Fine workhorse and a reliable one to boot…
Just a year ago, CWS farms
manager David Watson, took
delivery of the UKs first
Ian Marshall found out how
it has been earning its keep
In the final analysis, the price of wheat is the only thing that matters to us, insists David Watson, farms manager for CWS Agriculture.
Profitability of the 1942ha (4800 acres) the company farms on behalf of its pension fund at Berners Hall, Fyfield, Essex, rests heavily on the performance of 1092ha (2700 acres) of mainly first wheats, backed up by 445ha (1100 acres) of oilseed rape, 202ha (500 acres) of winter beans and 40ha (100 acres) of herbage seed.
"With our reliance on autumn-sown crops, it is all down to speed of seed-bed preparation and tractor reliability is critical," says Mr Watson, who bought a 360hp Case Quadtrac last summer to take over from three ageing FW60s.
"There is nothing wrong with the FWs," he says, "but they were approaching 20-years-old and we felt they had reached the end of their reliable working life. There was always the nagging worry that they would break down at a crucial time of the year."
When it came to choosing the FWs successor, moving from wheeled tractors to a tracklayer was influenced by a dramatic change in the farms crop establishment policy.
"We moved from a plough-based system to discs and wanted a single front line power unit to do all the primary and secondary cultivations on the farms three sections. This involved around 13 miles of road travel.
"To get the traction and low ground pressure with the wheeled tractors they have to be dualled up, which makes moving them on narrow roads a headache."
A number of factors pushed Mr Watson towards the Quadtrac. It could be driven between farms without an escort and, not only did it have the muscle, there was the cost/power advantage. He got more litres for less money when compared to other makes of crawler.
But – and as important – were the traction and ground pressure arguments. Mr Watson believes that the Quadtrac has a more consistent footprint as its four tracks pivot independently about their axles.
"Im not convinced by the single track argument," he explains. "It might have full length soil contact when it is stationary, but it must sit down at the back when it is pulling an implement."
The Quadtrac started earning its keep last autumn and now has 500hrs to its name on the front of a three-point linkage mounted, five-leg subsoiler and a set of trailed 7.9m (26ft) Simba 2B discs in tandem with a set of press rings of the same width.
"We are delighted with the Quadtrac," says Mr Watson. "Traction is excellent and so is its reliability. It has covered around 4000 acres without any serious mechanical problems. All we have had to change was a faulty idler roller and then the tractor was out of action for only a couple of hours.
"And road transport is superb, we have been able to put the discs to work across the farm."
Operator Chris Butcher agrees. "We disc to a depth of about 6in at a forward speed of 6mph and the Quadtracs slip meter has yet to register, even on the heavier land. Im in the tractor for 10hrs a day and the ride in the field is beautiful: it is comfortable and stable, even on the rougher ground, and it is very easy to drive," he says.
The Quadtracs all round visibility also come in for comment as does its manoeuvrability. "The steering is light and precise and the articulation gives a tight turning circle when you want it. And, as there is constant positive drive to each track, the tractor does not slew on the headlands, which must reduce compaction," observes Mr Butcher.
As to the tractors work rate, at 500hrs, Mr Watson admits the Quadtrac has not been pushed. "Last season the majority of its work was on the lighter land and the width of the discs limited its output," he explains.
That will not be the case this year. "This season it will cover around 7000 acres, sub-soiling across the farm and doing the primary and secondary cultivations with a 21ft set of Simba 34C discs and the press," says Mr Watson.
"Im looking for 1000hrs from the Quadtrac this year and, based on its performance so far, I am confident that I will get it. I only wish I had an 8m drill to run behind it too."
Engine: 14 litre, 360hp 6-cylinder Cummins
Transmission: 12 speed powershift
Track width: 75cm
Turning radius: 6m
Ground pressure with hydraulic hitch: 5.3psi
Fuel capacity: 946 litres
David Watson:"Traction is excellent and so has been reliability."