SCANT PROSPECT OF BOOST TO LOW MACHINERY SALES
Case IHs Doncaster-built MX100C goes through its paces.
EVEN the most optimistic salesman would find it hard to deny the machinery sector is going through a tough time.
Despite increasing offers of low and zero rate finance offers to tempt farmers to keep equipment up to date, the vast majority remain reluctant to open their cheque books to any great degree.
1997 closed with tractor sales, the barometer of the industry, of 15,272, 18% down on 1996, with the Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA) predicting at that time a further fall of 5-7% for this year.
The Association was right about the continuing decline in numbers, wrong on the amount. Despite Augusts S-plate giving a welcome boost to sales, to date, the 1998 figure stands at 40% below the 1997 figure, with, it has to be said, little prospect of any change.
In defiance of the home market tractor sales graph moving into freefall from month one, manufacturers have continued to provide a flow of new and improved machines throughout the year.
Distributor arrangements also came in for a shake up. The first coming in January, which saw Agco take over the distribution of Fendt from Bonhill Engineering.
January also saw a flurry of new launch activity. First of the new machines to hit the scene was the third model in Case IHs Case/Steyr range, the CS110.
Falling neatly between the 94hp CS94 and 150hp CS150, the new model bucks the designation trend by being rated at 113hp.
Then came revamped, higher spec range of Deutz Agrotrons from Same-Deutz-Fahr (SDF).
A 16-strong model range from 78-200hp, all feature improved operator comfort with uprated air conditioning and better insulation between the cab and transmission.
Buyers interested in 105hp and above machines also have the option of a suspended front axle and 50kph transmission, with a sprung cab added to the goodies offered on 120hp plus models.
Hot on SDFs heels came Agco, which topped out its Massey Ferguson 8100 series with the 230hp MF8170.
Powered by a turbocharged and intercooled 8.4-litre Valmet engine, the tractor features a full 17/8 or 18/8 powershift transmission on which the operator has the choice of either pulse speed shifts or automatic sequential changing. At the back end, a beefier axle design caters for the machines Cat III hydraulic linkages 10t lift.
Then came JCB who introduced its 2000 and 3000 series Fastracs, with new transmissions, suspensions and electronic control systems geared to improving the machines performance in the field rather than the road.
And out of the East came Zetors UR1 Super range. With their curved lines and upmarket cabs, these models, with power outputs of 60, 70 and 84hp, herald the shape of things to come out of the companys Brno factory.
A month later – February – out of Basildon came the TS range, with which New Holland expanded its choice of tractor in the all-important 80-100hp bracket.
Successors to the 40 series, TS tractors have 80hp, 90hp and 110hp under the bonnet and 11 different combinations of drive and transmission builds.
An improved cab layout makes the machines more operator-friendly. Under the bonnet the 7740s engine block sports a modified fuel injection system, the changes designed to meet tougher emission laws and improve performance and driveability.
Two months later, it was Cases turn, stretching its Maxxums in two directions with the MX 150, MX 170 and MX170 at the top of the range and the Doncaster built MX80C, MX90C and MX100C at the lower end.
C – compact – models are powered by 4-cyl engines driving through a powershuttle 4-speed powershift and introduce a curved line to the bodywork.
May saw the spotlight move away from wheels and onto tracks. Claas Challenger 75E, with 340hp of tracked muscle the most powerful model the company sells in Europe, slipped into the UK with hardly a murmur.
In June came the second change on the tractor distribution front. In a move to raise the Steyr profile in the niche, higher-priced sector, Bonhill Marketing, the company created from the ashes of Bonhill Engineering, replaced Morris Corfield as the importer.
Tractors use the front wheels to steer, but June and July saw two companies contest the convention with reverse drive pivot steer machines.
New Holland used the Cereals event to get initial reaction to its 135hp TV140 Bi-Di, which features an electrically controlled fully hydrostatic transmission with three speed ranges from 8-29kph.
Its articulated steering gives a maximum articulation angle of 45deg and in reverse drive mode the seat and complete console rotates through 15 or 180deg.
