This year has been an expensive one for Ashworth Contractors. Three gleaming new Case IH Pumas have joined the fleet alongside a brand-spanking-new NH FR9060 forager, two new sets of Krone triple-mowers and two new 2500-gallon Abbey slurry tankers.

Located just outside Clitheroe, Lancashire, the firm specialises in services to the dairy industry. Basically, if it goes in one end of a milking cow and out the other, Howard Ashworth’s your man.

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So his team of eight generally runs flat-out through the entire year, slurping up and spreading slurry and chopping grass when the weather picks up. In between times, there is also contract fertiliser spreading to catch up on.

All of this means the tractors clock up a good few hours each year. So when the local dealer, Sharrocks, offered a particularly juicy carrot for a three-tractor deal, Mr Ashworth decided it was too good an opportunity to miss.

“We had a Basildon-built MXM155 and an MXM 40 that were noisy and didn’t have enough grunt for the triple-mowers,” he says. “We also had a Massey 6480 on the books that was beginning to get a bit tired and that rounded off the deal – we plumped for three new Case Pumas.”

And they arrived just over 12 weeks ago – two 140hp models and one long-wheelbase 165.

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“To begin with, they spent most of their time on umbilical work or tankering,” says Mr Ashworth. “But now we’re into the thick of first-cut and the two 140s are on the haul. They’re great for that because their heavier front-end means they don’t bounce as much as the MXM on the road.”

Meanwhile, their 165hp cousin has found itself coupled to a set of Krone triple-mowers, working alongside a 200hp Claas Ares 836.

As well as the quiet and comfortable cab, he singles out the tractor’s multicontroller joystick as a real strength. “By grouping everything together in one place, the joystick makes life really easy,” he says. “If I could fault the tractor, it would be the steering. It’s really heavy at low revs – not great when you’re dragging a hose across a field at tickover.”

Case says it is working to resolve this, with a new set of valves on their way.

Thirsty work?

Ashworth Contractors’ customers supply the gang with diesel when they arrive on farm. There is rarely a problem with enough being available, but occasionally cleanliness can be an issue.

“Because we often drain farmers’ tanks down low, we can get problems with filters blocking,” says Mr Ashworth. “This year we have fitted extra in-line filters. They are only a couple of pounds each and already they are making the main filters last much longer.”

When it comes to diesel use, Mr Ashworth is pleased with the new tractors’ CNH/Iveco powerplants but has a concern over the smaller Pumas’ output.

“With the same size fuel tanks as the Massey and the MXM, we are filling up only once a day now,” he says. “The 140s are supposed to pump out 170hp on power-boost, but it doesn’t feel like there’s as much as that on tap. Maybe it’s just because I’m used to 200hp under the hood with the big Claas.”

Ashworth Contractors

  • Tractors: 2 x Case IH Puma 140, Case IH Puma 165, Case IH MXM 140, MF 6480, Claas Ares 826, Claas Ares 836
  • Loaders: Merlo P37.6, JCB Farm Master 416-S
  • Forager: NH FR9060
  • Staff: 8 full-time
  • Work: All dairy-related activities, including 2400ha (6000 acres) grass silage, umbilical and tanker slurry services plus contract fertiliser spreading