Forterra gains approval despite a wide range of frustrating niggles

As the Zetor Forterra 117-41 stands proudly in Graeme Cowie’s yard, it’s almost as shiny as when he bought it a year ago. Admittedly, it was pressure washed the previous day, but that is one of the few washes it’s had in the past 12 months.

Ninety suckler cows and 400 ewes have ensured the machine has been kept busy in its first year on the 147ha (364-acre) Cooper Hill Farm – busy enough to clock up 750 hours.

As the farm’s prime mover, the Zetor’s summer months are spent coupled to a 3m Pottinger mower. It then moves on to baling 65ha (160 acres) of grass silage with a Welger RP 200 round baler.

The winter months are equally busy, when the tractor is primarily occupied with feeding, mucking out and spreading. “Spreading slurry puts the machine under a certain amount of pressure,” says Mr Cowie.

“The tractor struggles against hills with the pto in operation.” The farm’s tanker is a 6800-litre (1500 gallon) unit, a size he had expected the 117hp Forterra would be able to deal with. Zetor is due to return to Mr Cowie with a software application to boost the machine’s power, a solution he hopes will make slurry work easier in the coming months.

Driving the Forterra is a more pleasant experience than operating the farm’s older 12245 Zetor, he says. The cab hosts a range of modern, hi-tech features including electronic linkage control and a push-button hand-throttle, but the latter doesn’t score too highly with Mr Cowie.

“It’s too sensitive for my liking – the slightest touch can send engine revs soaring. It could be dangerous when working with pto-driven implements such as a vacuum tanker.” The tractor’s directional shuttle is operated via a gearstick to the right of the seat. “With this and nearly all the other controls grouped to the driver’s right, your left hand becomes somewhat redundant,” points out Mr Cowie.

“Given the large amount of loader work the tractor does, a shuttle-lever mounted to the left of the steering column would be a real bonus.”

As regards reliability, there have been few problems, reports Mr Cowie. The machine has been serviced twice since purchase – at 100 and 400 hours. On the second service, the tractor required a new hydraulic oil pump, which was not covered by warranty and cost 305.

Another niggling problem is the adjustment bolt for foot throttle travel, which has worked loose and been lost. This means the foot throttle can come up too far on removal of the operator’s foot, causing the fuel to be cut off and the machine to stall. So, having purchased the machine almost a year ago, Mr Cowie is relatively happy with the Forterra.

“The fuel consumption is as good as you would expect from any 120hp tractor and overall it’s been a reliable machine,” he says. A few aggravating problems have caused tempers to fray over the past year but one visit from the local dealer should see that right.

Would he buy another one? Most likely is the answer – as long as some options, such as a left-hand shuttle and a more user-friendly hand-throttle, are on offer.

Cooper Hill Farm

Total area 47ha (364 acres)

Tractors Zetor Forterra 117-41 and Zetor 12245

Livestock 90 suckler cows and 400 ewes

Cropping 6.5ha (16 acres) barley and 3ha (7acres) swedes