5 March 1999

Finnish lifter is small, nifty and very versatile…

By Andy Collings

IF you need an agile loader of petite proportions, then the new Avant MultiPlus 20D could be for you.

Built in Finland and marketed in the UK by Shropshire-based Butler Equipment, the articulated four-wheel-drive unit measures, depending on tyre selection, about 1m wide and 2.2m long (3ft 3in x 7ft 4in). Height to the top of the ROPS bar is just under 2m (6ft 6in).

But such concise dimensions bely the machines lifting potential, and its ability to operate a wide range of attachments. Maximum lift is put at 400kg and maximum bucket tipping height is 1.88m (6ft 3in).

Apart from the standard bucket and fork attachments, the MultiPlus can be equipped with post-hole bores, hedge trimmer, trencher and a host of other hydraulically powered implements which perhaps do not lend themselves quite so much to the agricultural scene.

A 40 litre/minute external oil flow at 200 bar pressure is considered ample for most attachments.

Power is supplied by a 3-cyl Kubota diesel engine rated at 20hp. A hydraulic pump then powers four motors to drive each of the four wheels. Drive from these motors, though, is not direct. The motors are connected to each wheel by a chain drive.

Operating the Multiplus is a simple affair. A hand throttle on the right-hand side is set and two foot pedals provide forward and reverse control, press one and it goes forwards and the other to reverse. Boom controls are on the left-hand side of the console.

Complete with a steering lock which should enable the machine to manoeuvre successfully in the tightest of areas, the MultiPlus 20D could warrant a place in intensive stock units where small housing is the norm.

Starting price for the machine is listed at about £16,000.

AGCO profits tail off

AGCO financial results show the company incurred a net loss of $23.3m for the fourth quarter ended December 1998, to return an end of year net income of $60.6m, compared to $168.7m in 1997.

The companys fourth quarter performance, in which sales were 15% down on the previous year, is put down to lower retail demand for agricultural equipment in the majority of markets throughout the world.

"High global stocks, depressed commodity prices and economic uncertainty in the majority of world markets continued to adversely affect demand for agricultural equipment," says Agco chief executive Robert Ratliff, who anticipates these factors will continue to negatively affect agriculture.

equipment demand during 1999.

In response to the lower demand in 1998, Agco reduced tractor and combine harvester unit production by 13% below those of 1997, with fourth quarter production down 22%.

To counter 1999s expect drop in sales the company plans to continue this strategy, by cutting tractor and combine production by an additional 13% below 1998 levels.

Slimmed down trailer takes bigger payloads

WOOTTON has made a number of design changes to its 14t capacity grain trailer in order to reduce its tare weight and enable users to carry the full quoted payload and stay within the 18.2t gross weight legal limit.

Called the Millennium, the trailer is the template for all trailers in the Wootton range, including flatbeds, tankers, low loaders and dumpers.

"Decreasing overall trailer weight to allow heavier payloads is a point raised by many farmers and contractors, especially where 14t models are concerned," says David Wootton.

"While accepting there are advantages to reducing weight, we knew it could not be at the expense of the trailers overall strength, any weight loss would have to come from improved design and making better user of lighter but stronger materials."

To achieve these objectives, Wootton has turned to high tensile steel for the body and chassis, as it is lighter and stronger than the rolled steel channel used in its XL range of trailers.

The 14t Millennium is the first to get the treatment in the form of a box section chassis – similar to the companys High Speed unit – on which sits a bigger "European look" forward sloping body.

"These changes in design and materials have enabled us to achieve a tare weight of 4t for the basic Millennium, 1t less than that of the 14t model in the XL range," says Mr Wootton.

Another European influence on the Millenniums design is the use of single ram lifting. Not only is it a more efficient than a twin ram configuration, says the firm, it gives users an increased tipping angle. That is of particular benefit to sugar beet growers wanting a general purpose body capable of heaping the crop.

The tandem axle assembly has also come in for a redesign. It is wider to spread the load more evenly under the chassis and axle oscillation has been increased, both improving trailer stability.

Other changes include improved drawbar mountings, bigger rear tipping pins and a stiffer rear door with stronger grain seals.

Fully automated vegetable planting is due in the UK later this spring when Burdens starts a series of field trials with the Belgian-made CT Agriplanter. A feature of the computer controlled 2-row machine is its ability to compensate for plantless plugs in the seedling tray by detecting them with an electronic eye. When the eye senses a dud, it is ejected and the computer automatically speeds up the planting belt to bring the remaining plugs closer together to maintain the programmed plant spacing. Burdens also intends to evaluate a prototype four-row planter during the season.