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They call this the world's best mower
"It lets us cut 2 ton/acre alfalfa hay at 11 mph all day without clogging and is equipped with a crimper and windrow "tunnel-maker" for fast drying. We think it's the best hay mower-conditioner in the world," say Jas and Doug Dale, Ulysses, Kan., about their 18-ft. wide self-propelled rotary disc mower.
The machine is actually a highly modified Lowe mower which they bought in 1980 for $52,000 from Terry Lowe, Oak Harbor, Ohio, who built about 38 of the rigs before going out of business (the Dales, who commercially produce and harvest alfalfa hay, bought three of the mowers). Lowe's mowers were originally equipped with two Vicon 6-rotary disc cutterbars laid end to end. Some were center dump heads and some were end dump heads. The Dales decided to design their own head, finding that the Lowe-built head was too flimsy and wouldn't cut right.
In 1982 they stripped the original 16-ft. 12-rotor head of everything but the cutter-bar and feed auger. With the help of Bill's Shop in Moscow, Kan., they designed and built a new 18-ft. 14-rotor center dump head. The new head was built out of R.O.P.S. 4 by 4-in. and 3 by 4-in. steel tubing and the pan and ends were built from 3/16-in. steel plate. By the end of 1989 the head had cut over 33,000 acres with no modifications.
In 1986 with the help of Kanamak Consulting, Garden City, Kan., they totally redesigned all the hydraulics, which is a common complaint of Lowe mowers, making it possible to add a hydraulic-driven crimper. It consists of a pair of intermeshing 10-in. dia. steel rolls that are 42 in. wide. The amount of conditioning can be varied by adjusting spring tension on the rollers. They also modified the header float and lift system. They used two 3 by 8-in. hydraulic lift cylinders, four gas shocks to control header bounce in the field, and two big coil springs. The head can tilt side to side to easily cut uneven terrain.
The Dales made two other modifications to the Vicon cutterbar. They built sleeves that bolt onto each disc to stop debris from tangling around the disc bearings. They also replaced the top steel-caged disc bearing with a nylon-caged bearing. Since making the change they have had no bearing failures.
The mower is equipped with a 145 hp Deutz air-cooled engine, Eaton variable transmission, and French-built "Proclain" power wheels. This year the Dales built two more 18-ft., 14-rotor end dump headers to fit their other two mowers. They mounted the crimpers on the right side and put a 5-ft. long, 6-in. dia. pipe behind the crimper to make a tunnel which lets air pass through the windrow to allow faster drying. "Now we can lay two 18-ft. windrows side by side and merge the two into one 5 1/2-ft. wind-row with our Vicon 3-pt. mounted RC 330 hay tedder," says Jas.
The Dales use Hesston 60B stackers to put up their hay. "By going to these end dump heads we don't have to rake the hay together which saves a lot of leaves. There are a lot of advantages to this system including fuel savings, time savings, and less compaction."
Jas notes that they're looking fora manufacturer who'd be interested in building a mower like theirs. They're currently negotiating to buy the remaining Lowe parts inventory from a Nebraska firm. The mower will be on display at the 1991 3I Show next spring (April 25-27) in Garden City, Kan.
For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Doug Dale, Ulysses, Kan. 67880 (ph 316 356-1587).

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1990 - Volume #14, Issue #6