James, the youngest member of the team – who has just finished a three-year degree in Ag business management at Reading University – farms in partnership with his dad and his granddad and one full-time member of staff.
During his degree course James has slowly but surely been building up the contracting side of the business.
Despite the obvious time difficulties of balancing his studies with work duties he has racked up 2450 hours on the farm’s 135hp 6290 tractor.
“It really is the prime mover on our farm, it gets involved in everything from ploughing and pressing with a Kverneland plough and Packomat combination to baling with a Welger RP235 round-baler,” he comments.
“We also use an Opico Vari Tilth and Vari Disc cultivator in minimum tillage situations, the aims of which are to make oilseed rape crop establishment more reliable, and improve the structure of the soil,” he adds.
The tractor is capable of a wide range of work and does all our dung-spreading with a Keenan Orbital.
“The tractor can be used to lug this around, as well as perform lighter work such as secondary cultivations, with its 600/R38 tyres benefiting the process,” says James.
Although his studies restricted baling to later-season straw crops, James still managed 7000 bales last season, a figure he will look to increase this year.
James particularly likes the cab of the machine. “It is a very comfortable tractor to drive and I think it’s a better designed cab than that on the newer 6400 series machines. Some could argue that the 6290 cab is a bit grey, but it’s better laid-out than the new one,” he says.
On the road the tractor’s auto-control function works particularly well, however the tractor only manages just under 40kph, a factor that James would like to change.
Other designs that he feels could have been different include the fuel tank filling point. This is behind the cab, rather than at the door.
“Apart from these few niggles I don’t think there is anything fundamentally wrong with the tractor. It also has a good power-to-weight ratio and is manoeuvrable in tight spaces,” he adds.
There are few faults and breakdowns to report on this model, apart from a problem with the front wheel hub seal.
“The front hub seal has gone on one side and cost us 238 to put right,” says James.
Apart from that there has been a problem with the batteries and some grievance with hydraulic hose coupling o-rings.
While greasing the front axle recently, he noticed that some of the suspension hose pipes are rubbing against each other.
“I think that could cause me some grief if I don’t get it looked at sooner rather than later,” says James.
He is also keen to praise the local dealer – Medland, Saunders and Twose – which has been helpful in solving any problems that arise with the tractor.
James is confident that the MF6290 will remain a faithful servant to his aspiring contracting business and says it may well be seen as a Massey classic in later years.
His 6270 Dynashift plus machine has just clocked up 1290 hours over the past three years which, to be fair, isn’t a huge amount for a tractor of this age.
A range of tasks performed by the tractor is a testimony to its usability and flexibility, says Mr Buckenham.
“Over the course of the year the tractor will be involved in everything from grain carting to cultivations such as sub-soiling, power harrowing and drilling, and finally spraying,” he says.
The spraying and application of liquid fertiliser – a project the farm has been involved in for more than 10 years now – is what the tractor is predominately occupied with.
“We run a front-rear sprayer, a 2000-litre capacity unit with 24m booms, which is fitted to the trac¬tor most of the time,” he adds.
Over the course of the season this combination set-up will cover between 3000 and 4000 acres per year.
“We have two farms about four miles apart and, despite the front-rear set-up, the machine is very sta¬ble on the road, even with 650/R38 tyres fitted for reduced soil compac¬tion,” says Mr Buckenham.
Since purchasing the tractor back in late 2002 there have been no ma¬jor faults to report.
“The only problems which oc¬curred were when the engine ther¬mostat had been fitted incorrectly and a fuel pipe on the back of the engine block fractured, both which were covered under the warranty,” he says.
The local dealer – RW Crawford – provided the tractors with a three-year warranty, which was a large at¬traction when purchasing for Mr Buckenham.
“Previously we had Case tractors as the dealer was supplying that brand. When he changed to MF we were just on the lookout for a new tractor. The warranty and the reputation of the dealer were factors in convincing us to buy Massey,” he says.
If there was one thing Mr Buck¬enham would change it would be the location of the air vents in the cab.
“I’d like to see more vents around the windscreen area for demisting in the morning, but apart from that I can’t really fault the tractor,” he says.
Indeed, when it comes to replacing his Magnum later this year, Mr Buckenham will be looking to the larger MF machines as a potential purchase.
Mr Tate has kept his 6290 machine busy over the last three-and-a-half years and has racked up a significant 7970 hours in the process.
Most of the hours are accumulated during the summer months when the is involved in forage production, hitched to a mower or to one of the farm’s balers.
“We use the tractor to power a Pottinger 3.1m mower getting over an average of about 1500 acres of grass, some of which is baled for haylage, the rest for round bale silage,” says Mr Tate.
Last year the tractor was involved in making some 30,000 bales. “Driving the MF 185 small square baler we turned out 2000 haylage bales for our equestrian customers. The remainder was made up of Welger 520 round bale silage and large straw bales,” he says.
The farm’s own arable acreage and the contracting side of things means the tractor ploughs some 280ha (700 acres) with a Dowesdwell five-furrow reversible and drills a further 525ha (1300 acres) with a 3m combination unit.
Since new the tractor has suffered a few minor faults – all of which were covered by warranty – and one more serious fault that was not.
“We had a problem early on with the trailer brake valve and later the front suspension pipe split. Both these were covered by the warranty,” he says.
The tractor’s fuel pump failed at about 4000 hours and cost £1100 to fix which was not covered under the warranty.
“That has been the only problem with the tractor since new, although the brakes needed re-doing last year – that was down to wear and tear,” adds Mr Tate.
“To be fair we should have had the brakes done earlier, but at the end of the day we were busy and pushed on as far as we could, and it cost us £2500 to put right,” he adds.
This is not the first MF tractor the farm has run, but Mr Tate is happy with the 6290. “Prior to this machine we had a couple of 6100 series machines and, to be honest, they broke my heart,”
This machine is a vast improvement over the old 6100 units and like I say, we’ve not had any serious bother with it,” he says.
He is an advocate of the tractor’s front axle suspension and says that it helps make long days hauling grain in harvest-time more bearable.
“Overall I can’t fault the machine and, although the cab isn’t the quietest on the market, it certainly isn’t the worst,” concludes Mr Tate.
In our next “Third Degree” we aim to profile users of McCormick’s MTX tractors. We are looking for operators who have been running their tractor for just over three years and have full records of maintenance and running costs. If you think you fit the bill then phone 020 8652 4918 or send an email to email@example.com, including farm facts and your contact phone number.