It wasn’t that long ago that the idea of fitting a loader to a tractor with more than 100hp under the hood seemed a little silly.
But as tractors got bigger and loaders got better, the average has slowly crept up to almost 150hp, with a recent trend for kitting out 200hp-plus machines.
Prime candidates for this type of tractor-loader combination are contractors looking to haul large quantities of straw and silage, or those spreading lime, compost or manure.
The attraction is that the tractor can outperform a telehandler on haulage duties, but still offer decent lifting performance and reach when it’s in the field. In many cases, that means lift capacities of about 3t and maximum heights of more than 4.5m.
Few would argue that those stats allow them to outcompete a telehandler, but some larger-scale operators are finding they’re good enough to warrant cutting down the number of handlers in their fleet.
As an added bonus, these loaders help make use of tractors that clock up limited hours outside peak season. Wider adoption of CVT transmissions also means big tractors can be surprisingly nimble for loader work.
The makers behind tractor-branded loaders
- Fendt – made in house
- John Deere – made in house
- New Holland and Case-IH – made by Stoll
- Massey Fergusson – made by Quicke
- Valtra – made by Quicke
- Claas – made by MX
Anthony Johnson, managing director for MX loaders UK, has seen a definite shift in recent years.
“When our big T417 loader was launched five years ago, most of us in the UK were convinced there would be no market for it.”
The average tractor fitted with a loader at the time was firmly below 150hp and this was designed to fit machines up to 300hp, he says. “However, we’re now selling one or two a month and the number of enquiries is growing.”
It’s bigger sibling, the T418, is also gaining popularity and MX has recently unveiled its huge TX-series, which is big enough to fit tractors up to 390hp. Apparently the firm has already had a number of enquiries from customers looking to install these on Fendt 939s.
It’s a similar story with other retrofit makers such as Quicke and Stoll. Both are seeing an increase in sales of their larger loaders, many of which are being fitted to 200hp plus tractors.
In Quicke’s case, the Q6M and Q7M are the biggest sellers in this power category, but it also has a few of its big Q8M models operating. These offer lift capacities of more than 2.5t and lift heights of almost 5m – they generally get fitted to Fendt 828s and John Deere 6250Rs.
Similarly, UK Stoll importer Lynx Engineering is seeing more demand for its FZ60.1 and FZ80.1 loaders. The latter has a 2.6t lift capacity, which, thanks to its Z-kinematic levelling system, can maintain level throughout its lifting arc. It also has a maximum lift height of 4.76m.
The firm also has one FZ100 loader operating in the UK, which has a 3.5t lift capacity and 5m lift height.
John Deere and Fendt – the only manufacturers to build their own loaders – also have models that can fit bigger tractors. These tend to be installed by a dealer, but some farmers have had a go at retrofitting them, which – as we found out below – isn’t always that straightforward.
Lime spreading contractor: Mark Petty – Hayes, Bedfordshire
Faced with a 40-odd mile commute to his farthest regular customer, Lime Spreading contractor Mark Petty needed a tractor and loader combination that was well at home on the road.
For years, he had towed his KRM Bredal spreader with Massey Ferguson tractors, including a 7618 and 7718 sporting an MF-branded Quicke loader.
MX T418 spec
- Compatible tractors 150-300hp
- Lift capacity at max height 2,650kg (600mm from pivot)
- Max height (at implement pivot) 4.6m
- Joystick MX ePilot or tractor’s own joystick
- Self levelling Hydraulic
- Suspension Yes
- List price £15,150
However, with a legal top speed of 40kph and some less-than-plush mechanical cab suspension, he decided to go in search of something smoother.
That came in the form of a 220hp JCB Fastrac 4220, which, with its all-round axle suspension and disc brakes, offers a rattle-free ride and a top speed of 63kph. With the help of his friend, James Baker, Fastrac specialist at Oliver Land Power, he set about finding a suitable loader to fit this sizeable tractor.
Although he’d had a Massey Ferguson-branded Quicke loader before, Mr Petty wasn’t that impressed with its performance and fancied trying something else.
In the end, he turned to French brand MX and opted for the largest loader it currently offers in the UK – the T418. This is designed for tractors from 150hp to 300hp and will lift about 3t, dropping to 2.6t at full height. It also has a fairly impressive 4.6m maximum lift height.
