6 November 1998

HIGH-QUALITYTRACTORS ARE PAYINGOFF

vated MF35s on sheep and pig unit yard duties, it seems weve got the ideal combination."

Some readers of the On Our Farms column may have thought Mr Lambkin was going out on a bit of a limb when, having decided that the farms two principal tractors needed replacing, he plumped firstly for Fendt and secondly for a toolcarrier model. The decision to go with the costly German marque was reinforced, however, when the 115hp 395GTA, bought new in October 1993, was joined by an "immaculate" 1700-hour, three-year-old 120hp Farmer 312LSA in May 1995.

"I took some convincing that paying more for the Fendt initially would pay-off in the long-run through reliability and good residual values," he admits. "Frankly, I had to take that argument on face value but, so far, things are working out – the tractors have been reliable and I am pleasantly surprised by indications weve had of current resale values."

In Easton Lodge farm accounts, tractors are cash purchases depreciated to zero over eight years. Any proceeds when it comes to replacing them are taken as profit on sales.

Spot valuations of £28,000 for the 395 (bought for £39,250, disregarding trade-in) and £26,000 for the 312 mean the tractors have depreciated in real terms by £2600 and £2180 a year respectively, contributing £10.75/ha and £9/ha to annual crop production costs.

Surprisingly, perhaps, it is the multi-purpose "systems" tractor, the 395GTA, with its front, mid and rear implement mountings, that substantially clocks up the fewer hours of the two – 577 hours a year on average, against the 312s 909 hours.

There are two reasons for this. First, the 395 is devoted to more specialist operations, principally one-pass final seed-bed preparation and sowing using a 4m Kuhn power harrow and Accord drill combination, summer crop spraying (for which its 3000 litre capacity gives high work rates), and fertiliser top-dressing using a 20m mounted pneumatic broadcaster.

It is the 312, operating entirely conventional equipment and staying on standard wheels and tyres all year, that is the jack-of-all-trades. Ploughing, wherever there is enough moisture in the stubbles to avoid droughting the light brash soil; discing whenever there is not; shallow subsoiling of stubbles before peas and sugar beet as well as tramlines across all the farms 242ha (597 acres); hauling the bulk of the pig units annual output of slurry and yard manure; set-aside topping with a 4.5m Spearhead rotary cutter, and a share of the fertiliser spreading and spraying work.

The last two items were not in the 312s original job specification; after all, the 395GTA is specially fitted out for spraying with a 1000 litre Knight conventional sprayer on the back, supplemented by a further 2000 litres in a tank on the mid-engined tractors "backbone" front chassis. But that bane of multi-use vehicles, having to change from one set-up to another, took its toll on farm staff and management patience last autumn.

"It was one of those seasons when the weather was very changeable and we ended up swapping between the drilling and spraying configuration five or six times," recalls Mr Lambkin. "Its not a difficult task but it takes time and is frankly a pain when you want to get on."

A subtle change in policy applies from now on – the 395 stays in drilling configuration, dual wheels and all, throughout the autumn and winter until all spring crops are sown. Then, its off with the power harrow, drill and hopper for sugar beet seed-bed preparation using the big dual tyres and a front tyre press to help the 6.8m (22.6ft) Wilder Pressure Harrow make a fine seed-bed of even consistency.

Meanwhile, the 312 takes care of any spraying and spreading requirements through the late autumn/early spring period.

"There is no great pressure of work at such times and no problem fitting and taking off the equipment," explains Mr Lambkin. "At 100 litre/ha, the sprayer still gives us 10ha per fill when applying an autumn insecticide, and the tractor is perfectly capable of handling the Aero for base fertiliser applications in the autumn, as well as first cereal nitrogen top dressings in spring before we need to use row-crop wheels."

This may further widen the annual usage gap between the two tractors but, with timeliness a crucial element in the autumn, it is worth easing the 395s workload a touch in order to have it ready to go when drilling opportunities arise.

"One of the reasons for switching to the harrow-drill combination was to be able to work at a steady pace to the benefit of even seed depth and germination," notes Mr Lambkin. "But its also important to be able to do the job in timely fashion in a catchy season and having the tractor on the starting blocks will help us do that with minimal hassle."

The third tractor in the fleet, a so-far faithful 11-year-old Ford 6610 on 6200 hours, maintains its two principle roles – liquid N application and straw baling.

