Review: Schuitemaker Rapide 580

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It’s been a long time coming, but eventually the opportunity arose to try out an example of Dutch manufacturer Schuitemaker’s Rapide dual-purpose loader wagons. Here, the Rapide 580 turns out to be the perfect fit for grass harvesting or cut and carry jobs on the farm.

Harvesting the green stuff

The Schuitemaker Rapide 580 has long been of interest to me, as I’ve had a hankering to see it up close and learn more about the unique trailing pickup these machines run. I’m not aware of any other brand of loader wagon, baler, or forage harvester using a similar pickup system.  

Despite the time of year (early, we managed to arrange an outing to see the machine at work. Obviously, you’ll be scratching your head wondering what any contractor would be doing with a 38 cubic metre loader wagon at this time of the season. 

However, arriving at the paddock for a machinery test of the Schuitemaker Rapide 580, New Zealand North Island contractor Ollie Hawke from Phil Hawke Contracting, based in the Waikato district, assured me there was no silage being made: it was a cut and carry operation for a local cow farm.

Cut and carry is pretty common in areas with goat farmers. However, it’s the first time I had come across this feeding system being used in a cow system. I was assured that it’s working well.

The dairy farm is making better utilisation of a runoff lease block, with feed coming back to the dairy platform at crucial time in early spring to fully feed cows in early lactation. The Schuitemaker 580 wagon usually does a couple of loads every two or three days, unloading in the empty silage bunker, which accommodates approximately 10 loads of a silage wagon, fed in paddock with minimal wastage. 

For the contractor behind the wheel, it’s a handy job to have during the quieter winter months before things get busy in spring. The versatility of the Schuitemaker has been well proven at Phil Hawke Contracting, being utilised as a cut and carry machine through winter and early spring. Then, later, it’s used as a traditional grass loader wagon; still favoured by some farmers as a cost-effective method of harvesting spring surplus pasture into silage.

With the pickup component folding up so tidily under the floor, this proved particularly handy under the Krone forage harvester as a high-capacity bin for grass and also during maize harvest with heavy crops and potentially longer carts from runoff blocks.

Adjustable front for multi-tasking when opening up maize paddocks

Pickup/feed rotor

The pickup is one of the key points of difference of the Schuitemaker Rapide 580 loader wagon. As mentioned earlier, this is the only brand of grass foraging equipment I’m aware of that has a trailing pickup. Given how well it handled the conditions and its performance in the long, wet annual grass we were harvesting, I must admit that this does seem somewhat strange. The only explanation I can come up with is around design patents and brands and manufacturers sticking with what they know.

Key features that make the trailing pickup a winner in terms of design include outstanding ground following (with two jockey wheels at the side of the pickup and up to four following) and how smoothly the head follows the ground. 

Should you need to work on the tines, this is surprisingly straightforward as the backside of the pickup is open, so you don’t have to go removing tine bands before starting work. Having operated another brand of loader wagon previously, Hawke commented that repair and maintenance on the Schuitemaker over the last three or so years it has been in operation is considerably less than what the contractor would have budgeted to spend on its previous brand of loader wagon. Factoring in these savings helps keep the total cost of ownership down, which is always a big plus.

Split floor chains with welded on floor slats

Operation

As the pickup is under the floor, I reckon it’s a little difficult to see what’s going on compared to a pickup out the front of the wagon. However, Hawke assures me this isn’t an issue, as the wagon follows the ground so well that it pretty much looks after itself. Some of the benefits here include being easier to operate in general, as well as going easier on the tines through undulating ground.

Being mounted beneath the floor, the Schuite-maker loader wagon is also more compact than rival brands. Those working within the agricultural industries will understand that while gear has got bigger to become more efficient, not all farm gate-ways have kept up. 

The seven rows of tines on the two-metre pickup and hydraulically driven rapid flow intake roller feed the two-metre-wide seven-row star-shaped feed rotor. The drop floor design cuts down the distance forage has to travel before filling the 38 cubic metre capacity wagon. The knife bank is mounted on top of the rotor, with a total of 43 easily reversed double edge knives, giving a cut length of 4.4cm. The knife bank is in three sections, allowing options as to how many knives are required for the cut length wanted.

