24 May 2002

Choosing a new tractor

ITS time for a change. Our Fendt 312 LSA tractor, bought second-hand in 1995, is being exchanged. First registered in May 1992, it had done 1700 hours work when we purchased it for £32,000. Seven years on we have added a further 6000 hours to the clock and now that it is 10 years old, we feel the time has come to replace it.

The timing is opportune, since we shall be farming a further 180ha (445 acres) this autumn and we are considering going up in engine output to be on top of the extra workload.

This tractor has been our main workhorse carrying out all the stubble cultivations post harvest as well as sub-soiling for spring cropping and ploughing and pressing in autumn.

In the past it has also been the tractor used to haul our Ken Wootton 1200gal slurry tanker for which it has come in for a fair amount of abuse over the years.

In an effort to lighten this load we bought a second-hand Ford 7740 two years ago for slurry spreading, which also does a fair amount of the trailer work.

The Fendt 312 has also had the capability of spraying with the 1000 litre, Knight rear-mounted section of the sprayer and of top dressing with the Kuhn Aero pneumatic spreader. Although we have been able to use the row-crop wheels, purchased for the Fendt 395, we have not been able to interchange the dual wheels between our Fendt models, which has been a drawback for secondary cultivations.

In every other respect, however, having two horses from the same stable has proved convenient, especially when the work between the two can be interchangeable without worrying too much about pto shaft length, top-link and lower-link arm geometry, etc.

Over the past year we have had an opportunity of test driving a number of potential replacements, and our thanks to all those dealers who have made tractors available to us for evaluation.

First choice

In the final event, the tractor of our choice was the Fendt Favorite 714 Vario which has a maximum engine output of 148hp. The tyre option will be the same as those already fitted to our Fendt 395, therefore enabling us to use our existing dual wheels between both tractors as well as the row-crop wheels. As an added bonus, our present front weight will also fit the front linkage of the new Fendt 714.

The tractor is to be delivered in mid-July and will come with 12 months full warranty and either a total of three years or 3000 hours, whichever is the sooner, further cover on all major component failures. The negotiations have been tough but in the end we feel that with net of discount and trade-in allowances for our Fendt 312 we have had a good deal at £35,000.

When our extended arable enterprise gets under way later this year, our intention is to hand this new tractor over to our new farm management trainee and go back to the old system of allocating a specific tractor to an individual employee, which will make each driver more responsible for its care and maintenance.

The next decision is the choice of a new high-speed minimum tillage cultivator to either complement or replace our Kverneland X pattern disc harrows. The discs are fine as far as they go but when worked too deep on stubble behind the combine they will ridge and fail to cultivate to an even depth requiring further passes with cultivator tines and rolls to level, consolidate, break up clods and retain moisture.

We are looking for something that will do all three operations in one pass, namely to incorporate straw, cultivate to an even depth and press to conserve moisture. We are still committed to our power harrow/drill combination unit, but would prefer not to plough and press when preparing seed-beds for oilseed rape after barley and wheat after peas and oilseed rape. This autumn we are intending to sow about 270ha (665 acres) of oilseed rape, wheat and barley, 80% of which we plan to drill by mid-September. The machine must be robust to stand up to our stony soils and the forward speed necessary if we are to get over the land fast enough to incorporate the crop residues left behind the combine.

I have included our 10 year sugar beet statistics on this page, for growers to draw comparisons with their own figures.

Like our farm accounts (Business, page 26) it is hard to find honest, commercial facts and figures within the industry, by which we may all measure our own performances. The 10-year adjusted yield is 55t/ha (22.25t/acre) with an average contract performance of 140% over the same period. Since cutting the area down three years ago, we have performed slightly better at 130% of contract to yield 59t/ha (24t/acre). &#42


Year 01/02 00/01 99/00 98/99 97/98 96/97 95/96 94/95 93/94 92/93

Campaign tonnage 904 886 880 880 880 880 880 880 880 880

Unwashed weight 1,078 1,142 1,368 1,433 1,847 1,139 932 1,178 1,420 1,397

Clean weight 978 1,001 1,202 1,243 1,616 982 824 1,043 1,169 1,177

Adjusted weight 1,110 1,033 1,319 1,472 1,800 1,179 785 1,158 1,283 1,305

Surplus/Shortfall +206 +147 +439 +592 +920 +299 -95 +278 +403 +425

% Contract tonnes 122.8 116.6 149.9 167.3 204.5 134.0 89.2 131.6 145.8 148.3

Dirt tare (%) 4.1 6.5 4.9 7.1 6.0 6.5 4.9 5.9 10.4 9.6

Crowns tare (%) 7.2 8.1 7.2 6.1 6.6 7.3 6.6 5.6 7.3 6.2

Total tare (%) 11.3 14.6 12.1 13.2 12.6 13.8 11.5 11.5 17.7 15.8

Crop area 19.3 19.5 19.8 25.6 24.4 24.1 21.0 26.4 22.5 23.1

Clean yield/ha 50.67 51.17 60.64 48.49 66.16 40.67 39.23 39.50 51.77 50.95

Adjusted yield/ha 57.47 52.79 66.52 57.43 73.70 48.83 37.39 43.86 56.84 56.49

Number of loads 38 44 53 58 81 48 39 49 59 62

Average clean weight 25,75 22.75 22.69 21.44 19.95 20.45 21.13 21.28 19.81 18.98

Sugar (%) 17.60 16.40 17.10 18.00 17.30 18.20 15.50 17.20 17.10 17.20

Amino nitrogen 77 128 164 118 127 133 216 130 116 105

Contract miles 52 48 48 48 48 72 72 72 72 72

First delivery 6/11 10/11 28/10 27/10 3/11 11/11 31/10 24/10 12/10 19/10

Last Delivery 6/2 27/1 17/1 1/2 16/2 24/2 12/2 23/1 17/1 18/1