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Tractor attachments and implements  RSS feed

 
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I added this thread here as an extension of the small tractors thread.  I thought I would start this thread with a review of an implement that is somewhat hard to find in the United States, but is common elsewhere in the world—the flail mower!

Externally, the flail mower looks somewhat like a tiller mounted on the rear of the tractor.  It works by rapidly spinning a series of cutting knives along a central rod that is oriented parallel to the ground and spins those knives so that they contact grass & plants while the blades spin under the rod and forwards in the tractor’s direction of travel.  They have a sort of sweeping motion as they cut and they can really clean the land, almost down to the surface of the soil.

Flail mowers are true multipurpose mowers.  Finish mowers leave a nice final cut.  Rough cutters can mow through almost anything, but leave a pretty rough finish when they are done.  Flail mowers will mow almost anything but they leave a finish as good if not better than a finish mower.  One summer I did all of my mowing (rough and finish) with my flail mower and it never let me down.

As they mow, they really cut up the material into fine pieces, basically shredding the foliage.  Some people use this function to mechanically break down a cover crop to speed decomposition.  I found the flail mower to excell at trimming along living fences and woody hedges where I would want to cut plant material back but leave virtually no remaining chaff, the debris being so shredded it virtually disappeared.

When I sold my old tractor, I sold the flail mower with it and now I need a new one to fit my new tractor.  I have my eyes on one with an offset function so I can mow alongside my living fence without getting my face in the branches.  They are also trail mowers par excellance and can really clean up a ditch so that there is no remaining stringy material to clog up culvert.

In my opinion, the flail mower is the ultimate mower and I highly recommend them to any Permie who thinks they might need a rough mower and a finish mower but only wants to own one.  I would love to know others thoughts on this well.

Eric
 
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I do not have a flail mower, but I am actively seeking one, but with a slightly different twist.

For me simply mowing for the sake of mowing, has no real purpose; I spend too much money on property taxes to have grass grow and not utilize it. So to that end it must get in the belly of a sheep. That means moving the cut grass once it has been cut. So for me it is in getting a flail chopper to do that.

A flail chopper is a lot like a flail mower except the grass is sent into a blower and launched into a truck or trailer to be directly fed out, or put into a pile to be compacted and ensiled.

Direct cut, the moisture content would be much too high and so bachalism could take place if a mouse was hit with the flail mower or something. Instead my plan is to mow the field, let the grass wilt, then rake up the grass, then roll over it with heh flail chopper picking it up and tossing it into a truck or trailer so that it can be compacted and ensiled. The cost for equipment would be so much cheaper then all the equipment needed for hay, and it makes excellent feed.

 
Eric Hanson
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Travis,

You are probably right that a flail mower is not the best mower for making hay.  A flail mower really chops up grass & debris into fine residue that decomposes quickly.  Orchards are often mown with flails as they can offset easily to mow right up to the trees.  They also tend to not throw debris like a regular mower.  They also excell at reducing a cover crop.  

I personally loved the flail mower for mowing trails around my property and for mowing twiggy, woody debris.  Some of my trails are along my roughly 1k foot living fence.  With a flail mower I can offset to mow down debris without getting a face full of branches and thorns from the living fence.  In the woods. A flail mower is quite maneuverable as it does not hang out like a rough cutter, and I can maneuver into areas I could never get to with even my 4’ rotary cutter.

Personally, I have no need for hay and I don’t think hay is the flail mower’s strength.  But for my purposes, I find it perfect.

Eric
 
Travis Johnson
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Eric Hanson wrote:Travis,

You are probably right that a flail mower is not the best mower for making hay.  A flail mower really chops up grass & debris into fine residue that decomposes quickly.  Orchards are often mown with flails as they can offset easily to mow right up to the trees.  They also tend to not throw debris like a regular mower.  They also excell at reducing a cover crop.  

I personally loved the flail mower for mowing trails around my property and for mowing twiggy, woody debris.  Some of my trails are along my roughly 1k foot living fence.  With a flail mower I can offset to mow down debris without getting a face full of branches and thorns from the living fence.  In the woods. A flail mower is quite maneuverable as it does not hang out like a rough cutter, and I can maneuver into areas I could never get to with even my 4’ rotary cutter.

Personally, I have no need for hay and I don’t think hay is the flail mower’s strength.  But for my purposes, I find it perfect.

Eric



Flails are great attachments. I have heard of people unhooking the blower on a flail chopper and just using it to mow pastures, or knocking down corn stalks.

You are right however, they have their place. Just because grass does not end up in the belly of a sheep does not mean mown grass does not have a benefit. Chop and drop, and mown pastures help grass grow better and in the end does feed sheep, even if not directly.
 
