Review: Vigolo TDF-DT mulcher | Full Test

By: Mark Fouhy, Photography by: Mark Fouhy

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Mark Fouhy checks out the Italian Vigolo TDF-DT high-body mulcher – the kind of machine that makes him love his job

The Vigolo TDF-DT mulcher eating dry grass
The Vigolo TDF-DT mulcher eating up long, dry grass
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One of the best things about testing agricultural machinery is getting to travel around and see different equipment in action.

I’m particularly keen on gear designed to suit specific areas and climates and specialised tasks. The Italian Vigolo TDF-DT high-body mulcher is an excellent case in point.

The journey to view this impressive mulcher in action involved heading to New Zealand’s North Island, where I met Keith Inverarity of Jacobs Contracting. Keith has been contracting around Kerikeri, 80km north of Whangarei, for 15 years after buying the business from brothers Colin and Nigel Jacobs.

Offering a range of services, including spraying and spreading, full cultivation through to maize and grass silage, and baling round and square bales, contracting in the far north means Keith has always operated a mulching mower, much in demand in the area.

After spotting the Vigolo range of mulchers at NZ National Agricultural Fieldays last year, Keith was impressed by the build quality of the Vigolo TDF-DT mulcher and has since purchased one, wasting no time putting it to work.

Manual adjustment for rear roller
Manual adjustment for rear roller

 

Setup

Getting hooked up and under way with the Vigolo mulcher is pretty straightforward. Initial set-up involves getting the side skids/rear roller and door set correctly, which may take a little time to get the correct height. The rear tailgate can be set in a number of positions, depending on how much you want to mulch what you are mowing. You can shut it right down and with the double row of chains along the front edge of the mower, can stop almost all of the material from flying out of the machine (possibly causing damage when mowing around buildings, roadsides, etc.).

Optional, but not on this test machine, is hydraulic operation of the rear door if you intend to change the setting regularly. Being a busy contractor, Keith did not get around to tidying up the last little bit of grass around his sheds, which was ideal for our testing purposes. I was confident the Vigolo mulcher would handle it fine, which was the case, but found it performed even better than anticipated.

I attribute this to the triple flails, which produce a very fine chop of the material exiting the rear of the machine. The fine chop speeds up the breakdown of organic material, which in warm, humid climates also helps to decrease the risk of potentially harmful facial eczema spores building up.

The Vigolo mulcher up close
A fine chop was achieved with the Vigolo mulcher

 

Construction

Initial thoughts on seeing the new Vigolo TDF mulcher was that this was one serious bit of kit and any kikuyu, gorse, or other brush type weeds had better look out. Mulchers generally get a hard time and need to be built accordingly to handle the job. Until now, I only had experience with flail mulchers used in orchards of around two metres. Although almost a metre narrower than the 2.8-metre working width of the Jacobs Contracting Vigolo machine, the construction was much lighter.

Vigolo uses the highest-rated gearboxes on its range of flail mulchers – 300hp. This is a big plus for Keith, as it means he can put any tractor in his fleet onto it rather than having to wait until a smaller tractor gets back from another job.

With a higher-rated gearbox, you need to have enough belts to drive the rotor and flails. In mulching, a 30hp/belt for drive is the golden number to aim for. With 12 belts, six each side, and 300hp at the PTO, which equates to 25hp/belt, belt slip should be no issue.

The gearbox is fitted with an overrun clutch that allows the rotor to run down freely without damaging the PTO in the tractor.

The other important thing to note with the gearbox is the solid mounting which, along with the bearings on the rotor and flails, take a fair hammering.

The double-skinned deck, with plenty of gussets and braces used throughout construction, ensure the Italian-built mulcher is built to handle some serious work.

The Vigolo TDF DT high-body mulchers offer a 2.3m to 3.2m cut width and come standard with a 273mm rear roller – an option often not standard for most mulchers. Along with the wide and long skids, the rear roller helps prevent scalping and minimises extra wear on the flails.

Once up to speed, the large 273mm rotor, made of thick steel, helps maintain momentum in tough going. Vigolo fits a triple flail system to its mulchers. Other flail types are available on request. 

The triple flail is excellent for getting into the thick mat of kikuyu that can be found throughout Northland. The three-knife system cuts finer than a hammer flail and requires less horsepower to drive it.

Keith uses his mulcher as part of his cultivation arsenal to break down grass or crop residue, giving better strike and yields, which works out better for the farmer.

The versatility of mulching mowers may be a little underrated in New Zealand, as they tend to be used mostly for either land clearing and orchard work or kikuyu management. They are also a great option for topping to control pasture, offering several benefits in this area.

Y flails securely mounted on the 273mm rotor
Y flails securely mounted on the 273mm rotor

 

The bottom line

If you’re looking to purchase a flail mulching mower, I strongly recommend you consider a Vigolo, which are available in Australia through Agriquip Machinery.

There is a wide range of options available, and the build quality and specification level of the Vigolo machines make them a serious option in this line of work.

 

HITS

Strong construction

High-rated gearboxes used with overrun clutch built in

Three blade Y flails offer excellent consistent fine cut

Double front row of chains to minimise opportunity of damage from flying debris

New Zealand design

MISSES

A hydraulic rear door would be a useful addition (that is an available option)

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