17 November 1995

THE TACKLE YEAR THAT WAS

Ever wondered whether machinery manufacturers might one day run out of ideas? No sign of it yet. In fact there were so many machine launches in 1995 that Andrew Faulkner could only cope with a nine-month review. Here he takes a personal meander through just some of the highlights

THE MACHINERY sales renaissance continues – that is the story so far for the 1995 farm equipment year. Most companies are already predicting increased year-end business and this is on top of what were two of the best sales years in recent history.

Even tractor sales, which are the traditional barometer for the rest of the industry and the sector expected to take the first sales dip, are holding up well. Originally predicted to come in some way beneath last years total of 18,130 registrations (more than 40hp), the Agricultural Engineers Association now reckons the 1995 tractor total could top the 1994 figure.

So what does all this buoyancy mean for the farmer? Most importantly, sales success gives companies the confidence to reinvest in new technology and new machines. And that has certainly been in evidence in 1995.

Here we highlight just some of the equipment introduced in the first nine months of this year.

Inevitably, tractors tend to make the farm machinery headlines, and 1995 has been no exception.

Tractor overhaul

At the SIMA show in Paris, Massey Ferguson completed a thorough overhaul of its tractor line-up with the introduction of the 80-120hp 6100 and 135-200hp 8100-series tractors. These replaced the 3000, 3100 and 3600 machines.

Although superficially the changes appeared to be no more than a glossy "cab, nose and name" job, there were a number of significant improvements over the tractors predecessors.

Along with the better visibility cab, the Datatronic performance monitoring package is now more user friendly and control layout has been tidied up. Among the mechanical changes, the smaller 6100 tractors now get a wet clutch, electro-hydraulic forward/reverse shuttle and new front drive axles with bigger carrying capacities.

Given rather less of a promotional push, Massey Ferguson also extended the top end of its tractor line-up in January. The US-built 9240 comes from MFs parent, AGCO, and is powered by a 240hp 8.3-litre Cummins engine. Drive is through a full powershift gearbox giving 18F/9R speeds.

Other than MF, the big four manufacturers – New Holland, MF, Case IH and John Deere – are having a relatively quiet year on the tractor launch front. So far, the only news of note was the July announcement that both New Holland and Case are getting back into the prestigious but tiny volume, artic tractor sector in the UK; Case launched its 235-400hp 9300 series while New Holland said it would be bringing in the 350hp 9680 from the US. Both blue and red machines are powered by Cummins engines.

Amongst the tractor players in the UKs second division, there has been significantly more movement in 1995.

Starts with a bang

The year certainly started with a bang with the news that Italian tractor giant Same-Lamborghini-Hurlimann (SLH) had taken over Deutz-Fahr, the farm machinery manufacturing division of German firm KHD. According to SLH, the deal makes the Same-Deutz-Fahr Group the second biggest tractor manufacturer in Western Europe behind market leader, New Holland.

First product news from the new Italian group came in September with the glittering Cologne launch of the Deutz-Fahr Agrotron line-up. Comprising 11 models in the mass market 68-145hp sector, the Agrotron certainly represents Deutzs most significant tractor launch for more than 15 years.

Not content with the Deutz announcement, SLH also decided to re-introduce the Hurlimann part of its name back into the UK. Zetor importer, Motokov UK, will be responsible for marketing the formerly Swiss-built tractors, which will be available badged as one of three series – 85-105hp XT, 115-135hp Elite and 165-190hp Master.

Other news through the year included the launch of new models from JCB, Renault, Zetor, Steyr and Belarus. And, for the enthusiasts among you, the County name was put back where it belongs – on the bonnet of equal-sized-wheel-drive tractors as opposed to a transit vans grille.

On a more sobering note, tractor safety statistics were again in the headlines this year. According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), between 1987-93 there was one tractor-related fatality every other week in the UK – a total of 136 deaths.

The HSE says lack of adequate information and operator training are still the most important weaknesses and highlights five key operations as those most likely to cause accidents: Misuse of controls; incorrect hitching; incorrect mounting or dismounting; use of tractors on unsuitable slopes; and approaching machinery and moving parts before the tractor has stopped.

Other than detail changes to machine specification and the continuing battle over the pros and cons of various yield mapping techniques, all has been relatively quiet in the combining world this year.

Unnoticed almost

What almost escaped unnoticed was Shelbourne Reynolds decision to import the Canadian-built MacDon conveyor header. Comprising three rubber belts, the header is claimed to feed even the most difficult crops, such as grass seed and flax, into the combines intake elevator without the bunching and wrapping traditionally associated with conventional auger-type designs.