Liquid N, put on through a 2000 litre/20m Chafer, is used for first dressings to winter wheats, winter and spring barley, ryegrass and pre-emergence on sugar beet. For straw baling – 250t in all – the tractor powers a Welger AP830 conventional square baler and Cooks sledge.

Apart from hauling straw to storage, the 6610 has a multitude of occasional tasks – mainly mixing/liquidising slurry in the above-ground store, and doing its fair share of spreading slurry and stockpiling yard manure ready for spreading by contractor to stubbles post-harvest.

"The Fendt 312 is the tractor of choice for slurry and manure handling – with more power and four-wheel drive it is clearly more capable, as well as being more comfortable and also faster thanks to the 40kph gearbox," notes John Lambkin. "But the 6610 does the job well enough when the 312 is not available and it is more than capable of handling its other tasks."

At present, the Ford is far from facing the axe. It owes nothing as far as the accounts are concerned, it costs little to run and, at £4000, its resale value would be a pin-prick in the outlay needed for a decent replacement. Mr Lambkin points out that theres not much demand for two-wheel drive 85hp tractors these days.

The two German tractors are also doing their bit to eliminate the big repair bills that heralded the replacement of their predecessors. There have been no major failures and precious few minor ones. Those have been confined to the harder-worked 312 – an air conditioning system repair; diagnostic checks to rectify a modest hydraulics system malfunction; and a small wiring repair to get the electronically-controlled hydraulic diff lock operating properly.

HIGH-QUALITYTRACTORS ARE PAYINGOFF

AS THE first of two new tractors nears the half-way stage of its anticipated 10-year working stint at farmers weeklys Easton Lodge farm, manager John Lambkin can look back on decisions that, for the most part, have worked out as expected.

"I think we have a good mix in two modern, powerful tractors that do the great majority of field work on the farm and an older machine that is still up to the job and costs little to run," he says. "With a telescopic handler providing the muscle and a pair of renovated MF35s on sheep and pig unit yard duties, it seems weve got the ideal combination."

Some readers of the On Our Farms column may have thought Mr Lambkin was going out on a bit of a limb when, having decided that the farms two principal tractors needed replacing, he plumped firstly for Fendt and secondly for a toolcarrier model. The decision to go with the costly German marque was reinforced, however, when the 115hp 395GTA, bought new in October 1993, was joined by an "immaculate" 1700-hour, three-year-old 120hp Farmer 312LSA in May 1995.

"I took some convincing that paying more for the Fendt initially would pay-off in the long-run through reliability and good residual values," he admits. "Frankly, I had to take that argument on face value but, so far, things are working out – the tractors have been reliable and I am pleasantly surprised by indications weve had of current resale values."

In Easton Lodge farm accounts, tractors are cash purchases depreciated to zero over eight years. Any proceeds when it comes to replacing them are taken as profit on sales.

Spot valuations of £28,000 for the 395 (bought for £39,250, disregarding trade-in) and £26,000 for the 312 mean the tractors have depreciated in real terms by £2600 and £2180 a year respectively, contributing £10.75/ha and £9/ha to annual crop production costs.

Surprisingly, perhaps, it is the multi-purpose "systems" tractor, the 395GTA, with its front, mid and rear implement mountings, that substantially clocks up the fewer hours of the two – 577 hours a year on average, against the 312s 909 hours.

There are two reasons for this. First, the 395 is devoted to more specialist operations, principally one-pass final seed-bed preparation and sowing using a 4m Kuhn power harrow and Accord drill combination, summer crop spraying (for which its 3000 litre capacity gives high work rates), and fertiliser top-dressing using a 20m mounted pneumatic broadcaster.

It is the 312, operating entirely conventional equipment and staying on standard wheels and tyres all year, that is the jack-of-all-trades. Ploughing, wherever there is enough moisture in the stubbles to avoid droughting the light brash soil; discing whenever there is not; shallow subsoiling of stubbles before peas and sugar beet as well as tramlines across all the farms 242ha (597 acres); hauling the bulk of the pig units annual output of slurry and yard manure; set-aside topping with a 4.5m Spearhead rotary cutter, and a share of the fertiliser spreading and spraying work.

