Derry contractor takes delivery of the first John Deere 9900i self-propelled forage harvester sold in Europe
A Northern Ireland agricultural contractor is deep into the 2019 silage season using the very first John Deere 9900i self-propelled forage harvester to be sold in Europe.
The Farming Independent caught up with the team to get the first insight into how the new harvester has been performing.
Lagan Brothers from Moneymore in Derry wanted to upgrade their 2017 John Deere 8800i to a more powerful machine, hence opting for the 970hp John Deere 9900i model.
The contracting business started off in 2003 and is run by Michael Lagan and his brothers Seamus and Paul. Their father James and younger brother Noel also take an interest in the contracting.
The 9900i model is the biggest of the new range of self-propelled forage harvesters launched by John Deere last year, ranging from 625hp to 970hp.
In a nutshell, the key features of the four model 9000 Series include a new V12 Liebherr engine, new kernel processor and headers, plus the latest precision farming technology, including the new HarvestLab 3000 constituent sensing system, with the focus very much on forage quality.
Using all the successful momentum from the previous 8000 Series, John Deere has carried this on into the new models; 9600 at 625hp; 9700 at 770hp; 9800 at 870hp and the 9900 at a massive 970hp.
The manufacturer claims its latest forage harvesting technology will increase customers' productivity by 10pc, while at the same time consuming 10pc less fuel compared to John Deere's previous range.
It was the extra power that was the real attraction for Lagan Brothers in buying the 9900i from local John Deere dealer Johnston Gilpin & Co Ltd, based at Lisburn.
Powered by the Liebherr 24.2l V12 engine, the John Deere 9900i bought by the brothers was the perfect choice due to the extra power and extra knives as the majority of their silage is for biogas plants, which requires the material to be finely chopped.
Michael Lagan, who operates the 9900i, said: "We needed to upgrade our two-year-old John Deere 8800i self-propelled forage harvester with a more powerful machine.
"Each year, we harvest around 7,000 acres of grass and 70pc of that is destined for biogas plants. These plants require finely chopped material that is easily digested, so we made the decision to upgrade to more power and to a machine with more knives.
"The new John Deere 9900i has 64 knives, while the 8800i had 56 knives, therefore the grass is now chopped more finely than before to around four millimetres, which suits the biogas plant customers," he said.
Having put a few hectares through the 9900i already, Michael is well pleased with its performance and notices the extra power under the hood.
"It's a great machine," he said. "It's more or less the same physical size as the 8800i, but you certainly can feel the difference the bigger engine makes.
"The grass is going through with ease and the extra knives leave a nice fine chop in the trailer.
"We are harvesting 700 acres for this customer that is all destined for the biogas plant, so investing in the 9900i was the perfect business decision for us," he said.
With a good crop of grass in the fields, Michael and the John Deere 9900i are harvesting an average of around 12 hectares per hour.
"It will take a few more hectares through the harvester before we have a sense of what the actual fuel consumption is like, by taking a good average working in different fields with varying yields," he said.
Michael also highlighted the importance of John Deere's HarvestLab sensor that fits on to the spout of John Deere's self-propelled forage harvesters.
The sensor automatically takes thousands of samples to accurately measure dry matter readings in real time.
All the information, including crop yield per field, is displayed to the forage harvester operator inside the cab. "We've used the system for a number of years now and find it extremely useful, keeping us informed about crop quality and yield," said Michael.
"And the handy thing with it is that we can change it on to the dribble bar to use when spreading slurry. Here, it can tell us information such as nitrogen content and works out how much slurry we can apply per hectare to keep within guidelines and ground requirements."
Expanding a fleet based on tried and tested John Deere tractors
Lagan Brothers have been loyal customers to John Deere and the Johnston Gilpin & Co Ltd dealership.
Along with the new John Deere 9900i self-propelled forage harvester, the Lagan Brothers also run a fleet of John Deere tractors ranging in age from 2006 to 2019.
"There are two 6150R models, a 6130R, a 6190R, a 6820, a 6930, a 6920S, 7280R and there is a 7310R on the way from England," said Michael. "The 6155R runs the rake and we use the 6190R and 7280R with triple mowers to mow the grass down. When the 7310R comes in from England, it too will be fitted with a set of triple mowers as well, therefore we will have three mowing units working in the fleet.
"In the pit, we operate a Volvo L70G shovel which is a good machine to get the grass in the silo," added Michael.
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