Emu ESA-150 linkage slasher
Aslasher is quite possibly the most undervalued piece of equipment on a farm, with most being found stored behind everything else in the shed or rusting away under a tree.
For the operator who takes pride in going the extra mile towards a tip-top-looking property, however, the slasher is a must-have piece of machinery.
The Emu ESA-150 is a 1.5m-wide linkage slasher which is manufactured in Korea before being imported, assembled and distributed throughout Australia by Midway Sales.
Emu specialises in the manufacture of small- to medium-size implements for the lifestyle and hobby farmer market. It has a galvanised deck, Cat 1 or 2 linkage and a 40hp central gear box running a single dual-blade spinner. It’s not a heavy-duty machine, but the ESA150 is perfect for fence-line slashing, slashing grasses in rough terrain, knocking down small trees and light scrub, clearing roadsides and creating firebreaks.
About the only difference between this one and the heavierduty machines on the market is the size, or horsepower rating, of its gearbox and the gauge of steel used in its structure.
My first impression was that it looked up to the task apart from one design feature that I believe will fail and needs to be rectified, but I will get to that later.
For this test I hitched it up to a 60hp Branson tractor and found it used a fair portion of its power heading up hill and cutting thick grass but cruised on the flat, which suggested that I could have achieved a good result on a lower-horsepower tractor.
It is fair to say that the slasher deck is the key element of the cutting machine. Constructed from 4mm-thick steel, it provides a sturdy base to which all the other elements are attached and should be capable of standing up to the rigours of the job.
Being manufactured from galvanised steel, it will stand up to the effects of weather better than the painted types, and the galvanised surface will not succumb to corrosion when grass and vegetation is not properly cleaned off after use.
Its flat-top deck will resist trash build up, eliminate the transporting and spreading of weed seeds and clean off easily at the end of each use. SAFETY FIRST
To reduce the risk of injury and asset damage, Emu slashers are equipped with a row of safety chains on both the front and rear opening of the slasher deck.
The design has been in use for many years and, at the very least, slows down the speed and distance that a projectile travels if it is flung through the safety chains after impact with the blades.
Regardless of the size of your property, no matter how big or small, the safety of your employees, family members and yourself should be at the forefront of your decision making and equipment purchases.
Other safety measures include a fully enclosed PTO shaft and a metal plate protecting the connection point between the PTO shaft and the gearbox on the top of the slasher deck.
In saying that, though, no one should ever be within close proximity to a rotating PTO, and PTO drive should always disengaged if work needs to be carried out on the implement.
IN THE MIDDLE
If its cutting width and total overall width of 1500mm and 1659mm respectively don’t provide enough technical detail to categorise it into the light, medium or heavyweight division, its 40hp gearbox and 312.6kg weight certainly do.
If you’re familiar with boxing, you might say it fits perfectly into the welterweight division, which sits between lightweight and middleweight.
This 40hp gearbox is on the lighter end of the scale for slashers but general grass and light scrub work should be fine. If you are intending to knock down larger areas on a regular basis and taking on heavier scrub and bushes, you really should be looking at something with a 75hp gearbox or thereabouts.
A safety breakaway clutch is fitted to the PTO shaft to protect the gearbox and the blades. It will instantaneously cut off drive if an excessive load is placed on the driveline from impact or just overwork. The sensitivity of the clutch may be adjusted to suit the environment you are working in.
The only maintenance required on the gearbox is an occasional inspection of the oil level and, fairly obviously, to top it up if it has dropped.
Underneath the deck is a single cutterbar with a non-reversible blade bolted to each end. Most manufacturers will tell you the blades do not require any attention but I have found, from personal experience, that regular sharpening makes a massive difference to the quality of the cut and reduces the amount of drag on the mower and the tractor.
This 40hp gearbox is on the lighter end of the scale for slashers but general grass and light scrub work should be fine.
Its cutting height ranges from a low of 13mm up to a maximum 97mm by way of the bolt-on skid plates that attach to each side of the cutting deck.
An optional, height-adjustable rear jockey wheel is available to help reduce the stress on the frame during tight turns. It comes with a price tag of $495 and, to be honest, I’d leave it off and just lift the slasher up on the linkage when turning. ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
The Emu ESA-150 slasher is a great little performer and, from my time using it, I found that it cut well, ran smoothly and is sturdy enough for the hobby and lifestyle farmer market.
There is, however, a part of its design relating to the hitch and floating support chains that I believe is flawed and, if not addressed, will result in eventual damage to the hitch assembly and render the whole machine useless.
The bottom two points of the A-frame hitch bolt securely to the slasher deck and a 10cm slot at the top provides a non-rigid connection with the top link.
This allows the slasher to follow the contours of the ground. That alone would work fine on the condition that rigid struts were used as support beams connecting the rear of the slasher to the top of the A-frame hitch.
Instead chains have been used, and the movement that they allow between the hitch and the deck will very quickly cause damage to the rigid connection point where the hitch bolts to the deck.
Flexible chain support struts are also a very effective way of allowing slashers to follow the contours of the ground but the hitch and the deck must be allowed to pivot and flex as well.
There are two ways to easily solve the problem: replace the chains with rigid struts and rely on the top link for movement; or leave the chains on but replace the rigid A-frame connection with a pivoting one. THE BOTTOM LINE
Considering that most properties – even the smaller ones – have a tractor of some size, I think it makes better financial sense to buy an Emu ESA-150 slasher, which comes with a price tag of only $2690, instead of a heavy-duty ride-on mower or mulcher, which will cost you a hell of a lot more to achieve the same result.
1. The Emu ESA-150 is a 1.5m-wide linkage slasher 2. Adjusting the rear wheel to take some of the weight off the skids allows for tighter turning and reduces the stress on both the tractor and the slasher
3. The 312kg light- to medium-duty slasher doesn’t need a lot of horsepower for operation
4. The 40hp centre-mounted gearbox only needs an occasional oil level check to satisfy maintenance requirements
5. The unit is compatible with tractors fitted with Cat 1 or 2 linkage
6. Chain curtains on the front and rear of the deck reduce the danger of objects being flung from the slasher when operating
7. Adjustable skid plates on each side of the slasher allow a range of cutting heights from 13mm to 97mm
8. The Emu is great for cleaning up along fence lines and knocking down grass, light scrub and bushes on lifestyle and hobby farms
9. A watertight container bolted to the deck of the slasher keeps the operating manuals clean and dry
10. The PTO clutch provides effective protection to the gearbox if an obstacle is hit by the slasher blades