The last two items were not in the 312s original job specification; after all, the 395GTA is specially fitted out for spraying with a 1000 litre Knight conventional sprayer on the back, supplemented by a further 2000 litres in a tank on the mid-engined tractors "backbone" front chassis. But that bane of multi-use vehicles, having to change from one set-up to another, took its toll on farm staff and management patience last autumn.

"It was one of those seasons when the weather was very changeable and we ended up swapping between the drilling and spraying configuration five or six times," recalls Mr Lambkin. "Its not a difficult task but it takes time and is frankly a pain when you want to get on."

A subtle change in policy applies from now on – the 395 stays in drilling configuration, dual wheels and all, throughout the autumn and winter until all spring crops are sown. Then, its off with the power harrow, drill and hopper for sugar beet seed-bed preparation using the big dual tyres and a front tyre press to help the 6.8m (22.6ft) Wilder Pressure Harrow make a fine seed-bed of even consistency.

Meanwhile, the 312 takes care of any spraying and spreading requirements through the late autumn/early spring period.

"There is no great pressure of work at such times and no problem fitting and taking off the equipment," explains Mr Lambkin. "At 100 litre/ha, the sprayer still gives us 10ha per fill when applying an autumn insecticide, and the tractor is perfectly capable of handling the Aero for base fertiliser applications in the autumn, as well as first cereal nitrogen top dressings in spring before we need to use row-crop wheels."

This may further widen the annual usage gap between the two tractors but, with timeliness a crucial element in the autumn, it is worth easing the 395s workload a touch in order to have it ready to go when drilling opportunities arise.

"One of the reasons for switching to the harrow-drill combination was to be able to work at a steady pace to the benefit of even seed depth and germination," notes Mr Lambkin. "But its also important to be able to do the job in timely fashion in a catchy season and having the tractor on the starting blocks will help us do that with minimal hassle."

The third tractor in the fleet, a so-far faithful 11-year-old Ford 6610 on 6200 hours, maintains its two principle roles – liquid N application and straw baling.

Liquid N, put on through a 2000 litre/20m Chafer, is used for first dressings to winter wheats, winter and spring barley, ryegrass and pre-emergence on sugar beet. For straw baling – 250t in all – the tractor powers a Welger AP830 conventional square baler and Cooks sledge.

Apart from hauling straw to storage, the 6610 has a multitude of occasional tasks – mainly mixing/liquidising slurry in the above-ground store, and doing its fair share of spreading slurry and stockpiling yard manure ready for spreading by contractor to stubbles post-harvest.

"The Fendt 312 is the tractor of choice for slurry and manure handling – with more power and four-wheel drive it is clearly more capable, as well as being more comfortable and also faster thanks to the 40kph gearbox," notes John Lambkin. "But the 6610 does the job well enough when the 312 is not available and it is more than capable of handling its other tasks."

At present, the Ford is far from facing the axe. It owes nothing as far as the accounts are concerned, it costs little to run and, at £4000, its resale value would be a pin-prick in the outlay needed for a decent replacement. Mr Lambkin points out that theres not much demand for two-wheel drive 85hp tractors these days.

The two German tractors are also doing their bit to eliminate the big repair bills that heralded the replacement of their predecessors. There have been no major failures and precious few minor ones. Those have been confined to the harder-worked 312 – an air conditioning system repair; diagnostic checks to rectify a modest hydraulics system malfunction; and a small wiring repair to get the electronically-controlled hydraulic diff lock operating properly.

Fendt 395GTA is clocking up barely 600 hours a year handling the key operations of one-pass seed-bed preparation and drilling, some fertiliser application, and high-capacity summer spraying.

Easton Lodge, farmers weeklys arable and pig unit near

Stamford, Lincs, started to revamp its tractor fleet four and a

half years ago. Peter Hill reviews how things are shaping up


Tractor £/year £/hr £/ha

True depreciation* 395 2600 4.50 10.75

312 2180 2.40 9.00

6610 0 0.00 0.00

Servicing & 395 574 1.00 2.37

maintenance 312 866 0.95 3.58

6610 527 1.75 2.17

Tax & insurance (x3) 1522 0.85 6.29

Fuel (x3) 3800 2.12 15.70

Totals: 12069 13.57 49.86

*Purchase price less current trade-in value. In Easton Lodge accounts, tractors are written-down over eight years with any trade-in allowance taken as profit on sales. Cash purchases mean no finance charges are incurred.

