Review: Claas Disco 8500 C contour mower

By: Dan Reymer, Photography by: Dan Reymer

Presented by

Mowers are often the most unexpected multi-purpose tool on the farm and when it comes to choosing a mower, durability and dependability are often at the top of the list. With this in mind, Dan Reymer gave the Claas Disco 8500 C contour mower fitted with a Claas Disco Move 3200 FC tine conditioner a spin on the green

 

Having gone through a few sets of mowers over the years, New Zealand agricultural contractor Reymer Ag recently invested in a new set of Claas Disco mowers, with a 3200 Move FC (with a tine conditioner) on the front, for mastering the challenges of undulating Waikato terrain.

Mowers don’t generally get the easiest of times. Not only expected to do the job it’s designed to do, they are also often inadvertently used as levelling bars, rock pickers, fence removers, and even the odd irrigation pipe aligner – it’s a pretty demanding job sheet.

 

FIT FOR TASK

When it came time to choose a new mower, Reymer Ag needed a machine that contoured well and was agile enough for some of the smaller dairy farms but also big enough to keep in front of multiple machines at once for various daily set-ups.

After sussing out a few different options available, the Reymer team decided on a set of Claas Disco 8500 C paired with the new Claas Disco Move 3200 FC.

Having done a few hectares with other mowers myself over the years, I was keen to see how the new Claas Disco performed.

Spending a few days on the machine allows you to learn quickly how it feels and how it reacts to different ground types. Scalping becomes a thing of the past, thanks to the Move front mower.

Compact sleek modern design covering up the Move float mechanism

Following the machine around for a full season on a loader wagon and a baler, I haven’t seen a single piece of scalped ground on any job – and that’s over a variety of different conditions.

Going from flat peat paddocks where stumps fire through them, to Kawhia on the West Coast where a smooth flat square paddock is an extreme rarity, to sliding across hillsides finding the odd bull hole – the Waikato terrain certainly keeps you on your toes as an operator and proves challenging for most gear, no matter how well designed, but not once did the Claas Disco try to dig in, and all three mowers cut at an even length all the time.

Talking with the main operator for the season, Keith Brownrigg doesn’t have any faults to complain about either, aside from them not being spec’d with the irrigation line warning system.

With only a month on the clock of the machine, he was less than impressed when the situation arose where a few metres of irrigation line wrapped around the conditioner. A warning sign is required to comply with health and safety regulations on random flying objects generally accompanied by some indecipherable unhappy swear words.

The compact design keeps the road width skinny and keeps the weight closer to the tractor

SET UP

The new Disco Contour 8500 C and Move 3200 were coupled to a Fendt 722 when we had a go on them – this handled well, and the machine was manoeuvrable. Starting up the mowers strains most tractors, but as most who drive a bit know, starting one and then waiting a few seconds before starting the other prevents the tractor from stalling.

The mowers are Isobus-compatible, but during usage, they were run off the Claas controller, which is the same for most of the range, so operators are familiar with the controls (although personally, I feel this is starting to get a little outdated with a lack of colour and difficult navigation).

With some hours behind the wheel, it is obvious that 200 horsepower (149kW) handles the 8.3-metre mower set well. As you’d expect, heavy crops going up hills slows things down a touch, but that’s par for the course no matter what you have on behind or in front.

The standard Claas monitor

FEATURES

Claas definitely decided to showcase its experience in mowers when it designed these. From the first leading edge right to the tip of the rear cover, it’s clear this isn’t their first rodeo.

The Disco front mower has changed a lot from the old models, incorporating an all-new float system, which tilts the mower bed depending on the contour in relation to the tractor.

Hills, drains and cow pugging are inevitable and clear arrows on the front and rear ensure the operator has them set to the right height, while a large pressure gauge ensures the correct amount of float pressure.

The traditional Russian roulette when pulling out of an intersection is greatly reduced, thanks to well-placed mirrors on the front mower. The rear of the hazard panels is painted so there isn’t any glare off them at night, which helps reduce operator fatigue, because after a long day mowing, the last thing you want is lights reflecting back at you, especially with the new LED lights most tractors are equipped with these days.

Hazard panels can be a pain to work around, and it seems that, no matter where you put them, they are in the way somehow or look absolutely absurd. These ones mounted on the front fold out the way with gas struts so there are no pins to move or lose in the middle of the night when you are rushing to get home for dinner.

On the rear, they are mounted on the light frame with rubber mounts to prevent the vibration of being at the utmost edges from cracking the steel. This also provides some added protection in the unfortunate event of clipping a strainer post trying to manoeuvre into a tight gateway.

