Tractors - Maintenance models

The tractors chosen by professionals across the sector reflect the best features, backup and support on offer, says Sally Drury.

MJ Abbott: contractor has added to fleet of John Deere tractors for sports turf work - image: John Deere
MJ Abbott: contractor has added to fleet of John Deere tractors for sports turf work - image: John Deere

Tractors are functional. They are designed to power, lift and tow. Which you choose will depend on the work to be undertaken, the outputs needed and, importantly, the backup and support offered by the dealer. So what are the professionals using?

Golf and sports turf contractor

Opting for the John Deere brand, MJ Abbott, one of the UK’s leading sports turf construction and maintenance contractors, has taken delivery of four new 6120M tractors from local dealer R Hunt of Tilshead in Wiltshire. It brings Abbott’s total fleet of John Deere large utility and compact tractors to 23.

The tractors, chosen for their ease of operation and reliability, are being predominantly used on sports turf projects from golf courses to football and rugby pitches, mainly for towing gravel hoppers, Weidenmann Terra Spike aerators, Blec Groundbreaker rotary decompactors and a range of other cultivators and seeders. Latest projects include reconstruction of Wentworth Golf Club’s West Course as well as drainage and irrigation work at Adare Manor Golf Resort in Ireland.

"We have hired machines but this was a false economy and we quickly realised that we needed to expand the tractor fleet to cope with our expanding workload, which gave us the confidence to make this new investment," says MJ Abbott technical/sales director Adrian Abbott. "Our core tractor fleet ranges from 80hp to 120hp, and with this latest purchase we now have 12 units in this power range."

MJ Abbott has been a loyal JD customer for more than 20 years. "One of the main reasons we have remained loyal to John Deere is the level of support we get from the company’s dealers around the UK and Ireland, and more widely into Europe — we’ve had four machines working near St Tropez in France, for example," Abbott explains.

"Backup like this is so vital when we’re travelling around the country on different projects. If machines aren’t working, for whatever reason, it can cost a lot of money. We’ve found over the years that we always get the best and most consistent parts service from John Deere wherever we are working, and the dealers come to our rescue whenever we need them."

TYM tractors used at St Joseph’s College - image: Reesink Turfcare

School work

The TYM T433 tractor is powerful enough to pull attachments such as a deep tine aerator without damaging turf. At St Joseph’s College, Ipswich, head groundsman Peter Hamilton, says: "In the winter the aerator doesn’t come off the T433. As soon as conditions are right, which is normally around September, we aerate the rugby pitches every three weeks right through to the end of the season. This relieves soil compaction, prevents the ground from flooding and lets air, light and all the good stuff in."

Hamilton considers the T433 to be an investment for the future. "At the moment we solely use it to tow an aerator, but we have plans to invest in a brush attachment for working in topdressing sand and for sweeping morning dew off the outfield in preparation for early cricket matches," he says. "We also opted for the T433 because of its towing capacity. When we upgrade our aerator the tractor will be able
to pull a larger one with a 1.8m working width so we can cover more ground, faster."

Less than a year after purchasing three TYM tractors, Oundle School near Peterborough has invested in two more as it aims to create the finest sports facilities of any independent school in the UK. Head of grounds and gardens Nick Tebbs says: "Our existing TYM 50hp and 35hp tractors have proved popular with our operatives — head gardener Mark Bird and head groundsman Stuart Palmer. Given that, coupled with the fact that after like-for-like comparisons and evaluations against other brands no other supplier came close to matching the TYM specification, we have purchased two more TYM tractors."

The school has opted for two T503 tractors as it approaches the second phase of its sports masterplan. Stage one included a new cricket pavilion and the drainage and levelling of the school’s pitches, and now Oundle has been granted planning permission for a new multipurpose sports centre as well as an athletics track, eight tennis courts, synthetic surfaces and six netball courts.

Work will commence this autumn, with completion expected by the end of 2019, and the expectations placed on the performance of the school’s machinery fleet will be extremely high. Tebbs suggests this is unlikely to be a problem, pointing out the tractors’ reliability, power-to-weight ratio, first-class operator platform with cab air conditioning, great visibility, an ergonomic design that provides excellent working conditions, plus compliance with hand/arm vibration and noise-at-work regulations.

Carden Park: Ventrac 4500 compact tractor delivered with a range of accessories - image: Price Turf Care 

Golf estates

The latest grounds care professional to appreciate the benefits of the Ventrac 4500 compact tractor is golf courses and estates manager Peter Pattenden at Carden Park in Cheshire. Purchased from one of Ventrac’s newest dealers, Cheshire Turf Machinery, the tractor was delivered with a selection of accessories including contour deck, Tough Cut deck, stump grinder, edger, blower and power broom.