First user of the MacDon system was Sussex-based Wealden Farming Contractors, which operated a 6.4m (21ft) wide version on its 10-year-old Claas Dominator for the 1995 harvest.

More recently, Claas hit the headlines following the launch of its Lexion 480 combine – a machine which is now claimed to have a higher capacity of than any other combine.

An out put potential of 40t/hour is achieved through the use of the companys APS drum system working in conjunction with two rotary separators. With a price tag of £225,000, sales of this monster are clearly aimed at the large scale farmer and contractor.

Telescopics remain the lucrative sector in the agricultural materials handling market, with sales estimated to be somewhere between 1500 and 2000 units/year. And there is no shortage of firms trying to get a slice of that action.

Big name

Caterpillar was the big name to enter the fray this year, with the launch of its five-model TH series. All powered by a 101hp four-cylinder turbocharged engines, the Cat machines come in at the top end of the farm market with lift capacities to full height of 1.5 to 4t and maximum lift heights of 7.6 to 13.5m (25-44ft 3in).

The other new entrant this year, and one which is likely to add even more heat to an already bubbling telescopic market, is John Deere. Matbro will build the green-liveried machines, which will be powered by Deere engines and supplied through the John Deeres 600-strong pan-European dealer network from this month.

At the other end of the materials handling scale, Bobcat and JCB introduced bigger versions of their skid steer loaders. Increasingly popular outside their traditional intensive pig and poultry unit markets, these highly manoeuvrable machines are now being built with bigger lift and reach capacities for wider applications. Both the Bobcat 873 and the JCB Robot 185 are said to be capable of loading into high-sided lorries.

Least familiar

Of the more unusual names to enter the loader market this year, Liebherr must be one of the least familiar. More commonly seen emblazoned across the back end of construction equipment, the Austrian name is now targeting some of its wares at the wheeled loader sector. Here it will come up against tough competition from Kramer, which also launched new models earlier this year.

A glut of self-propelled sprayers made their first appearances this year, including new machines from Chavtrac, Househam, Frazier, Tecnoma, Berthoud, and Evrard.

After several years of trying, French firm Matrot also managed to get the first of its latest generation of front-mounted boom machines into the UK. Why it had has taken so long remains a mystery – particularly to the French whose market is dominated by such machines

The front-mounting principle does have much to commend it – better boom visibility/control and less operator fatigue – but the psychological barrier of applying potentially harmful chemical in front of the cab still appears to affect demand in this country. Interestingly, the HSE does not seem to have a problem with the concept.

For many specialist spray contractors, 1995 will be remembered as the year that an almost direct replacement for the much missed MB Trac forward control unit became available. The South Cave Tractors conversion made its debut and was one of the big attractions at the June 27/28 Sprays and Sprayers event.

Based on a 156hp Unimog U1600 rather than the old MB Trac, this conversion has a number of advantages over its predecessor. In addition to more power, the new machine has all-round suspension, failsafe four-wheel steering and tougher transmissions.

Demount units

Also at Sprays & Sprayers were Hydro Chafer demount units for the JCB Fastrac and Clayton 4120 Buggi, and a Cleanacres demount for the Fendt Xylon systems tractor. At the smaller end of the market, both Amazone and Knight Farm Machinery had new trailed and mounted sprayers on display.

No nozzles but of no less interest to sprayer enthusiasts is the Hardi Metpole climatic recording apparatus, which has been on trial at Morley Research Centre in Norfolk. The crop protection models produced should eventually help growers decide when spraying is most viable and warn if field conditions are such that a pesticides efficacy is likely to be reduced.

New cultivation/drilling machinery in 1995 carried on the theme from where 1994 cropping year left off. From the £1500 Vogel & Noot seed box to the £31,000 folding version of the high speed Simba Freeflow drill, the name of the mid-90s cultivation game is least-cost crop establishment.

In the Eastern Counties at least, there has been a significant swing away from the power harrow/drill combination which was so popular in the 1980s and early 90s. Although still seen as an important tool on some soils and in some conditions, many of the bigger units now take the view that the system consumes too much power and is too slow for use over the whole farm.

Enter the latest generation of high speed cultivator disc/rigid tine drills, which have become increasingly accepted over the past three years. In 1995 established names at the top end of the market, Vaderstad Rapide and Simba Freeflow, were joined by new models from the likes of KRM, John Deere, Farm Force, Concept Machinery, Horsch, Dutzi and Nokka-Tume.

In the primary and secondary cultivation machinery markets, it is plough and disc sectors that probably saw the most movement this year. New ploughs appeared from Lemken, Huard, Vogel & Noot and Thieme, while Kverneland and Vaderstad updated their disc ranges.

