What’s in Your Shed? visits a County Dublin grower

This week What’s in Your Shed nips over the Irish sea to visit Co Dublin arable and spud growers David and Derek Rodgers.

Read on to find out about their best and worst purchases, most expensive repair bill and why they’re still running an old-school John Deere on the frontline.

Who’s your favourite dealer?

We have a small Fendt dealer – Farmworks Machinery – that is run by a chap called Ciaran Tierney. We have had most of our Fendt tractors from there and they have given us a really good service over the years.

We had a few engine problems with our 936 when it was new and both Mr Tierney and Fendt stood by it, even when the warranty had run out.

Farm facts: Baldurgan Hill, Ballyboughal, County Dublin

  • Farmed area: 475ha
  • Cropping: 360ha arable, including winter wheat and barley, 100ha Rooster potatoes and 15ha onions
  • Staff: David, Derek and one other full-time employee, one part-time and one casual worker

How brand loyal are you?

We used to be John Deere across the board, but we decided to try a Fendt in 2004 and since then we’ve never looked back – they’re just so much smoother to drive and we have had very little trouble with them in general.

We have also stuck with New Holland combines, although I don’t think the latest model is as well built as the TX68 we had before.

See also: What’s in Your Shed? visits a Ross-shire contractor

Best tractor you have ever had?

The Fendt 716 has to be the best – it was the first Fendt tractor we had in 2004 and it’s still going strong now.

Back then it was the main tillage tractor pulling a five-furrow plough, but now it spends 90% of its time hooked to the Amazone trailed sprayer.

Even though it has clocked up 8,200 hours, it is mechanically perfect and we have had no problems with any of the electrics either.

Fendts were seriously well built at that time. Other than getting serviced by the dealer every 500 hours we haven’t had to touch it. It’s rated to 160hp and unlike some of the more modern models, you feel as if you actually get that.

Fendt 716 and Amazone sprayer

Fendt 716 and Amazone sprayer

We also had a John Deere 7710 that comes a very close second. That tractor was simple, solid and pulled like a train.

Worst tractor you have ever had?

We haven’t had any really bad ones, but we had a brand-new John Deere 6920 in 2006 that we never got on with.

When we bought it we really wanted a Fendt, but John Deere did such a good deal we decided to give it a go.

It could have been the fact that the Fendt 716 had spoilt us, but the semi-powershift gearbox felt clunky and there was something wrong with the cab suspension that made us feel a bit seasick.

We traded it in for a Fendt 818 that we’ve only just moved on after it clocked up 9,200 hours.

Do you buy second-hand?

It’s fairly rare for us to buy used machines other than combines, which are just too expensive to justify buying new.

We bought our current CX8060 back in 2014 when it was six years old, and at €120,000 (£106,166) it was about half the price of a new one.

We also got €60,000 (£53,083) for the TX66 we traded in, so it was a slightly less scary investment.

When we made the switch our output went up from 16ha/day to 25ha/day. However, the CX8060 is nowhere near as well constructed as the TX66 and the paintwork is much thinner.

We have also recently bought a 2014 Fendt 824 second-hand. This had been a fleet hire machine and we knew where it had been, so we felt we could trust it.

We traded in our 9,200-hour Fendt 818 for it and paid €60,000 (£53,083) to make up the difference.

2014 Fendt 824

2014 Fendt 824

Favourite implement?

The Amazone sprayer is probably our favourite. It’s a 2009 machine, has been subjected to all sorts of abuse and is still in near-perfect condition.

It’s also simple to use and has been particularly reliable. The spud work has been hard on it, but it’s taken it really well.

Our only grumbles would be the fact that it could do with some suspension and a couple more sensors for the boom auto-levelling. As there is only one on each side, it can get a bit confused by potato ridges.

Latest purchase?

We’re just in the process of switching the RTK GPS system on our Fendt 939 from the original Topcon-based setup to a Trimble one.

That’s because we were having too many problems with the signal dropping out. Apparently, the Trimble one will hold its line for 20 minutes after the signal is lost. Let’s hope it works.

Most expensive repair bill?

