Claas Jaguar 970 forage harvester review

By: Jaiden Drought

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Claas’ latest forage harvester offering, the Jaguar 970, brings together a huge amount of power and a high level of finesse. Jaiden Drought gets technical with the wide range of features included.

Fuel savings have been achieved with automatic reduction of engine output when full output is not required

Record setting in more ways than one, Claas has produced more than 40,000 machines since 1973, and holds the title of the world's most successful forage harvester, dominating the world market with one in every two foragers sold globally being a Claas machine. So, it’s fair to say that expectations were high when getting behind the wheel of the new Jaguar 970.

With glorious New Zealand countryside providing a scenic backdrop to rival anywhere in the world, our terrain however was in stark contrast to the large open fields of the German countryside where these machines can commonly be found. Faced with sharp undulating contour and steep hill sides – the real horsepower sucking stuff – fortunately our Jaguar 970 test machine comes well equipped to deal with such a challenge.

ENGINE

If you want to see an impressive engine, simply open any of the three rear panels for an expansive view of the transverse 800 horsepower (597kW), 24L V12 MAN e                                                                                            ngine. This is a proper weapon, equipped with a 1,200L fuel tank to keep up with the ferocious appetite for crop.

The engine is fitted crossways across the machine for efficiency. The main drive comes straight off the end of the crank with no additional power losses through angle gearboxes.

This means that one large belt running down the side of the Jaguar 970 runs a direct powerband drive between the engine to the chopping unit, the accelerator, infinitely variable length of cut adjustment, the corn cracker and the variable front attachment drive.

While the ridiculously impressive size of the engine will keep a smile on any driver’s face, the Dynamic Power function will keep the one paying the gas bill happy as well. As the machine enters the crop it is at full power. When the crop doesn’t max out the output of the machine, the 10-step dynamic power steps in. This means engine output is reduced, as well as a claimed 10.6 per cent fuel saving. The automatic engines speed reduction to 1,400rpm at the headlands and 1,290rpm for road transport is another handy feature, saving up to an additional 10 per cent on fuel and getting between jobs faster than ever before.

Business happens right in the heart of the Jaguar 970

IN THE SADDLE

Driving a chopper can be a little overwhelming at times as literally the whole symphony of machines associated with harvesting, along with heavy expectations from the boss and client all rest on your shoulders. Claas has recognised this and included in the design several driver aids to keep stress levels down.

CEMOS Auto Performance keeps chopper output at the maximum possible efficiency. When the engine load decreases, forward speed increases. These machines love being fully loaded with constant crop flow, and maize silage in particular is a comfortable crop to chop because it does exactly this.

Cam Pilot is a twin lens camera that picks up the swath (when chopping grass) and converts this into a three-dimensional image that the steering then responds to – so in essence the Jaguar is being guided by the windrow. For maize, the ‘row sense’ is the equivalent.

Two finger sensors detect the precision planted rows and guides the machine to keep on the straight and narrow.

Once experienced, a must have for me is the Auto Fill function. Now upgraded to automatically load the trailer while ‘opening up’ behind the machine, not just alongside, this is a huge game changer for tight, sharp cornered sprawling paddocks.

The main advantage here is that you can keep track of what’s going into the machine, as well as potential obstacles and crop flow, without needing to have eyes in the back of your head while you and the trailer snake around the edges of some meandering paddock you have never been to – often in the bloody dark!

The tech behind this innovation is a camera mounted under the spout. This creates a 3D outline of the trailer or truck top and it then simply keeps the spout within the boundary of that bin.

The upgraded Comfort cabin is a plush, comfortable place to spend the day and comes equipped with a large CEBIS spec’d touchscreen display and CMotion controller, which Claas tractor operators should be more than familiar with. Personally, I like the ‘table tennis paddle’ type hand controller. The thump movement from spout to flap controller seemed more natural on the ‘older’ style but, like anything new, the CMotion is something you will get used to.

The Auto Fill function allows for loading of trailers behind the tractor as well as alongside, which is a bonus for smaller paddocks

CROP FLOW

Right in the heart of the Jaguar 970 is where the business happens. You can have all the power in the world but without an efficient crop flow it will all be in vain. Forage harvesters by nature are intrinsically complex – the crop flow is not a complex process in itself but the science behind it is, so I will do my best to keep it brief.

First, you need to keep foreign objects out. Obviously, if you don’t, the machine will let out a primeval scream as knives are shorn off the drum and sound like they are coming through the cab floor – absolute bedlam. Luckily this should all be a thing of the past ‘Direct Stop’ will kick in when the five-section metal detector or ‘stop rock’ is triggered.

If this does go off, a pinpoint location is sent to the in-cab monitor and there is two-stage reversing. You can either reverse the front attachment on its own, or the front attachment and the feeder unit together.

