If you're in the market for a mower this year, you may want to weigh the pros and cons of disc vs. sickle cutterbars, says Dan Undersander, University of Wisconsin forage specialist.
But don't agonize over your decision, because there is no difference in alfalfa yield or persistence between the two types of mower conditioners, according to past research by Undersander. He lists several advantages of each implement.
Disc mowers have faster ground speed; cut better in lodged, tangled crops; cut fine-stem grasses better; cut through gopher mounds and ant hills; and require less time for knife replacement. Disc mowers also need fewer repairs — 20-30% less maintenance than sicklebars.
Sicklebar mowers, on the other hand, cost about 10-20%/ft less, require around 30% less horsepower and cost less in repairs if the mower hits something.
But what about stand health? “Disc mowers leave a rougher cut. But if you have a good variety with a high level of disease resistance, that's not an issue,” Undersander says.