18 December 1998

Safety first buy proves to be healthy investment

Just over a year ago South

Yorkshire dairy farmer David

Lowe took delivery of a top

of the range 130hp Belarus

1221 Synchro6. Ian Marshall

found out how it has been

earning its keep

ACCIDENTS are often the catalyst for change – in John Lowes case the turning point came in 1989.

He was spreading lime on one of his farms steep slopes when the two-wheel drive tractor he was driving lost grip and rolled over.

"After the incident I wanted only four-wheel drive. At the time we could not afford a western make, so we tried and bought a 70hp Belarus 572," says Mr Lowe, who milks the 113 head Unthank herd on Unthank Hall Farms 66ha (165 acres) at Holmesfield, South Yorks.

And he has stayed with Belarus ever since, as he considers the make value for money in terms of £/hp.

The 1221 Synchro6 is no exception. "Its shape is not for everyone and it not as technically sophisticated in certain respects as a western make, but I get more power for less money and it does everything I need."

"Everything I need" covers powering a mounted mower conditioner and a forage harvester when making some 90ha (225 acres) of grass silage in three cuts for the cows and cultivating with a 4m (10ft) rotary power harrow when reseeding leys.

Haulage work includes towing four wheel trailers loaded with Claas Quadrant medium density straw bales and slurry spreading with a 2000 litre tanker.

As a starting point, Mr Lowe selects the Belarus cab. "I have tried other makes and there is not enough room to drive the tractors," he says. "I am 6ft 7in and 21 stone and I have plenty of space in the 1221. It is comfortable to operate and the combination of a high driving position and a lot of glass gives good all-round visibility on the road and in the field."

Thin A-pillars on the cab also allow a good line of sight to the side of the tractor, says Mr Lowe, which is essential with operations such as mowing and forage harvesting.

On the power side, with its 130hp the 1221 has no trouble handling or driving the mounted forage and cultivation equipment.

"There is little power loss between the engine and the pto as it is a straight drive."

One of the 1221s year-round functions is in front of Unthank Hall Farms 2000-litre slurry tanker, spreading on both the farms fields and on those of neighbours.

Off road, the work involves negotiating steep gradients and it is an operation, he says, which both brings out the best in the Belarus and highlights one of its sophisticated features.

"You can select a combination of two-wheel drive and automatic four-wheel drive, which comes in when there is more than 6% slip on the rear wheels to maintain traction."

But haulage work with 12t of loaded slurry tanker does bring out what Mr Lowe feels are the Belarus two serious faults. "The tractor is fitted with dry brakes, which do not have the stopping power of oil immersed systems and you have to be extremely careful when using them on the road; and the standard pick up hitch is not brilliant, I chose to pay an extra £600 of the optional heavy duty unit."

Those short comings aside, Mr Lowe does not have a bad word for his 1221. "I paid £21,750 for the tractor, which included the pick-up hitch and £1000 for a hydraulic trailer braking system.

"For that money you cannot fault it. I intend to keep it for five years and then replace it with another Belarus," he says. &#42