Valtra Valmets City range, which had a Royal Show unveiling, conform to a more conventional design in that their power units – 95hp, 105hp and 115hp – drive through a clutch and either a 12×12 or 36×36 Delta Powershift transmission.
The tractors come with a quoted 4t capacity front end loader and their pivot steering system uses a pair of rams to give a 42deg steering angle. For three point linkage work, the seat revolves for use with the companys TwinTrac reverse drive system.
It was back to established design criteria with John Deeres SE versions of its 4-cyl 6010 tractors, which included a new model, the 75hp 6010SE, the baby of the range.
Valmet hit the headlines again in August, with Claas recommending its dealers sell the marque, also good news for Claas dealers, who, over the years, have lost Ford, Deere, Massey and Case, through those companies going long line and moving into the harvester market.
High horsepower flagship models accounted for the next two tractors to hit the scene.
SDF used Septembers Tillage Event to give farmers and contractors a sight of its largest model to date, the 260hp Agrotron 260. Power comes from a 7-litre water cooled engine which drives through a turbo-clutch and new 40 forward/40 reverse, 50kph transmission.
Operator comfort comes from a self-levelling air suspended cab and a hydro-pneumatically suspended front axle.
Later that month, Renault gave its dealers a model with which they could contest the high horsepower sector of the market, the 185hp Ares 735RZ. Built in the same style as the other 11 models in the Ares range, the 735RZ is powered by a high torque 6-cyl engine coupled to the companys 32 x 32 Quadrishift transmission.
Beefed up axles – the front with steering angle detection – are included in the specification, as are Renaults RZ cab and an on board systems management, fault finding diagnostic computer.
October also saw Zetor importers Motokov take on distribution of the whole of the Landini range for the UK.
And, waiting in the wings to come on stage at Smithfield, is a new range of Case IH MX series Magnum models covering the 180hp-270hp bracket.
On the product front, Merlo filled out the bottom of its Turbo farmer range with the P26.6EVT, with a lift of 2.6t to 5.98m (19.6ft).
The models differs from its large brothers by having a narrower 2m (6.5ft) chassis and uses cast housings on its drop pinion axles to give a 50cm (20in) ground clearance. These features designed to suit it to working in livestock buildings with narrow feed passages and low roofs.
John Deere followed with its updated 2m wide compacts, the 92hp 4350 with a lift capacity of 2.3t to 6.7m (16.5ft), and the 100hp 4450 and 4550. The latter two with lifts of 2.7t to 5.55m (18.2ft) and 3t to 6.7m (22ft).
Powered by Deeres 4.5-litre low emission Powertech engines, the models are built by Matbro under a licensing agreement between the two companies.
Then came a bomb shell – the demise of Matbro.
The long running saga started in February with the revelation of accounting abnormalities which caused owners Powerscreen to make a £46.7m provision to cover overvalued stock and over-stated profits, culminating in May with John Deere, as expected, purchasing the design rights to manufacture Matbro telescopic handlers, both rigid and pivot steer.
May also saw JCB Landpower top out its Farm Special range with the 540-70 with a lift capacity of 4t to 7m and 1.5t at a full forward reach of 3.7m.
Power comes from a 106hp Perkins 1000 series engine driving through a four-speed powershift transmission to provide a combination of high tractive performance and respectable road speed.
Agco chose Welsh and West Grass to take the wraps off its FDI Sambron built MF8925, which, with a lift of 2.5t to 5m, the company say is more suited to the volume sector of the market.
Perkins powered – either 80hp naturally aspirated or 106hp turbod, transmission is hydrostatic with field and road speed ranges selected electronically.
This model was swiftly followed by the 8937, 8939 and the 8926, to give the company a four strong range with capacities of 1.9t to 9.46m (31ft) – 3t to 11m (23.3ft).
June and the results of New Hollands collaboration with Manitou, first revealed back in March, were seen for the first time in the iron in the 400 series.
Built at Manitous Rennes plant, the rear engined range offers three farming models, two – the LM410 and LM420 – with lift heights of 6m (19.7ft) and capacities of 2.8t and 3.2t; the LM430 lifts 3t to 7m (23ft).