Floating through a small hidden spit drain at pace with ease

OPERATION

Hitching up is made straightforward and easy, thanks to double cones on the rear linkage balls. This means the arms guide themselves in, saving multiple trips in and out of the cab, adjusting stabilisers if you are having a bad day. As machinery and tractors keep including superior technology and requiring less operator input, there is a drop in the daily exercise hopping in and out of tractors, which just means the trip down the steps for lunch is completely justified to keep the daily step count up.

Once in the paddock, to unfold the butterflies, a lift is required to unlatch along with going into the unfold screen on the controller. These fold down nice and quickly and stop in their lifted position ready for the power take-off (PTO) to be turned on. Once done, it automatically jumps onto the run screen where you are required to lift the hydraulics before you can float them onto the ground.

The Fendt Vario terminal using the ‘go’ and ‘end’ buttons was a dream to use, with the correct distances for the drop and lift, so all mowers start and end at the same physical place essentially saving fuel, as you’re not putting an unnecessary load on anything.

It took a bit to get used to the way it lifts and lowers the individual rear mowers on the Claas terminal as it is not like some other implements. If the left mower is selected when the mowers are down and you pressurise the hydraulics to lift, the right-hand one will lift. Then when both are in the air and the left-hand one is selected, the left-hand one will drop, which did catch me out a couple of times. It could be different when run through the Isobus, but the adapter cable was on another machine at the time. And, like anything once you become familiar with the process, it all becomes second nature.

Once the paddock is done, the controller will not let you fold up until the PTOs and the mower bed are stopped. This is a great safety feature and helps extend the life of PTO shafts as well as preventing any accidental folding of the machine.

It is amazing how much technology can be put into things these days. Ten years ago, a mower was a mower (and let’s be honest, it probably helped out with a bit of land reclaiming once or twice), but moving with the times and technology, it is amazing how mowers today incorporate with modern tractors and how user-friendly things are made. From saving the operator a few minutes every paddock to protecting itself from destruction, plus helping the operator to make daily servicing and maintenance easier, it is all cost saved in the long run for both the farmer and contractor.

Hazard panels fold out of the way for extra visibility and are painted so lights don't glare off them at night

TRANSPORT

When it comes to road transport in agricultural vehicles, the rules and regulations are hard to keep up with and seem to change just as soon as you get used to something. The Disco Move 3200 FC front mower has a cut of three metres; a touch narrower than the 3600 with its 3.4-metre cut. The front wings are folded up for road transport, which keeps it snug when manoeuvring tight gateways.

The front mower does sit fairly well forwards on the tractor, but I have not found it to be an issue yet. Sideways across hills it can leave a bit of striking, but I believe the rear mowers can be spec’d with side shift to counteract the tractor sliding.

The rear mowers are folded up vertically and would generally be the same width as the tractor. The rear light frame is kept close and angles up to cope with undulating terrain. In extreme cases, as with any mower, it would still be able to foul the ground, but a simple linkage lift would solve that.

It does look like a nice tidy set-up coming down the road for sure.

Mirrors on the front are well placed and ideal for good vision before pulling out at intersection

CONTOUR

Put simply, the float mechanism on the front mower is bloody impressive. Boasting a 1,000mm vertical movement range, once you go about putting this into practice, it’s easy to see what the rave is about.

During our test conditions, an old spit drain was well hidden under the grass and it glided on through without a worry in the world. The operator felt it once the tractor got to it, but it showed how the front mower moves as its name suggests.

The rears get an easier life following the tractor, and of all three of the mowers, none of them scalped the grass and all maintained a pretty even cut length throughout the drain. The rears didn’t dive into the drain as much as the front did, as you’d expect, as the tractor carries them through.

Great rear visibility from the cab and a streamlined design

SUMMARY

I found these Claas Disco mowers super easy to manoeuvre and there are a number of design features that finish them off well. There’s nothing worse than a great machine that hasn’t been finished well or has missed some of the small things – but Claas seems to have ticked all the boxes here.

The mowers are basic enough that nearly anyone can use them, but, if needed, they have all the tech in them to set them up to be fully integrated into the tractor. The Disco Move is pretty incredible with its contouring abilities; whether on hills or rough ground, it never fails to deliver. You’d be pretty confident that the bed will stay under it and not get caught in an unseen bull hole.

With the right level of size and brain, Reymer Ag can use it to its full potential for the ground it runs on, whether big, open dairy farm paddocks or squeezing into lifestyle blocks. With the mowers operating ahead of all the other gear and the first step in the silage making process, it has to be done right and with quality results, which this delivers.

 

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