with free-swinging flail blades mounted on a horizontal rotor, are useful for cutting coarse or long grass and rough vegetation. In recent years, we have seen vast improvements in the quality of cut by flail mowers — to the point where flail mowers are now used on playing fields. The wheels supporting the flail mower adjust the height of cut. Some rear-mounted flail mowers can collect cuttings into a hopper and allow you to tackle other tasks such as scarification and sweeping.
Make sure the equipment will match the size and power of your tractor, and look into after-purchase costs and ease of maintenance. Also make sure machine operators are satisfied with the comfort and safety of the mowers identified on your shortlist.
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