All this meant it would make the most of the Fastrac’s size, power and weight.
In the cab, Mr Petty opted for the top-spec ePilot electronic joystick, which has the option of configuring buttons to carry out different functions. It also offers fancy features such as an auto-levelling, automatic bucket shake and hydraulic locking pins.
Future updates mean it could be used to control some of the tractor’s functions too.
From the start, Mr Petty decided to order the loader with a Euro carriage so it would work with his existing range of attachments. These include a bucket made by a local firm, a bale spike and a snow plough.
Following the advice of Mr Baker, he also added a 900kg weight on the Fastrac’s rear mounting point. This helps counterbalance the heavy loader up front and makes the outfit more stable.
To give it optimum hydraulic oomph, the loader was plumbed into the tractor’s load-sensing hydraulics. This means there is no interruption to the hydraulic flow and it leaves the tractor’s four rear spools untouched. It also negates the need to fit additional mid-mount spools.
The pair’s only real criticism of the MX kit is that the bracket arrangement provided to attach the joystick to the armrest is a little clumsy.
How has it fitted in?
According to Mr Petty, the Fastrac and T418 loader combination is surprisingly nimble. This is helped by the fact that the tractor is four-wheel steer and has a CVT transmission, which makes it easy to inch up to loads accurately.
As a result, Mr Petty can run a pretty efficient operation, by towing his KRM Bredal spreader to the field with the Fastrac and loading himself.
Even though the tractor’s hitch is hidden from view, he can hook to the spreader in about two minutes – a task that’s helped by the fact he has a camera trained on the pickup hitch.
Depending on the product he is spreading and the application rate, the spreader takes 10-20 minutes to empty. That means there is plenty of unhitching and hitching to be done during the day.
“It took a bit of getting used to, but by the end of the first day I was fine with it,” says Mr Petty. “I tend to use the top link as a guide to get me somewhere near and then I switch to the camera.”
Due to the loader’s lift capacity and height, he can fill the spreader in a matter of minutes. The auto-levelling feature has also helped increase his productivity. “I’ve set it so that the toe is ever so slightly off the ground,” he says. “ That means I can drop the heel on the deck and I know I won’t be scooping up any soil.”
For larger jobs, he does draft in a friend with a telehandler to help him load. However, because the loader rides so smoothly on its suspension, he doesn’t bother removing it.
So far, it’s only been taken off for a trial run, which took a couple of minutes. This involves attaching the stands, undoing the latches either side and removing the single hydraulic and electrical connector block. The driver can then hop back in the cab and reverse away from the loader.
Arable farmer: Will Morgan – Sutton Park Farm, Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire
Keen to take a little pressure off the farm’s Manitou telehandler, Worcestershire farmer Will Morgan decided to invest in a tractor loader.
But rather than install one on a small, agile machine, he opted to fit out the farm’s biggest tractor – a 210hp John Deere 6210R.
The idea came after he saw a large tractor and loader combination at his local dealer, Tallis Amos.
John Deere H380 spec
- Compatible tractors 6210R and 6170M
- Lift capacity at max height 2,140kg (800mm from pivot)
- Max height (at implement pivot) 4.9m
- Joystick John Deere electronic
- Self levelling Mechanical (option of no levelling or hydraulic)
- Suspension Yes
- List price No longer in production (2012 model featured was bought second-hand for £5,000)
“It was a big outfit, but it didn’t look as clumsy as I expected and that put a seed in my head,” says Mr Morgan.
“Having some extra lift capacity and reach seemed worth sacrificing a little bit of manoeuvrability.”
When it came to finding a suitable loader for his 6210R, a few different options popped up, including an aftermarket Quicke Q7. But it was a second-hand 2012 John Deere H380 for sale on eBay that caught his eye.
Included in the sale was a full set of brackets, mid-mount spools and an electronic joystick, with an asking price of just £5,000.
The previous owner had bought it to go on a 6215R, but realised the brackets weren’t compatible. They also probably found out that the tractor needed to be loader ready, something Mr Morgan hadn’t considered either.
“When I heard we would need to fit a new wiring loom, my heart sank – it sounded expensive,” he says. “It then sank a little bit more when I realised that a new front chassis control unit was required too.”
However, the outlay wasn’t quite as bad as he expected, with the loom coming in at about £375 and the control unit £500.
