Royal Introduction

The United Kingdom’s first 40' (12.2 m) draper header performs well despite poor weather conditions.

Products mentioned in this article: D65 Draper Headers for Combine

“I was keen to try a draper header rather than a conventional unit.”

Written by Martin Rickatson for Shelbourne Reynolds Engineering Ltd.

The first 12.2 m (40 ft.) MacDon draper header to be delivered to a UK combine user has impressed both its owner and its operator in the unit’s first season, despite a harvest hampered by bad weather, and a cropping spread that covered a wide range of types.

“While draper headers have become popular in much of the rest of the world, in Europe they remain relatively uncommon,” says Neil Smith of Shelbourne Reynolds, MacDon’s UK importer.

“But as more farmers become aware of the benefits of positive feed to the centre of the header and up into the elevator, and cutterbar developments become one of the last areas in which it’s possible to significantly improve the performance of a standard combine, we think that’s beginning to change.

“The amount of crop needed to keep today’s high-capacity combines at full operating efficiency means positive feed is highly beneficial, and being able to angle the header to get under low crops also aids output.”

Jes Hansen contract farms the Tyneholme Estate, near Halesworth, Suffolk, in eastern England, on behalf of farming business Antas, using two combines to harvest 1,600 hectares (3,954 acres) of wheat, barley, oilseed rape (canola), combining peas and grass seed. This season, as part of a rolling replacement cycle, the higher-houred of the two Case IH Axial-Flow 9010 combines he was running was replaced with one of the first 9230 models to be sold in the UK. In place of the usual Case IH 10.7 m (35 ft.) conventional header specified for this model, local dealer Ernest Doe Power supplied a 12.2 m (40 ft.) MacDon D60-D Draper.

“At the time, Case IH could only offer header widths up to 10.7 m (35 ft.),” Mr Hansen says. “I felt that the combine could handle a 12.2 m (40 ft.) unit, but I was keen to try a draper header rather than a conventional unit.

“I had seen them working elsewhere, and was particularly impressed by the positive feed, and the lighter overall weight from the lack of an auger, and the wider range of header adjustment, all of which I hoped would give us more output from the combine than with a standard header.

“We tried a 10.7 m (35 ft.) unit on demonstration with our old combine, but felt that it wasn’t quite what we wanted, the single knife design being one of the issues for us. But the 12.2 m (40 ft.) D60-D unit uses a split knife driven from each end, and the design looked robust enough for our conditions. The price was around twice that of a conventional unit, but I hoped that the output and other benefits would justify the investment.”

With only the reel and the side knife (vertical knife) being driven directly from the combine, and all other functions being powered from the header’s own hydraulic system, Mr Hansen’s farm manager Daniel Hald, who operates the combine, says one of the features he was most impressed by in the first season with the new header was the far greater range of movement this makes possible.

“Being able to hydraulically adjust the reel positioning fore and aft means I can virtually lift peas onto the knife with the reel tines, and as they are made of nylon, they are flexible enough to work close to the ground with little risk of them digging in,” he says.

“And the ability to pivot the header independently of the feeder housing means I can point the knife downwards to get under peas and laid grass crops without the risk of bulldozing. Because of this, there’s no need for lifters, which is a real bonus.”

Also given the thumbs-up is the way in which, independently of the combine, the header is able to float mechanically.

“This makes travel across the field with the header raised much smoother. If one of the combine wheels drops into a hole or a tramline, the shock isn’t transferred to the header. And at just over 2.5t, which is about the same as a 9.1 m (30 ft.) conventional header, the MacDon draper is also very light when compared to the 10.7 m (35 ft.) standard unit on our old combine, much of that being due to the absence of the auger. In addition, the belts are much gentler on crops such as oilseed rape, where an auger on a conventional header can shatter the pods.

“This and the positive feed meant that our outputs in oilseed rape, peas and grass were 5% to 10% higher during this past harvest, and at least 5% up in cereals.”

The business’s land is spread out over a fair distance, but the general layout of each farm unit means it’s generally possible to cut blocks of 80-100 hectares (197.7-247.1 acres) without having to remove the header or travel on the road, says Daniel.

“But even though the size of our field entrances means we have to remove the header fairly regularly, it’s no more difficult to remove and move than a smaller unit,” he reckons. “And there’s very little maintenance to do on the header itself each day. In three seasons of working with this draper and the ones we’ve had on test, I’ve only once needed to adjust belt tension.”