Engine, transmissions – either powershift or power shuttle – and curvy styling come from New Holland, with chassis and boom from Manitou.
In April, Opico came into the bottom end of the market in terms of lift capacities with a five-model-strong range of Gehlmax semi articulated loaders aimed at the pig and poultry sector.
Hydrostatically driven with power outputs from 22hp-47hp, lifts are 680kg-1.3t.
The Royal Show saw Kramer Allrad make a fresh assault on the agricultural telehandler market with its all new 50hp 318 and 60hp 418 loaders – 1.8t and 2.5t to 3m (10ft) – and the 418 telescopic with 1.8t to 4.7m.
Drive is through a hydrostatic transmission which can be set in either power mode for heavy work or Eco for delicate manoeuvring and main control for the loader is on a single joystick.
At the same event, JCB unveiled its 525-50, which comes in at the bottom of its Loadall range lifting its full 2.5 load to 5m and 1000kg to a maximum outreach of 2.82m.
September and Claas upset established telehandler distribution arrangements with the launch of its Claas liveried Teleporter range to be sold through its dealer network – as a result JCB withdrew its franchise from Claas dealers.
Claas comes into the market with nine conventional models with capacities from 2.5t-3.2t and lift heights from 5.3m-7m (17.5-23ft), and an articulated steer, centre boom model with a lift of 2.5t to 3m.
Power comes from a high torque rise version of Perkins 106hp 4-cyl engines and and a choice of Quatro joystick boom control with shuttle reverser of single Solo joystick control.
No great shake ups in the combine harvester world, but the sector still had its fair share of new launches.
In time for the harvest came Massey Fergusons five straw walker MF28 – slipping into the range between the MF30 and MF26 models – with cutting width options of 4.2m, 4.5m and 4.8m.
Manufactured for Agco by Finland-based Sampo Rosenlew, a feature of the combine is said to be ease of cleaning when changing crops – particularly seed crops.
Power is provided by a 6-cyl Valmet engine rated at 185hp, hydrostatic transmission is standard.
Threshing equipment comprises a 1.11m wide twin drum system – a 400mm diameter pre-separator with wedge-shaped beaters fitted in front of a 500mm diameter main threshing cylinder. Both drums have their own adjustable concaves to give a concave area of 0.85sq m.
A new combine for less than £50,000? That was the news in May, when AK Import of Coldstream, Scotland, announced that it was bringing in the Polish-made Bison marque. (A month later New Holland signed an agreement to acquire the Polish manufacturer, but, to date, no changes have been made in distribution arrangements for the UK.)
Flagship of the range is the BSZ110, which features two threshing drums and a five roller separation system and a Danish made cab.
Power is supplied by a 220hp engine, and all functions on the 5m (16.4ft) auto contour following table are joystick controlled. Threshing parameter settings for the drums and concaves, and the five separating rollers are electro hydraulic.
This model is complemented by two conventional five-straw walker models, the Rekord Z058 a basic no-frills machine, and the Dynamic Turbo 3B.
New Holland chose the Cereals event to unveil its TF76 Elektra. Entering the range below the TF76 – to replace the TF42 and TF44 models – it is aimed at farmers cutting around 405ha (1000 acres) of crops.
Standard specification in-cludes the companys Discovery cab and a 6m (20ft) Autofloat table and power is supplied by a 260hp New Holland engine.
In August came the news that two of the worlds most powerful combine, Case IHs Arcus – which has a claimed output of up to 40t/hour in wheat – fitted with 7.6m (25ft) headers were working in East Anglia and Glos, on a top secret evaluation programme to measure their performance in UK crop conditions.
The harvester is based on a combination of massive engine power – a 425hp Volvo unit – and innovatory design features.
Breaks with convention include small driving wheels at the front and a separation system in which most of the straw is removed by two axial rotors at the front of the machine, before being ejected sideways between the front and rear wheels.
Then it was back to established principles, with John Deere, Same Deutz Fahr (SDF) and Claas providing details of what they have in store for next season.