We have had a couple of nasty ones, but the worst was probably the Autopowr transmission on our John Deere 7810.

Interestingly, it was the mechanical element of the gearbox that failed rather than the hydrostatic and we could replace that separately. I don’t think it’s possible to do that in the version fitted on 6000-series tractors.

John Deere 7810

John Deere 7810

Even though we didn’t have to replace the whole lot the bill totted up to €6,000 (£5,308).

We had a similarly expensive repair to our Lemken Solitair drill. This had a small crack where the folding linkage meets the power harrow trough and over time the oil leaked out without us realising.

When it started making enough noise for us to notice something was up the damage had been done and we had to replace all the bearings and gears on one side.

The repair job was also about €6,000 (£5,308). The same thing started to happen on the other power harrow, but luckily we spotted it early and welded it up.

How long do you keep your machines?

We don’t have a set plan and we have never bothered with extended warranties either. That’s partly due to the fact that we don’t clock up high enough hours to justify it.

Favourite job/least favourite job?

David: Drilling is my favourite and working on the grader is one of my least.

Derek: I like combining and hate ploughing heavy, wet ground.

Best invention?

We’re not really inventors ourselves, but the Larrington box filler trailers we have are a pretty clever design.

Oldest machine still at work?

We have a 1999 John Deere 6810 that we’ve never had to touch mechanically. It’s now on 10,000 hours and the cross-shaft on the rear linkage could do with replacing.

It still does all the potato planting and we put it on some floatation tyres to roll our cereal ground.

1999 John Deere 6810

1999 John Deere 6810

Biggest machinery mistake?

David: I was driving the Fendt 716 alongside the potato harvester unloading and had a passenger on the seat next to me. He nudged the shuttle button with his knee causing the tractor to stop suddenly.

The harvester elevator then hit the tractor sunroof and twisted. The repair bill was €150 (£132) for a set of Fendt sunroof hinges and €9,000 (£7,963) for a whole new elevator on the harvester. Thankfully it was covered by our insurance.

Biggest machinery bargain?

That would be the four-year-old Fendt 930 that we bought back in 2012. It had been working on a construction site and had only clocked up 1,400 hours. We bought it for €60,000 (£53,083), ran it for a year and then traded it in for a reasonable profit.

What’s your everyday transport?

We have a 2005 Discovery 3 that’s done about 260,000km. It’s on coil springs rather than air-suspension and has been fairly reliable. The electric handbrake often goes out of adjustment though.

Any classic kit in the shed?

We have a few vintage tractors that we’ve amassed over the past 10-12 years. These include John Deere models 1020, 2120, 3130 and 4020. We also have an International 674, Massey Ferguson 165, 590 and a Clayson 122 combine in the shed.

Hopefully we can put them all out to work this summer.

Classic John Deeres

Classic John Deeres

In the shed

  • Tractors: Fendt 939, 936 824 and 716; John Deere 7810, 6810, 6400, 2850 and 3640
  • Combine: New Holland CX8060 with 24ft header
  • Sprayer: Amazone UX5200 trailed with 30m boom and auto section control
  • Telehander: JCB 530-70
  • Fertiliser spreader: Sulky Econov 50+ with section control
  • Cultivation kit: Kverneland EG85 six-furrow plough with full vari-width, six-furrow Lemken semi-mounted plough, 5m Kverneland CLC cultivator, Maschio Gaspardo seven-leg subsoiler, 8.3m Kverneland Cambridge rolls
  • Drill: 6m folding Lemken Solitair
  • Potato kit: 5.2m Maschio rotavator with four ridging ploughs, Structural PM 20 planter, Grimme CS1500 destoner, Grimme GT1700 two-row lifter, 4ft Tong grader
  • Trailers: 24t and 28t Smith grain trailers, 4x Larrington potato box filler trailers
  • Grain dryer: Alvan Blanch 1900 continuous flow
  • Other: McConnel 6.5m-reach hedge cutter

Want to show us yours?

If you’d like us to feature your kit in our What’s in Your Shed? series, then drop us a line at oliver.mark@markallengroup.com