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Equipment Hub: What advantage would a merger give?

Matthew Murdock for Progressive Forage Published on 30 October 2018

In order to get large amounts of forage harvested in a timely manner, forage mergers are the answer. A forage merger can be a very valuable asset to have on a farm. They move quickly across the field, gently picking up and moving the crop via a belt, where it is deposited gently into a windrow.

The forage harvester or baler then follows the merger, harvesting the crop. Utilizing a merger reduces hours and wear on large, expensive forage harvesters by minimizing their trips across the field.

There are various other ways to move hay into windrows, such as wheel and rotary rakes, but forage mergers offer great versatility and speed while keeping high forage quality. When it comes to getting the crop harvested quickly, forage mergers can move across the field at a fast pace. With speeds up to 12 miles per hour and beyond in good conditions, mergers can move large amounts of hay in very little time.

Forage mergers are one of the most expensive machines to gather hay for harvesting. They also have more moving and wear parts than other hay-gathering machines, which makes upkeep on the machine costly as well. They make this large investment worth it by quickly windrowing and preserving high-quality forage to be used as feed.

One of the biggest advantages of mergers over other rakes is its ability to preserve the quality of the forage being windrowed. A merger uses a pickup to lift the crop off the ground and place it onto a belt. The belt then delivers the crop to the side or center of the machine, where it is gently deposited onto the ground.

Because the crop is not pushed along the ground, the ash content in the silage is greatly reduced. As the ash content is reduced, the quality of the silage increases. With this gentle handling of the crop, leaf loss is minimized as well. A properly set merger will also leave rocks in place while picking the crop up off the ground, limiting potential damage to harvesting machines.

Mergers are very versatile machines to have on the farm. Mergers are mainly used for moving wet hay; however, they can also be used in dry hay, where they form a smooth windrow for the forage harvester or baler that follows. The smoother the windrow, the faster the harvesting machine following the merger can run. It will also save time, fuel and wear on the harvesting machine when they do not have to slow down due to uneven windrows.

To make an even windrow, the hay needs to be picked up off the ground cleanly without pushing the crop forward. To help keep the crop on the pickup, operators need to match their ground speed to their pickup speed. The pickup speed can usually be adjusted via the in-cab controller or on the valve block of the machine.

Some manufacturers utilize a windguard that helps hold the crop onto the pickup. When utilizing a windguard, the crop is evenly fed onto the belt, which leads to an even discharge of crop into the windrow. The windguard will float with the crop as it is picked up and thrown onto the belt.

The windguard also prevents crop from being flipped up into the air, which then has the potential to be blown away by the wind, resulting in yield loss. Some mergers also utilize a crop net, which further traps any loose leaves that may have fallen off the stems of the crop. The leaves then drop back down onto the belt and back into the windrow.

Mergers come in a wide variety of sizes and configurations. They can have a pickup width as small as 10 feet on up to over 36 feet. The smaller-width machines will have a single head, while the larger machines will have up to three or four separate heads to help with ground following and allow the machine to fold to a reasonable transport width. Mergers can be trailed, semi-mounted or mounted machines.

There are even mergers that can be mounted onto self-propelled windrowers. Most mergers will allow the operator to fold a head up and out of the way and still be able to merge with the remaining heads. Doing this allows the operator to better follow a fenceline by moving the center of the machine closer to the fenceline, allowing for a more rapid response to movement of the tractor.

Mergers can either discharge to the left or the right of the machine. Machines with more than one belt can either push all crop to the left or the right, but they can also run crop to both sides of the machine simultaneously.

This is very useful when merging in very heavy crop where the volume across the full working width of the machine would be too much for the merger or forage harvester to handle when discharging in one direction. There are also a few mergers on the market that offer center delivery. With this method of delivery, either the two heads slide away from each other or a small center head lifts up and out of the way to allow for crop to be delivered to the center of the machine.

One option on some mergers that may be useful on farms is a swath board. When utilizing a swath board, the windrows that are made have more of a boxy shape, which mimics that of a rotary rake. This type of windrow is well suited for a baler, but forage harvester operators will also appreciate the windrow formation.

Mergers take a large amount of hydraulic flow to make them work properly. A majority of merger manufacturers use an on-board hydraulic system to run the motors that drive the pickups and belts. This type of hydraulic system uses the tractor power takeoff to run hydraulic pumps, which then run the motors.

Using this system reduces the tractor size requirement and eliminates any possible contamination from the tractor going to the merger or vice versa. Generally, the header lift and lower circuits are controlled by the tractor’s selective control valves.

While mergers are one of the most expensive hay-gathering tools on the market, they are becoming very popular on all sizes of farms to help get the crop put into windrows. They move across the field quickly and preserve the quality of the forage very well.  end mark

Matthew Murdock is the technical sales support specialist with Kuhn North America. Email Matthew Murdock.