Looking back: Where did Claas self-propelled foragers come from?

Claas Jaguar forage harvesters are now a common sight on farms all over Ireland every summer – but the advent of the self-propelled forager is a surprisingly recent phenomenon.

It all started for Claas with the 120hp Jaguar 60 SF (pictured below); these were launched onto the market in 1973. The machine was borne out of the need to harvest more maize in a shorter time-frame.

Image source: www.agrartechnik-im-einsatz.de (PIRKACHER)

The 60 SF combined elements of the trailed Jaguar 60 with combine harvester assemblies; this approach, says Claas, enabled it to be launched after a “very brief development period”.

By 1976, more than 500 had been built.

Next up (in 1975) was the bigger 213hp  Jaguar 80 SF (pictured below) – with a significantly wider (chopper) drum.

Image source: www.proplanta.de

It also had a new blower (crop accelerator) unit, along with the facility to “separate the intake and drum housings”. The 80 SF also heralded the arrival of an ‘auto-steer’ feature when cutting maize; this was achieved using ‘sensing’ brackets on the header.

A year later – in 1976 – the 60 SF was dropped from the line-up – to make way for the new 70 SF. Depending on spec, it could be configured with a 150 or 175hp engine. It shared some of the features first introduced on its bigger sibling – the 80 SF.

The 70 SF remained in production until 1982; the 80 SF survived until the following year. A limited number made their way to Ireland – chiefly to tackle grass rather than maize.

The much more modern 600 series (pictured below) came on the scene in 1983; this was the line-up that enabled Claas to exert its growing dominance over the European market. However, this dominance wasn’t quite so evident – as yet – here in Ireland.

Noteworthy features included a metal detector (housed in a lower feed-roller), an optional corn cracker for maize and a much-improved cab.

Between 1983 and 1987, Claas built almost 7,000 of these machines (from the 675 upwards); it apparently captured a more-than-50% share of the European market.

The SL range (building on the success of the previous 600 series machines) arrived in 1987; it was notable for its V-type drum, with staggered knives. It was most readily-recognisable for its shapely cab. The range-topping 695 (pictured below) had 354hp under the hood – quite a tally in the heady days of the late 1980s.

Image source: www.agramex.com

A seismic change – certainly in the context of the Irish market – came about in 1993, with the arrival of the 310-481hp 800 series.

These machines (an 840 is pictured below) moved forager design on a notch; they represented another big leap forward.

Image source: Shane Casey

The advent of these machines also marked a noticeable uptake for Claas foragers across Ireland (mostly at the expense of New Holland south of the border).

Revamped 800 series models (830, 850, 870 and 890) came on the scene in 1999, along with a new 605hp flagship – the Jaguar 900. An 850 is pictured below.

Claas Jaguar
Image source: Shane Casey

The beefy-looking 930, 940, 950, 960, 970 and 980 hit the market in 2007 – 11 years ago. A 970, working in Co. Cork, is pictured below.

Image source: Shane Casey

These machines ushered in a host of updates, along with a bigger cab. Notable features included a new intelligent engine control system, a continuous moisture measurement system and a redesigned drum/cylinder.

An ‘Auto-Fill’ automatic filling system attracted a gold medal at Agritechnica 2009 – Europe’s, if not the world’s, biggest indoor farm machinery exhibition.

The rest, as they say, is history…

Major milestones:
  • Claas’ 10,000th Jaguar forage harvester was built in 1994;
  • The 15,000th unit left the line just four years later – in 1998;
  • The 20,000th machine was built in 2004;
  • The 25,000th unit was sold to a farmer in Wisconsin (US) in 2008; it was a 980. He had started with a Jaguar 820 20 years earlier;
  • The 30,000th Jaguar was built in 2011; it was finished off in a special black livery.
Image source: Shane Casey