Case study: High hour CVT is paying its ways in Cambridgeshire

JAMES Martin farms 310 hectares (775 acres) of Grade 1 silt at Needham Hall Farm, Friday Bridge in Cambridgeshire, where cropping consists of wheat, potatoes, sugar beet, combinable peas and onions.

Core to the farm’s operation are three CVT tractors – a 140hp Fendt 714 Vario plus two Massey Ferguson Dyna-VT models, a 150hp 7480 and 175hp 7490.

Mr Martin purchased the 714 in 2001 from local dealer Thurlow Nunn Standen, and the German machine has since clocked up a massive 8,231 hours.

As the first CVT machine on the farm, initial thoughts were that it would be complicated to use compared with the farm’s previous Massey Ferguson 3085.

But operator Cliff Winterton, a now self-proclaimed Fendt enthusiast, says practice makes perfect when it comes to operating Varios.

“I initially found a large field and just had a go with the functions, but once learnt it is easy to operate and I would not go back to a gearbox tractor,” he says.

Varied work

The Fendt has a varied workload at Needham Hall Farm, starting with a 12-row Stanhay Webb onion/beet drill, then moving on to potato planting.

Harvest sees the 714 on grain cart from the farm’s New Holland TX65 combine, before moving back on to rowcrops for running the farm’s Grimme trailed harvester.

We can fine tune speeds on jobs like potato harvesting and you are not always searching for the right gear

James Martin

It is also man for the job on a five-furrow Kverneland plough for other parts of the year, but it is on the rootcrop work where the farm sees the main benefits of the Vario transmission.

“What we like about the Vario, and the Massey Dyna-VT for that matter, is that we can fine tune speed on jobs like potato harvesting and you are not always searching for the right gear,” says Mr Martin.

“The carting tractors can both work to a set speed of the harvester and the Fendt is running at lower revs too, so we are using less fuel on pto work such as this.”

On transport, the tractor will hit just over 50kph running on 520/70R38 tyres so turnaround times from the combine are reduced too, and again with lower fuel usage – 1,600rpm is the average engine speed when on the road, says Mr Winterton.

But surely an 8,000-hour tractor has given some grief? It appears not. “We can hand on heart say that we have very few problems, and any have been the more wear and tear items which have needed replacing rather than anything major going wrong,” says Mr Martin.

“The tractor sits idle for a month over Christmas, but always starts first time, and over its life, we have just had to change batteries twice, had a new alternator and little things like fan belt pulleys and a new handbrake cable, but that is it,” adds Mr Winterton. “It is serviced on 500 hours by Thurlow Nunn Standen, but never uses a drop of oil.”

Matching up with 714 almost like-for-like in the horsepower stakes is the farm’s MF 7480, which came home in September 2006.

Although not quite on the hours of the Fendt, the Massey and its larger brother still clock up around 600 to 700 hours per year as opposed to the green machine’s 900.

Also, when paired up with a Kverneland five-furrow, there is little to distinguish the two tractors when ploughing.

Cliff’s brother Barry drives the 7480 Massey, but actually prefers the Fendt’s smoother operation.

“When shuttling we just find it is a little smoother as there is no need to slow right down to switch direction, but other than that we do like the CVT drives on both tractors,” says Barry.

So how many more hours will the 714 rack up in Cambridgeshire? “I would say that maybe we will keep the Fendt for another year, and then opt for a new 714 or maybe go to a 716 for the extra horsepower,” says Mr Martin.

“But we will stick to CVTs as I cannot see that the extra cost of these is a downside given the fuel savings made and added versatility.”

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