Low maintenance roller chain

Test time

On the day we visited, Hawke paired the Schuitemaker with one of his Fendt 724s, also equipped with a front mower for a single pass cut and carry operation. With around 240hp (179kW) available, the Fendt was well suited to the job without being too large. On flat ground, you may get away with less horsepower, but on hills, you may want more or to change the way you harvest the paddock to make life easier.

The in-cab, colour touchscreen monitor is thank-fully straightforward, and having key functions such as floor, rear door and pickup on dual joysticks makes operation even easier. 

Conversely, ISOBUS connection allows you to run through the tractor screen/terminal and assign functions to hydraulics to suit individual preferences. A 1,000 power take-off speed runs the pickup and rotor, which was still running well after three years of consistent use (as mentioned before, with less main-tenance than previous brands in the Hawke fleet).

Being used to having a pickup following behind the tractor where it can be seen, I would have said it was detrimental not being able to see the pickup mounted under the floor. However, given the unarguably tidy job carried out on long wet annual grass, the Schuitemaker Rapide 580 may have proven me wrong. Not only does it do a good job 

but it’s also easier for the driver through undulating terrain and can be operated with a higher forward speed, meaning it covers the ground faster. 

Another benefit of slightly higher ground speed is less bruising and damage of grass when harvesting. It’s of key importance for the team at Phil Hawke Contracting to be able to provide an efficient service and to be able to utilise feed for dairy farmers as a cut and carry machine.

In the paddock, the steered pendulum axles did the job well. These are pretty standard now on a lot of silage wagons and trailers. The unique design of the Schuitemaker is the steering rear axle, which pivots from just behind the pivot point of the pendulum, helping with manoeuvrability through gates/yards and also minimising damage to pasture in the paddock.

Lights are standard on the rear for road operation and additional lights on the sides help for night-time operation when unloading. Unloading is another strong point of the Schuitemaker Rapide 580, with the rear door lifting clear up and out of the way. 

Even after three years in use, the four roller chains with welded on slats and the original chains are still in good working order on this machine. Dual drives and a system that works a bit like a differential, providing drive to whichever side has the greatest resistance, has proved valuable when getting large loads of maize out and into the stack in quick order.

A hydraulic-driven feed roller helps feed fodder into the rotor

Options

If you’re after the ultimate machine for your needs, you will probably have to order it, as there are quite a few options to choose from. Starting from the bottom: larger tyres to decrease soil compaction. The trailing pickup offers options between two and six wheels on the pickup (up to four of these behind the tines to prevent damage and help with optimal ground following). 

Not an option chosen on this machine, but avail-able when ordering, is a hydraulic moveable front bulkhead. This is ideal during maize harvesting when opening up paddocks. 

Moving up from the 100 Series range to the 1000 Series, customers can choose auto loading  

to maximise each load volume. Minimal fodder damage is taken care of, thanks to sensors on the front panel and torque in the rotor tube to precisely move floor chains, reducing fuel consumption and ease of operation for the operator. 

As it is, I believe you can get dual rear beaters to speed up unloading. These are standard with the ‘V’ model diet feeders, which are equipped with a rear conveyor for in-barn feeding (for the likes of goats).  To the top of the machine, auto-closing covers are probably an option worth looking at if you intend to use on roads (and staying on the right side of  regulations regarding secure loads).

Fast unloading is a key feature of the Schuitemaker Rapide 580

Summary

A lot of contractors doing grass silage also do maize silage, so being able to make use of machinery for multiple tasks makes good financial sense. With the services offered by Phil Hawke Contracting, the Schuitemaker Rapide 580 seems to be a perfect fit, offering it an easy-to-operate loader wagon, with the flexibility to be used for grass harvesting or cut and carry jobs. 

Topping it all off is the fact it also delivers on good manoeuvrability, as well as a high capacity for working next to a forage harvester for grass and maize hauling.  

Colour touchscreen monitor with easy-to-use joystick controls for key tasks

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