As if to further emphasise the years high speed/low cost theme, the major launch for the UKs biggest plough builder, Dowdeswell Engineering, was also a high speed cultivator. Available in 3m or 6m working widths, the Speed Tilla comprises both tine and roller elements, and can be operated as either a stand-alone unit or in combination with a drill.

First appearances

A mid-sized baler costing £75,000 and a bale wrapper for £31,000? No, my zero finger hasnt developed a twitch. Both these machines – at these prices – made first appearances this year.

Priced at £75,000, the Claas Quadrant 1200RC precision chop rectangular-section big baler made its debut at the Welsh Grassland event in May. Most of the extra cost on top of the standard machine comes from the Roto Cut 25 knife chopping system, which cuts grass to 44mm lengths enabling 10% and 15% more material to be packed in the bale. Claas says a typical 1.6m (5ft) long silage bale weighs about 500kg.

Other balers to get chopping systems for the first time in 1995 included Mengeles rectangular-section big baler and Greenlands RV156L and RV186L variable chamber round balers.

The £31,000 bale wrapper was spotted at the SIMA show in Paris, where its size as well as its price tag attracted visitors attention. Built in Denmark, the Ebko Wrap-Liner incorporates a similar tubular bale wrapping principle as that used by Grays of Fetterangus on its Tube-line machines. The Ebko wraps round bales up to 2m in diameter and square/rectangular bales with a maximum height of 1.7m and width 1.4m. Output of 100 bales an hour is claimed.

Big money wrappers

Also from Scandinavia, the Finnish-built Cross-Wrap 2000 was the other big money wrapper predicted to make a sales impact in 1995, following on from considerable interest shown in the prototype at the 1994 Royal Show. It was not to be. The £24,000 specialist square bale machine will return to Finland this winter for further modification before trying again next year.

With no major national grassland event this year, new product has been limited in the conventional silage making market this year. Make a date for Grassland 96 next year.

Particularly worth looking out for will be the latest field trial data on Greenlands High Performance Conditioner (HPC) system, which has the potential to change current thinking on how to produce high dry matter silage.

The HPC principle is simple: Rather than mow and spread/ted in separate operations, the mower-mounted HPC unit both crimps and spreads the grass as it passes out of the back of the mower. In addition to saving the cost of the tedding operation, Greenland also claims the immediate crimping and spreading of the material speeds up the crop drying process. The jury is out for now, and we await the verdict.

Why is it that most reader response often comes over what might be regarded as the most unlikely products/machines? Just another of those imponderables.

Small reduction

For example, a small item on compounds to reduce the smells from farm wastes sparked a stream of enquiries. OCA, from Greive UK, reacts with the smell-causing complexes of nitrogen and sulphur in the wastes, and neutralises them. Surprisingly, Bill Wyman was not among the callers.

Other machines that seemed to strike a chord included Berry Bros strawberry harvester from Scandinavia, auto tree planters from Austria and Scotland, a multi-bore drill bit from Australia, a motorised yard scraper from Ireland and a post banger from France.

French post driver

Of particular interest was the French-built Rabaud Turbobang post driver, designed for farmers and contractors who need to erect fences in difficult terrain such as on banks and across ditches.

The pendulum-type machine comprises an independently suspended mast which pivots about a fixed headstock. Three rams enable the mast to be shifted out to the side, up onto a bank or down into a ditch without the tractor having to move off level ground.

Just another example of the ingenuity of machinery manufacturers from around the world. And long may it continue. &#42

Massey Fergusons overhaul of its medium-to-large tractor line-up meant that the 3000,3100 and 3600 series machines were replaced with the 80 – 120hp 6100 series and the 135 – 200hp 8100 series.

Above: Deutz Agrotron tractors, which span the 68 – 145hp band, are the companys most important launch since 1980 and show radical styling. Below: Claas Lexion has a price – tag of a cool £225,000.

Above: Greenland HFC mower crimps and spreads the grass at the same time

Right: As well as being cost – saving, it also speeds up crop – drying, claims the manufacturer.

Above : Interesting Austrian tree planter mechanises a traditionally labour – intensive task and attracted a lot of interest from readers.

Above left: Frazier self – propelled sprayer was one of several new machines in this category to appear this year.

Left: JCB Frastrac 1115 gave fast systems tractor buyers a lighter, lower hp option.

Caterpillar TH loader comes in at the top end of the farm loader market, with lift capacities to full height of 1.5 – 4L and maximum lift height of 7.6 – 13.5m. Power comes from a 101hp 4-cylinder turbocharged engine.

Motorised yard scraper from Ireland could be useful for those with buildings too small to take a conventional tractor – mounted machine.

Dowdeswell Speed Tilla high speed cultivator comes in 3m or 6m widths and can be fitted with a drill.