Tractor purchase and operating costs to date

Tractor service and

maintenance costs


Fendt 395GTA £

1993 Sundries 173

1994 250hr (£120); sundries 311

1995 1000hr (£489); sundries 720

1996 Sundries 96

1997 2000hr (£840); aircon service; sundries 1187

Total 2487

Average/year 574

Average/ha/yr 2.37

Fendt Farmer 312LSA £

1995 Puncture repair; sundries 98

1996 3000hr (£585); aircon repair (£113); electrical fault (£146); two batteries (£212); sundries 1208

1997 4000hr service (£643); diff lock hydraulics (£201);hydraulics fault diagnosis (£121); sundries 1076

Total 2382

Average/year 866

Average/ha/yr 3.58

Ford 6610 £

1995 Water pump etc (£278); sundries 426

1996 Replacement clutch; sundries 877

1997 Wheel centre (£95); sundries 279

Total 1582

Average/year 527

Average/ha/yr 2.17

Ford 6610 soldiers on as an invaluable low-cost member of the team for straw baling, beet drilling, slurry stirring and tanking, and liquid fertiliser application, running up a modest 300 hours a year.

Fendt Farmer 312S is the jack-of-all-trades workhorse, and getting extra work now to save swapping the toolcarrier tractors equipment too often. Its clocking up just over 900 hours a year.

John Lambkins tractor choice seems to be paying off so far – relatively high purchase costs are being offset by reliable performance and encouraging mid-term resale values.

EASTONLODGETRACTORS

115hp 4wd Fendt 395GTA

Purchased: New October 1993 for £39,250

Hours (Feb 1): 2500hrs; utilisation 577hrs/year

Resale value: £28,000; depreciation – £11,250 – £2600/year or £10.75/ha

Main tasks and equipment: Seedbed cultivation and drilling – 4m Kuhn power harrow + 4m Accord drill coulters + Reichert 1000kg mid-hopper; Stocks dual wheels with Michelin XM108 600/65R38 rear tyres, 480/65R28 fronts; Ritchie front tyre press. Spring/summer pesticide spraying – Knight 1000 litre/20m rear-mounted conventional sprayer + Rau 2000 litre mid-mounted tank; row-crop wheels with Kleber Super 3 12.4R36 rear tyres; Kleber Super 8 12.4R32 fronts. Sugar beet seed-bed cultivation – 6.8m Wilder Pressure Harrow. Wheat medium to late N top-dressing – 20m Kuhn Aero pneumatic broadcaster. Grain carting – 14t twin axle trailer.

120hp 4wd Fendt Farmer 312LSA

Purchased: Second-hand (three-years-old) May 1995 on 1700hrs for £32,000

Hours (Feb 1): 4200hrs; utilisation 909hrs/year

Resale value: £26,000; depreciation £6000 – £2180/year or £9/ha

Main tasks and equipment:

Autumn P & K and early wheat nitrogen top dressing – 20m Kuhn Aero pneumatic broadcaster. Autumn pesticide spraying – Knight 1000 litre/20m rear-mounted conventional sprayer. Ploughing – four-furrow Kverneland LB Vari-Width + 1.9m Cousins trailed furrow press. Stubble discing – 4.5m Kverneland DTA tandem disc cultivator. Subsoiling tramlines and stubbles before peas and sugar beet – Farmrite two-/five-leg subsoiler. Slurry spreading – 1800 gallon Wootton-Grandage Surge Master pump spreader.

Manure carting (750t) – 5t trailer. Set-aside topping – 4.5m Spearhead 450-9S rotary cutter.

85hp 2wd Ford 6610

Purchased: New September 1986

Hours (Feb 1): 6200hrs; utilisation 300hrs/year

Resale value: £4000; depreciation – written-off

Main tasks and equipment: Wheat early liquid nitrogen top-dressing – 2000 litre Chafer trailed applicator. Straw baling – Welger AP830 conventional square baler. Straw bale cart (250t) – four-wheel flat bed trailer. Sugar beet drilling – six-row Becker precision seeder. Slurry stirring – recirculation pump on Boythorpe above ground slurry store. Slurry spreading – 1800 gallon Wootton-Grandage pump spreader. Manure carting (750t) ‚ 5t trailer.