Video: ‘Grease it and fill her with diesel – a handy day’s work is 20ac’

AgriLand paid a visit to Co. Carlow – to climb aboard a self-propelled six-row beet harvester that belongs to Clive and Melvin Bailey.

The machine in question is a Dutch-built Vervaet 617.

John W Anderson spoke to the machine’s operator – Jimmy Southern (pictured below) – to find out how he rates it. The machine was still pulling beet (from last year’s crop) up to a few short weeks ago.

Jimmy explained: “This [used] machine is new to us; we bought her out of England. We used to run two twin-row Thyregods. But we got this machine because we just wanted to get more out in a day.

“She’s a six-row machine with a 17t tank. She’s averaging 2.5ac/hour.

“Having this type of machine means we don’t have to pull all the beet earlier in the season; we’re able to leave it in the ground a lot longer now. It stores better in the ground.

“This harvester can just walk through work – compared to a twin-row machine. There’s no hardship.

“Some of the conditions were wet enough but the machine travels the ground no bother.”

Talking about the engine, Jimmy said: “She’s fairly well powered up. She has a six-cylinder Daf engine that’s supposed to be putting out around 400hp – so we’re not lacking in that department.”

Explaining how the machine is configured, he said: “She has a topper out the front, scalping knives next and vibrating shares after that, which throw the beet in on the carousel. The [beet] goes back underneath and through the middle of the machine, then back up and overhead into the tank.

“An auger moves it across to make sure that you get a good, full tank on the move. We’ve weighed it twice; the tank held 15.25t both times. That was with the elevator up.

“We draw away with three Smyth trailers. One of them is a three-axle; she’s fairly high. The others are 20ft trailers; with one tank of the harvester I’d have one of those full. They’d be gone; there’s no waiting around.”

Harvester maintenance

Jimmy added: “There’s no great drawback to this machine. Everything is easy to access; there’s no big maintenance on it. She has an ‘auto-lube’ system that greases most of the parts.

“Some of the shafts you do have to grease yourself, but 10 minutes in the morning – grease it and fill it with diesel – and you’re gone. You’re sure of doing a good day’s work.

A handy day’s work is 20ac. We start at 8:30am and we’d be home at 5:30pm – no sweat lost.

“The machine is nearly 20 years old; it was a big step going to buy this. We were going into an unknown; there’s not many of them around.

“Look; she’s going to be around for a good few years and, hopefully, it’ll be enjoyable driving.”