Hydraulic pre-compression is another new feature whereby two hydraulic rams with pressure accumulators apply a specific degree of pressure to the crop. When there is a reduction in crop flow, the pre-compression rollers will adjust to always exert the same pressure on the crop layer. This is the only way to consistently ensure good chop quality, something almost impossible to do with spring pre-compression.

Once the crop enters the chopping cylinder, a true feat of engineering happens. Claas has five drum variants, all called the V-Max. The V-Max 42 has 42 knives with up to 25,200 cuts per minute and lengths of cut from 3.5 to 12.5mm. The V-Max 36/28/24 are the more common drums in Australia. The beauty of the new drums is that, when running a half set of knives for grass silage, the position of the knife carriers themselves can be turned so the knives end up staggered and look like the cleats on a tractor tyre. This means more uniform chop length not chop, gap, chop, which is what often happens when running a half set.

The hydraulically-locked shear bar is another new feature where the shear bar with the mounting block is pivoted precisely towards the knife drum, which is rotating forwards. The hydraulic system releases the side shear bar clamp and secures it again once the adjustment is complete. This is in addition to automatic adjustment of the drum concave so, as the shear bar is adjusted, the drum concave is automatically positioned relative to the knife drum. This means very consistent chop length and reduced wear on the knives after each sharpen.

Claas have five V-Max drum varients, with the largest carrying 42 knives

DRIVE, AXLES AND TYRES

The drive on the new Jaguars come in the form of two variable displacement hydrostats; essentially double drive. The beauty here is that you get more power and control on the hills and then when the power isn’t needed it simply reduces the load on the drive line. As a result, the headland and road rpm can be dropped considerably to 1,400 and 1,290rpm, respectively.

If the going gets really gnarly the axles can be ‘diff- locked’ with a multi-disc clutch. When the diff-lock is set to auto it will lock the front drive units together and will auto disengage when over 15km/h or there is a steering or braking correction.

The inclusion of a tyre pressure control system is becoming more popular on tractors but has been on Claas Jaguars for more than a decade. Tyre pressures can be reduced for field work and automatically pumped up for when on the road. This ensures the ideal pressure to get the machine home safely and with the least possible wear in all scenarios.

There is a direct powerband drive between the engine and the chopping unit, the accelorator and the Comfort Cut intake roller drive

NIR SENSOR

With near infrared (NIR) spectroscopy a light is beamed through the crop from the top side of the spout as the crop flows through. As the light bounces back it gives readings on not only the moisture content but also starch, protein, fibre and fat ash content. This has been proven and accepted by the DLG test lab and allows farmers and contractors to get a printout at the end of each job with not only all crop data, but also start/end time, area and dry matter (DM) yield, which is a great feature.

Claas has taken this one step further to include the automatic length of cut adjustment. This will vary based on the DM of the crop passing through the NIR sensor. If the desired cut length is, say, 14mm at 35 per cent DM, the machine can be set to vary the length of cut by +/- 3mm to retain the desired DM. The machine will automatically make these adjustments throughout the paddock as outside rounds, trees and exposed areas, etc. can all have quite different DM percentages. As a result, the farmer gets the ideal chop length across the whole crop, not just what the machine was initially set to.

The Cam Pilot assumes control of the tractor to change direction to match the path of the swath

OTHER FEATURES

Other features worth mentioning include LED work lights on the cab roof, at the rear and on the upper discharge chute where they pivot with the crop flow, allowing night-time harvesting operations to be monitored very easily.

Three different kernel processors are available: classic, max and Shredlage (which our test 970 was equipped with). This concept allows maize plant to be cut longer (up to 30mm) and it almost shreds the plant rather than straight cutting (hence the name), which aids animal fibre digestion, while the 50 per cent speed differential between the two KP rollers pulverises the kernel.

The test machine was fitted with the ORBIS 750 (10 row) which has five parts that stack fold and unfold in 15 seconds. Auto contour activates when the head is placed in the float position and the hard-wearing skids ensure the low stubble height of 80mm is achieved while the wing sensors ensure the head floats with the contours of the ground.

The combination of small and large drums and row fingers give clean crop cut and constant flow to the feed rollers and, for maintenance, all grease nipples only need a squirt every 250 hours while the gearbox oils only need changing every 2,500 operating hours (after the initial oil change).

The drum concave can be adjusted to achieve consistent crop delivery

SUMMARY

In terms of sheer numbers, the cost of forage harvesters is staggering. Equally (and thankfully) so is the throughput these machines can achieve. And when you consider the impressive technology on board it all starts to add up. The ability for Australia to get the 970 with the huge V12 MAN engine without the emissions wizardry of the Tier 5 machines is a real bonus.

Claas has been the market leader in the forager game since its onset and the technology behind this latest offering will not disappoint. It not only makes the operator’s life easier but the maintenance and adjustment features means parts last longer and the constant automated adjustment results in top notch forage, making this a real game changer.

The Claas Jaguar 970 is available in Australia through Claas Harvest Centres.

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