Butterfly mower sets are the preserve of big contractors with big budgets, or so it might be thought, but the situation is changing rapidly as manufacturers downscale the weight of the units and bring them into the financial orbit of less intensive users.

Yet it is not the price alone that is bringing these products to market, tractors are having more power crammed into shorter wheelbases.

And although they may have the punch to operate them, they haven’t always the size to handle heavy mower sets safely.

Chasing the trend

Enter the lightweight butterfly sets from Pronar SP, the Polish company’s answer to this trend for more compact high horsepower tractors.

Pronar has had a presence in Ireland for some years now, but has recently embarked on a robust marketing campaign to get its product more widely sold here, with the JF Centre of Tullamore, Co. Offaly being one of its more active dealers.

Pronar Butterfly mower
In combination with the front mounted Prona PDF 300C, the new set made easy work of a wet lodged crop

The JF Centre is run and owned by Alan Gethings who started as a contractor and runs the dealership as a separate venture to his still ongoing contracting business.

With this background, he is well placed to judge the qualities of a machine and its suitability for the Irish market.

Naturally he has in interest in the brand, but his enthusiasm for the mower goes beyond the expected salesman’s pitch; having used the unit for the first time this season, his zeal is rooted in a genuine regard for the machine.

Easy on the tractor

Known as the PDD830C the mower conditioner set has a working width of 8.3m and is designed to work with a front mower of at least 3m.

The great advantage is that its weight is just 1,390kg, and what’s more, that weight is balanced rather than hanging to the right-hand-side of the tractor, making it far more stable and predictable on the headlands.

Simple, light in weight but robust. The Pronar PDD830 C
Simple, light in weight but robust. The Pronar PDD830C has worked flawlessly for Alan this season

It is also a simple machine with no electronics or complex hydraulic systems to go wrong.

The nearest it gets to sophistication in that area is the auto reset of the break-back system, yet there are still only two hydraulic connections required, one of which needs to have a float function.

Each bed has seven discs and the conditioner is fitted with conventional steel tines; both are driven by shafts rather than belts for reliability.

Power requirement

In its literature, Pronar states that the minimum power requirement is 120hp, Alan, however, suggests that 150hp would be a better bet in Irish conditions and with that it is perfectly possible to cut 11-15ac/hr.

On the day that Agriland visited, it was mounted on Alan’s Case 195CVX which strolled easily through the crop at around 11km/h, without putting any strain on either machine.

Butterfly mower
Despite the lack of sophistication, the new mowers leave a neat even finish at a steady pace of around 11km/h

He later called to say that by moving up a gear or two he manged to cut a further 92ac on the same afternoon, and was still home at a reasonable hour. An impressive performance, albeit on second cut silage.

To those used to a side-mounted mower on a tractor in the 100hp+ bracket, the speed at which the combination cleared the field was impressive.

It was showing the sort of work rate one would normally associate with a large contractors’ outfit based around a 250hp tractor.

Well priced

Yet this is only supposed to be a lightweight machine. It retails at €28,000 plus VAT.

Add in the cost of Pronar’s latest 3m front-mounted unit, which sells for €13,000 plus VAT, and it becomes possible to buy a full butterfly mower set for €41,000 plus VAT to match a short wheelbase tractor of 150hp.

Pronar butterfly mower
Headland turns are easier with a balanced load on the rear linkage

Should potential customers be wary of buying from a lesser known brand, the three-year warranty, which comes as standard on all Pronar equipment, should help temper any fears.

With regard to back-up, Alan claims that for every machine he sells he keeps a similar model in stock, in addition to a growing number of spare parts, not that he has needed to replace anything other than wearing items.

The butterfly becomes affordable

Sometimes, significant developments creep onto the farming scene with no great fanfare or announcement; the emergence of lightweight butterfly mower sets may turn out to be one of those moments.

No-one is pretending that the Pronar PDD3000 is best suited to cutting thousands of acres a year running 24/7; that sort of intensive use is best left to heavier machines as Alan would be the first to point out.

Well priced
The break-back is situated close to the headstock and is automatically reset hydraulically

However, as ever more power is extracted from four-cylinder engines, these machines will give shorter, lighter, tractors with 150hp or more, something useful to do and the cost is not prohibitive for larger farmers or baling contractors who could offer faster mowing as an extension to their services without breaking the bank.

Butterfly mowers
The front-mounted unit has now been superseded with a twin-shaft-drive unit, releasing this demo unit for sale

Pronar is not the first to enter this market but it is competitive in price and it appears well engineered, although they do lack the the bells and whistles of machines at the top end.

There is no variable width option, nor are there any electronic controls or ISOBUS connections, but if you have 150+ cows and you want to cut your grass in hours rather than days, this could well be just the tool you need.

Raking it in with Pronar

There need be no reminder about the weather this summer which, unfortunately, didn’t allow for the demonstration of the Pronar rake which was also in the field.

Pronar centre delivery rake
The ZKP 800C rake relies on engineering rather than masses of metal for strength.

The model concerned was a ZKP 800 which has a working width of 8m. It is a twin rotor centre delivery machine that is also available in side delivery form.

The cost of this particular machine is €20,000 plus VAT and again, it comes with a three-year warranty with full parts and service back-up.