Hybrid telehandlers – those designed to perform similar duties as conventional tractors – do have their supporters, it seems. Andy Collings met up with a user who believes the hybrid concept can be a route to saving both time and labour

Having clocked up more than 2700 hours since it was purchased nine months ago, it is reasonable to assume the telehandler operated by Kemble Farms has not spent much of its short life standing idle.

The telehandler, a Merlo 30.6 Classic complete with three-point linkage and pto, arrived at the 1200ha (3000-acre) Gloucestershire dairy/arable farm at the end of last year.

“It’s the hardest-working tractor on the farm by a long way,” says farms director David Ball. “Every day it clocks up at least 10 hours.”

Kemble Farms runs a dairy herd of 800 cows which are milked three times a day. With no parlour feeding, the cows receive all rations as a mix of grass and maize silage along with protein straights and minerals.

This is where the Merlo telehandler has a key role to play. One of its daily chores is to load up to 30t of ingredients into the farms’ mixer wagons.

The 30.6 has a lift capacity of 3000kg and a maximum lift height of 6m. Power is provided by a side-mounted, 115hp Deutz engine.

“We use about 10,000t of silage each year, but with some of it stored about three miles away, about 2500t of it gets double-handled by the loader,” says Mr Ball. “There is also 2500t of concentrate which also gets handled twice.

“We also use the Merlo to cart about 1400t of straw into our open yards and 260t of sawdust we use in the cubicles. And if you want to put the muck-handling into the grand total, you start getting into some really big figures.

telehandler2

Outlying silage and straw stores require loads to be transported back to the dairy unit – a six-mile round trip for the telehandler, which needs to be able to handle heavy loads at speeds of up to 40kph.

“I would guess the machine is started up at about 6.30 each morning and keeps working until about seven or eight in the evening. There is an overlap of shifts, so the machine doesn’t get a break.”

Although the prime use for the Merlo is as a loader, the machine’s other attributes – three-point linkage, pto and towing ability – were also considerations when it was purchased.

The loader, complete with 16t trailer, is regularly required to make the six-mile round trip to the off-farm silage clamps and straw stacks.

“This is where the loader’s hydrostatic transmission starts to score,” he says. “The engine drives the hydraulic pump and the pipes take the oil to the hydraulic motor, which then feeds power into the propshafts. Other telehandlers we’ve operated can tow empty trailers reasonably well, but struggle to handle any weight.”

Mr Ball says the machine can haul loads at 40kph without problems and, importantly, also has the braking capacity to stop under load.

There are also occasions when an off-lying group of cattle require feeding and, by taking the Merlo with the mixer wagon, it is possible to load and mix a ration without needing a second tractor or operator, he adds.

The three-point linkage is not being over-used by the farm, but can be brought into action for grass tedding or turning at peak times.

Merlo 30.6 Classic2

  • Engine: 4-cyl Deutz 115hp
  • Transmission: 40kph, two-speed hydrostatic
  • Brakes: Discs on each wheel plus disc parking brake
  • Hydraulic system: 210 bar, 107 litres/min
  • Lift capacity: 3000kg
  • Lift height: 6m
  • Forward reach: 3.15m
  • Drawbar pull: 6000kg
  • Rear linkage lift: 4300kg
  • Pto: 540/100