Local independent John Deere mechanic Lee Morley carried out the installation, which, apart from the electrics, was a fairly straightforward task. This involved fitting and piping up the mid-mount spools, bolting on the brackets and attaching the electronic joystick to the armrest.
This was then plugged into the new wiring loom, which runs from the control unit mounted at the front of the tractor near the radiator.
“It’s definitely worth checking your tractor is loader ready if you’re thinking of retrofitting a John Deere loader with an electronic joystick,” says Mr Morley. “The mechanical ones are pretty straightforward though.”
How has it fitted in?
As for its performance, the H380’s on-paper maximum lift capacity is rated at just under 3t, dropping to about 2t at full height. This means it will comfortably lift two 1t bags of fertiliser and it has enough height and reach to hang them over the farm’s KRM M2 spreader. It’s also able to stack bags three high.
Due to the size of the tractor, it’s pretty stable without any additional weight on the back, but for heavy lifting jobs, Mr Morgan does hook a weight block on the rear linkage.
The loader’s under-bucket clearance of 4.2m and tipped-bucket clearance of 3.4m also means it can tip into the farm’s Samson Flex 16 muckspreader without having to worry about hitting the sides.
It’s still a little lacking in stature to tip into an artic lorry without a toe-tip bucket, though.
One of the tractor’s duties this summer will be to take some of the straw lugging away from the farm’s 2016 Manitou MLT735, which tends to struggle with trailers on the road. “If we do much with it, the transmission overheats and throws up a warning light,” says Mr Morgan.
However, with the 6210R and loader, he’ll easily be able to load and lug his biggest trailer, which can hold 30 mini Hesstons (80x90cm).
To make use of the Manitou’s attachments, Mr Morgan is currently using an adapter plate that drops onto the loader’s Euro brackets. However, the angle isn’t quite right, so he’s considering fitting a dedicated Manitou carriage. This will also allow him to make proper use of the hydraulic locking pins.
Unlike some tractor loaders, the wide frame means it’s fairly easy to see the carriage down the side of the bonnet, meaning it is fairly handy for shifting pallets.
The fact that the 6210R is a big tractor doesn’t cause any problems when working around the yard either. “You might have to do the odd extra shunt, but the extra lift capacity and reach is well worth it,” he says.
“It’s never going to replace the telehandler, but as a second loader I think it’s more useful than a small one fitted on a four-cylinder tractor.”
John Deere offered the H380 in three specs: one with no levelling function, one with hydraulic levelling and one with a mechanical system, as used on Mr Morgan’s machine.
The loader-ready wiring loom also brings up the mid-mount spools in the tractor’s screen. This means it’s easy to change flow rates to the different rams.
When the tractor gets used for grain haulage or drilling, the loader is removed. This is a very simple task that takes a couple of minutes, but as Mr Morgan points out, it needs to be placed on a level patch of ground to make sure it’s stable.
Thankfully, the loader could be fitted without removing the front linkage, so it’s a quick job to switch from carrying the loader to his 4m folding front press.
Other big loader options
Here are few other loaders suitable for 200hp tractors. Where possible, we’ve tried to get like-for-like figures for lift heights and lift capacities.
However, it’s important to note that each manufacturer has a slightly different method of measuring these, so it can be tricky to compare them directly.
Quicke – Q7M
- Compatible tractors 160hp to 280hp
- Lift capacity at max height 2,490kg (800mm from pivot)
- Max height (at implement pivot) 4.6m
- Joystick Electronic Electrodrive or tractor’s own joystick
- Self levelling Mechanical integrated into boom
- Suspension Soft drive system
- List price £13,610 for performance package including brackets, joystick and all other fitments
Stoll Profiline – FZ80.1
- Compatible tractors 180hp to 270hp
- Lift capacity at max height 2,641kg (900mm from pivot)
- Max height (at implement pivot) 4.76m
- Joystick Electronic or cable
- Self-levelling Mechanical Z-kinematics
- Suspension Comfort drive system
- List price £15,000 for complete package including brackets, joystick and all other fitments
Fendt Cargo – 5X/90
- Compatible tractors Fendt 700 Vario
- Lift capacity at max height 2,950kg (load centre not specified)
- Max height (at implement pivot) 4.46m
- Joystick Uses tractor joystick
- Levelling Mechanical
- List price £13,530 for complete package including brackets and all other fitments