Eric Hanson
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If I could have one and only one mower for my acreage, it would be a flail mower.  As it stands, I am planning on getting a flail mower for mowing trails, along side hedges, and work in the woods.  Since a flail mower only sticks out 2 feet from the rear of the tractor (as opposed to a rough cutter that sticks 6-10 feet out!), it is quite maneuverable.

Eric
 
Travis Johnson
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I was at a Farm Show a few years ago and a representative was showing some FAE equipment, which are basically flail mowers for forestry applications. I got looking at them pretty close, and could not see any reason why they could not be homemade. All it consisted of was a rotating shaft with welded on carbide inserts that beat against a fixed head. That was it. The rest was just a shroud to cover the debris from flying back, The hardest part was getting something with high HP to drive the rotating shaft with teeth. Most forestry mulchers (flail mowers for woody debris)  used hydraulics, but some were direct drive.

I thought about building something like this, but scaled down, pulled by my farm tractor, bulldozer or skidder. I do land clearing on my own farm as well as for other people. Right now I have 70 acres to clear on my land alone.






 
Eric Hanson
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Travis,

That’s an impressive machine there.  Personally, I think the hardest part about building a home made flail mower would be getting the flails balanced.  Mine spun very fast, but were as smooth as could be.

I also think we are talking about different ends of the spectrum.  You are clearing land for others for a living.  My last flail mower was 4’ wide, my next 5’ wide.

Eric
 
Travis Johnson
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Eric Hanson wrote:Travis,

That’s an impressive machine there.  Personally, I think the hardest part about building a home made flail mower would be getting the flails balanced.  Mine spun very fast, but were as smooth as could be.

I also think we are talking about different ends of the spectrum.  You are clearing land for others for a living.  My last flail mower was 4’ wide, my next 5’ wide.

Eric



Yeah balancing things sucks, but can be done old school.

The area I clearcut is really fertile, but has thin soil, so I would really like to mulch as much junk as I can and not push and uproot which of course would cause me to lose much of it. The longer the stumps rot down, the easier it would be to grind them up of course.

I liked that design because it was pull-behind, and so the flail was powered by its own power pack. I have a 6 cylinder White Diesel engine kicking around, but how in the heck do you get all that HP to a spinning drum?

Another idea I had, though not really flail-oriented, was building a crimp roller and towing that behind my skidder so it would crush and break the logging debris left behind. Doing so right now would be perfect where the ground is frozen, yet no snow. As the roller rolled over the saplings and logging slash, it would break the dry, brittle limbs. Doing so year after year would reduce the slash and saplings down into mulch. Churning over stumps that rotted away would slowly gnaw them up to nothingness as well. It would be a low cost way of clearing land, but not really conducive to contracted out work. landowners want their land converted from forest into fields now. They just do not want to pay the $3000 an acre to do it.

Here is the area I need to clear at some point. This is only 30 acres. I have another 30 acre area, as well as a 10 acre area I clear cut a year ago.





 
Travis Johnson
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Eric Hanson wrote:Travis,I also think we are talking about different ends of the spectrum.  You are clearing land for others for a living.  My last flail mower was 4’ wide, my next 5’ wide.Eric



Around here where papermills closed and taxes shot up overnight to dumble what they were, it left landowners with lots of forested land that had little value. People want to clear land back into valuable farmland, but unless they do it themselves, they must pay the only landclearing contractor around to do it, at $3000 an acre. That is too much; my 70 acres of land would cost a staggering $210,000!! I could never recoup my money!

So in the interest of helping others, I clear land, but I could do it faster if I had the right equipment. My business idea is to build my own equipment that gets the job done, yet it is just me doing it (no employees) to keep costs down. I like the idea of rolling across the land with a stump mulcher, then raking up the debris with a stick rake, and pushing the windows up and leaving in a few days time, for very little money on a per acre basis. My neighbors get their land cleared at a decent rate, and we can all get back to making some income with our land again.
 
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Probably not the best for clearing stumpy land, but I wonder if a re-purposed beet defoliator would work as a flail brush mower.  The rubber flails (used to protect the tops of the beets while removing the leaves and stems) could be replaced by normal metal flails.  Can't believe someone hasn't tried!.....
FlailMechanism.JPG
[Thumbnail for FlailMechanism.JPG]
 
Travis Johnson
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John Weiland wrote:Probably not the best for clearing stumpy land, but I wonder if a re-purposed beet defoliator would work as a flail brush mower.  The rubber flails (used to protect the tops of the beets while removing the leaves and stems) could be replaced by normal metal flails.  Can't believe someone hasn't tried!.....



I like the way you think! :-)
 
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