A new, self-propelled 37’5” hay mower utilizes three front-mounted mowing units that form nearly identical, GPS-correct wide swaths. That lets Brent Maust, the commercial hay grower who inspired the machine, rake them precisely onto gaps of dry ground and produce uniformly dry hay.

Maust, Bay Port, MI, had been wanting a mower that didn’t “bunch” hay into windrows that dried inconsistently, he says.

“The butterfly mowers are mounted on tractors and push one mower out in front and two behind. Their wheels have to track in the first mower’s gap, so they tend to pull that windrow tight together. That makes it more difficult for me to dry that windrow and get it a consistent dry. In dry hay, that’s real important.”

The mower, designed and manufactured by Vogel Engineering, a Holton, MI, carrot and pickle harvester manufacturer, tightly stair-steps mowing units in front of the power unit. It’s comparable in concept to the Claas Cougar (46’ swath) and the Krone Big M (up to 43’ swath) mower-conditioners.

“But I needed a consistent windrow width so I could work it with my rakes,” says Maust, who markets high-quality alfalfa to dairies as well as raises corn, soybeans, wheat and sugarbeets at Bay Horizons Farm.

The road from concept to the field was a bumpy one for Maust, who spent three and a half years building his own version of the machine. “We realized the dramatic torque that three headers stair-stepped like that would have, and after a year, started over. We got it to mount on a tractor with 270-280 hp. It was functional.”

But, among other issues, Maust couldn’t figure out how to fold the unit small enough for transport.

“Wayne Vogel – he had helped me with the hydraulics of our unit – heard that I wasn’t satisfied with what I had. He said, ‘I can build pickle machines and carrot harvesters. I need a new challenge.’ So he agreed to build me a self-propelled hay cutter,” Maust says.

“I told him I had a few ideas,” Vogel recalls, “and he entrusted us over the winter to take his mowers – three John Deere mowers that were brand-new other than some use on his project – and design this machine. There was a lot of balancing because the mowers are so heavy.”

The three 13’ mowing units each weighs 4,000 lbs. Adding in the weight of the framework to hold them, Vogel decided to counterbalance with a 400-hp engine and fuel and oil tanks in the back. The cab manually turns 180° so, when the mowing units fold for transport, they’re in the back and out of the driver’s view.

“There were some hurdles, but we specialize in overcoming hurdles that most people don’t want to tackle,” Vogel says.

He intends to produce power units that can handle varying-size disc mower-conditioners.

“Our plan is to use the John Deere mower or a Case-IH or a New Holland mower. We don’t want to reinvent the disc mower; that’s already been done by some pretty smart people. But none of the American manufacturers have come up with a self-propelled wide mower.

“We think we have found a niche for people who want to stick with American-made machines.” The cost, he estimates, will be around $550,000 if Vogel Engineering provides the power unit and the mowers.

Down the road, Vogel hopes to produce a mower with 16’ mowing units that would give a cutting swath of 47’. “And we’re not married to just green heads,” he stresses, adding that units can be painted to order. “We’re an equal-opportunity builder.”

This summer, Maust is testing Vogel’s prototype, harvesting hay three times faster than he used to with his old equipment. First crop was cut at about 8.5 mph, but the lighter second crop was mowed at 10 mph or about 30 acres/hour.

“It maneuvers well and it’s easy to control. Very productive,” says the grower.

“We can lay down more hay at the optimum time. I can lay 200 acres down and take advantage of a dry spell, dry air and no rain; it makes me money,” he adds.

For details, contact Vogel at 231-821-2125. To view the machine on video, visit bit.ly/MT2n31.