From Deere comes a new 2200 series machine, the 2266E. Coming in at the top end of the range, it sports a 8.1-litre PowerTech engine with electronic injection control and air-to-air inter cooling, producing a maximum of 330hp at 2100rpm.
As a level land model the new combine has a 9500-litre grain tank – 8000 litres on the Hillmaster version – a quoted 26% increase in capacity compared with previous models.
Changes made to the other five models in the 2200 range for next harvest include the provision of more horsepower and bigger grain tanks and fuel tanks.
There is also the new Contour Master header control. A standard feature of the 2266 and 2266E – optional on the rest of the range – the system provides fully automatic control of header height in addition to lateral tilt.
Power on the companys CTS (Cylinder Tine Separator) Maxi-mizer has also been boosted through the fitting of a 360hp engine.
SDFs five straw walker 4030M and 4035H are intended for smaller acreage growers and feature tall guide vanes fitted to the grain pan and sieves, which are stated to also suit the models to those working on sloping fields.
Commander cabs are standard on both models, which use a 6-cyl air cooled Deutz engine. The 4030M puts out 116hp and drives through a three speed fully synchromesh gearbox, the 150hp 4035H is hydrostatic, with both transmissions linked to the CommanderStick control system.
Claas has also remembered smaller acreage cereal farmers with its latest range of straw walker models, the VX88, 98 and 108, all which sport the air conditioned Lexions cab, push button controls .
Mercedes engines supply the power, – 159hp, 200hp and 221hp, respectively – and for those users going down the precision route, the combines can be fitted with the companys portable GPS receiver.
At the other end of the scale, Lexion 480s are out with a bigger power unit, a Mercedes with a nominal output of 400hp, boosted to 420hp when the engine is under load and revs fall to 1900rpm. An additional 180 litre diesel tank is also fitted to cope with the increased fuel demand. Lexion 410s also have a power increase, to 200hp with a Perkins.
Harvesting in this summers wet conditions, Lexion owners could well have wished Claas had brought forward the introduction of its Terra Trac system for 450, 460 and 480 models.
The system comprises a 630mm wide rubber track running over four axles on each side of the combine giving a ground contact area of 2.52sq m. When fitted to a 16,000kg – unladen – Lexion 480 ground pressure is reduced to a quoted 7psi, in addition to bringing transport width down to 3.5m.
Traction is also stated to be improved, with less strain on the engine as drive to the Terra Trac system comes direct from final drive.
Choice of Vario cutterbar widths is also widened with 5.5m (18ft) and 6.7m (22ft) versions.
In response to livestock farmers need to trim silage making costs by reducing labour and machinery inputs, manufacturers came up with a number of developments in this sector.
Wide spread mower conditioning – which saves at least one or two tedding passes – took a higher profile with Krone and Pottinger introducing mounted and trailed designs to compete with Vicons HPC (High Performance Conditioning) system.
Cutting out an operation was also the reason for one of the major developments in round and square bale wrappers – an increase in the number of manufacturers introducing in line units.
For those operating round balers, there are versions from both McHale and Danagri which can be used behind any make of baler.
One piece units come in the shape of the Goweil from Morris Corfield, adaptable to any make of round baler, and Krones Combi-Pack 1250 MC, which incorporates the companys Vario Pack models. Square baler users have McHales computer controlled 998 Combi.
As a means of cutting wrapping costs even further, the Danish made Binder-Wrap, brought in for evaluation by Northants contractor Tom Dawkins, encloses only the circumference of the bale in film.
At the other end of the power scale, New Holland entered the high horsepower sector of the self-propelled forage harvester market with its 525hp, Caterpillar engined FX58, the most powerful in a new four model range. *
260hp Agrotron 260 tops out SDFs tractor range.
Kramer Allrad is making a fresh assault on the market with its 318 and 418 loaders.
In time for this seasons harvest, Agcos five straw walker MF28.
Below: In line computerised big square bale wrapping from McHale.
Right: JCBs Fastracs, improved performance in the field rather than the road.