What is the role of a forage harvester?

For multi-crop/livestock farms, farmers need to feed their animals all year long and maintain a satisfactory level of production. The main source of feed comes from grass and/or corn harvests. However, since these crops do not grow all year long, harvests must be stored for the winter months.

In addition, improvements in foraging techniques during the 1970s brought new corn varieties with high energy values, requiring new harvesting techniques to increase productivity. Thus, the forage harvester was born. This machine allowed farmers to automate harvesting operations while chopping the crop, which enabled them to store silage straightaway in optimal conditions. Being able to control the cutting length and crack the kernels results in a more digest animal feed.

Silage can also be used as a raw material for biogas production. This technique is rather widespread in Europe, particularly in Germany, and is currently developing in France.


What are the forage harvester components?

A forage harvester is, above all, equipped with a front attachment tool adapted to the harvest application:

(A) – Rotary header for corn silage: Fitted with moving cutting parts and guiding elements, it feeds the harvester with a steady, even flow of cut, processed material.

(B) – Pick-up for grass silage: The tines on this implement ensure a high-performance grass pick-up and the auger feeds your harvester.


The FORAGE HARVESTER is fitted with several sub-assemblies found on all marketed brands:

(1) – Feed rollers and feeding unit: This unit presses and packs the drawn in crop flow thanks, in particular, to a set of upper and lower feed rollers. Their operating speed determines the silage output cutting length.

(2) – Drum and cutting chamber: The conditioned crop flow is chopped in the rotor, which is equipped with adapted knives and shearbars.

(3) – Sharpening unit: To account for the heavy load placed on the rotor knives, this automatic system regularly sharpens the knives via a moving sharpening stone.

(4) – Transfer unit: Once chopped, the crop flow moves through an adapted chute to the next sub-assembly.

(5) – Corn cracker: For corn harvests, this sub-assembly cracks the kernels thanks to the combined effect of two corn cracker rollers which rotate in opposite directions.

(6) – Accelerator: Equipped with a spout transition and accelerator paddles, this sub-assembly increases crop flow speed for improved offloading.

(7) – Discharge Spout: The discharge spout guides the accelerated crop flow, usually into a trailer positioned alongside the operating harvester.


What are the leading brands on the market for forage harvesters?

The leading brands on the market are CLAAS, JOHN DEERE et NEW HOLLAND, which together hold about 90% of market shares in France. Other names have also appeared on the market over the years such as KRONE or FENDT.


In 1973, CLASS established a presence as a market leader for self-propelled harvesters with the JAGUAR, a revolutionary tool for the times. CLAAS has built several different series for this implement, with improved performances each time, making it the brand’s front runner. In 2019, CLAAS manufactured over 40,000 units.

The two series currently on the market are the JAGUAR 800 and the JAGUAR 900, comprised of the following models (of which some are no longer available):


Better known for their tractors and combine harvesters, JOHN DEERE is also a household name for self-propelled forage harvesters. For years now, JOHN DEERE has ranked number two on the market behind CLAAS, winning nearly 25% of sales in France.

The range began with the 5000 series in 1972. This first 5000 series was replaced by the 6000 in the 1990s, which gave way to the 7000 in 2002, followed by the 8000 in 2015, with improvements made throughout the years. The new 9000 series was launched in 2019.


In 1961, NEW HOLLAND revolutionised the world of silage by offering the first self-propelled forage harvester, the SP818, which spearheaded all the other brands. In 1977, NEW HOLLAND pioneered the metal detector on forage harvesters. Nearly 60 years later, the brand is still one of the three major players on the forage harvester market, boasting roughly 20% of market shares in France. NEW HOLLAND began offering the 1000 and 2000 series before adding the FX series in 1991, the FR in 2007, and finally the more recent FR Forage Cruiser.


Better known since 1906 for their square balers, for the past ten years KRONE has solidified its position as a key player on the forage harvester market. Fourth in its class behind CLAAS, JOHN DEERE and NEW HOLLAND, in 2000 KRONE began selling the BIG X, a range of self-propelled forage harvesters. The BIG X range has since expanded with new, continually innovative models.

Other brands we no longer find on the market include HESSTON, MENGELE, CASE IH.