Loader takes some beating
When it comes to materials
handling, operators offering
contract services often have
more diverse requirements
than most. Peter Hill
reports on one
Materials handling kit has to perform many different roles in Alan Garretts hands. As a contractor providing farmers near to his base at Cerne Abbas, Dorset with a diverse range of field services, it must stack and load big square and round bales, load spinners with lime and spreaders with yard manure, and pack several hundred tonnes of grass silage into clamps.
And, so far, he is yet to be convinced that anything other than his tractor loader will do a better job.
"In some situations, a telescopic handler or even an industrial-type loader might be a better bet," says Mr Garrett. "But in terms of versatility and costs, as well as outright performance, I still think the modern tractor loader should not be under-estimated."
Quite apart from which, he points out, buying a tractor and loader combination does not involve purchasing a specialist tool capable of little else but materials handling. Alan Garretts Quicke 695 loader is mounted on a Case-IH Maxxum MX135, one of two purchased earlier this year as the main power units for the business.
When not on loader work, the tractor is free to operate a plough, power harrow, big baler or any number of other field implements. Specialist handling equipment is limited to its particular specialism.
"Even when bale loading and carting I would rather use a tractor and loader," says Alan Garrett. "I know its possible to tow trailers with a telehandler but they are not really built or suited to that type of work, either on the road or in the field."
To be truly effective, the tractor-loader combination must have particular features and characteristics, he adds. The tractor needs good hydraulic flow for fast response and quick movement of loader functions; a smooth and easy to use shuttle; good visibility; and good traction.
The Maxxum scores on all points, with the standard-profile but wide treaded Kleber Traker tyres helping as far as tractive effort is concerned.
"A telescopic handler is good on a hard, dry surface but, ultimately, the tractor can summon up more grip when conditions are more difficult – as they often are when loading manure spreaders from a field heap, for example," Mr Garrett says. "A tractor also climbs well on silage clamps. We use a big buckrake on the loader and have no trouble shifting 45 to 50t of grass an hour, with time spare to keep it well rolled."
The loader itself needs to be strong enough to take a bit of punishment and clamp firmly to the tractor. But for a contractor who needs to use the tractor for other tasks, it must also be easy to put on and take off. "The Quicke is good on both points, in my view," he says. "It feels very tight and secure on the tractor but the hitch system is pretty simple and it certainly does not discourage us from taking it off whenever the loader is not needed."
The joystick control – a long lever operating valves by Bowden cable – gives similar convenience and control functions as other designs, albeit not as flickable as the power systems used on telehandlers. Coupling involves four pipes and a multi-pin socket electrical connection for the third service diverter valve, unless the Hydro-Quick single action coupling is used.
A particular feature that comes in for praise is Quickes Softdrive loader "suspension". Comprising gas accumulators plumbed either side of the lift cylinders, this is designed to cushion the loader from tractor movements as it rides over bumps and hollows, and to cushion the tractor, to some extent, when the implement is heavily laden. Mr Garretts experience is that it works.
"There is none of the crashing about you get with standard loader hydraulics, and all the pivot pins get an easier life instead of being slapped up and down all the time," he notes. "And apart from less wear and tear, I reckon driver ride comfort is improved as well."
Where the loader really falls down in comparison to a telehandler is in outright lift height and forward reach. All the same, the Q695 will clear 4m (13ft) with a level implement and that is enough for Alan Garrett, even for stacking and loading bales.
Lack of additional reach is a small price to pay, he reckons, for the over-riding cost and operational advantages of the tractor and loader combination. *
Alan Garrett: "For good all-round versatility and performance the tractor and loader still takes some beating."
ALAN GARRETTS MATERIALS HANDLER
Power unit: 135/140hp Case-IH Maxxum MX135
Transmission: 16 x 12 speed gearbox with four powershift speeds and powershuttle
Loader: Quicke Q695 tractor loader
Performance: Max lift capacity 2.45t; max payload full height 2.1t. Max lift height (beneath level implement) 4m (13ft). Crowd 42deg; dump 53deg
Controls: Joystick lever operating externally mounted valves by cable; electric switching third service diverter valve
Implements: General purpose bucket; push-off silage fork; two-bale grab