"I manage a team of 23 staff at Carden Hall including one forester, one mechanic, two estate workers, three seasonals, six gardeners and 10 greenkeepers," says Pattenden. "That might sound a large number
of staff to many, but we manage more than 1,400 acres — 800 acres of Carden Park including the two championship golf courses and a further 600 acres comprising owner Steve Morgan’s house and grounds and the tenant farms dotted around the estate."

Pattenden, who previously worked at Bonnyton Golf Club and Gleneagles, has been operating equipment since 1991 and buying machinery since 1996. He reckons the Ventrac is one of the best machines he has ever bought.

"Every piece of equipment we buy has to earn its keep and this Ventrac certainly falls into this category. Summed up in three words, it’s exceptional, versatile and robust.

"The contour deck is great out on the golf courses, especially on sloping tee banks, the Tough Cut deck is superb for land management as it can cut through saplings, bracken and gorse, helping to maintain the areas that consume man-hours, and the edger has saved hours of labour. We have a 1.1-mile drive leading up to the hotel and we can keep this looking pristine all year at a fraction of the time and cost we previously incurred.

"We invested over £400,000 in new cart paths over the past five years and since then we have had a series of storms that have taken down trees, some close by the paths. We can’t send in an excavator to remove the stumps and roots for fear of damaging the paths and that’s where the stump grinder has come into its own.

"It’s the perfect size, not too heavy so we can use it in the winter months and not too light that it can’t handle the implements. It has uplifted the presentation of the estate in the short time that we’ve had it. It’s simply a no-brainer purchase for any golf course or estate manager."

 McCormick: contractor David King notes good visibility among features of X6.420 LS - image: Agri Argo UK

Studs and racecourses

Contractor David King works on approaching two dozen Cambridgeshire studs as well as Newmarket Racecourse. Handling the well-being and rejuvenation of grazing pastures involves general maintenance such as topping to encourage fresh growth, harrowing and overseeding when pastures need improving and also complete reseeding when they are past their productive best and need replacing.

It is a busy workload for King’s McCormick tractor fleet. Much of this work falls to a McCormick X6.420 LS supplied last year by Cambridgeshire dealer Andrew Downing. The McCormick operates an Einböck flexible tine harrow and air seeder for grooming and renewing pastures, and it powers a 5.5m Spearhead mounted rotary topper. Turf tyres remain in place year round for minimal impact.

As to the features of the X6.420 LS, King highlights the good all-round visibility from the spacious cab with its large glass area and the independent front-wheel suspension provided by the high-spec axle. This has ‘"wishbone" links on each end of the pivoting beam supported by hydraulic cylinders linked to gas accumulators to deliver a smooth ride for the driver — especially welcome when the tractor is operated at speed in paddocks or when heading from job to job on country lanes.

King adds that the tractor handles the sizeable Spearhead cutter easily enough to get large areas of grass trimmed in timely fashion. Engine output automatically increases from 111hp to 121hp for power take-off work; the transmission serves up 36 speeds, an adjustable power shuttle and three powershift steps; and the rear linkage is rated at five-tonne lift capacity.

His "LS" model comes with the higher output 110-litre per minute load-sensing hydraulics in place of the standard 66-litre/min gear pump system of the base version, but both have a 38-litre/min flow gear pump dedicated to the steering and ancillaries, so it is like having a 104-litre/min single pump system, which is pretty generous on a tractor of this size.

King also praises McCormick dealer A Downing Agricultural Engineers, operating out of premises at Gorefield near Wisbech. "They deliver a brilliant, very responsive service," he says. "It’s a small, family business and they are genuinely concerned about resolving any issues we have as quickly and as effectively as possible. On one occasion, Charles Downing turned up after 7pm and didn’t leave until gone midnight. You really can’t ask for more than that." 

Latest models available from John Deere and New Holland

Featuring new ground-up designs, John Deere’s latest 2R Series compact tractors are the 26hp 2026R — ideal for operating in more confined spaces — and the 36hp 2036R (below) with wider footprint, longer wheelbase and increased weight for better stability.

Both models are designed for comfort and reduced operator fatigue during long working days, with ergonomic controls, a tiltable steering wheel and cruise control. The 2036R offers a premium air suspension seat and CommandCut mower deck featuring cutting-height adjustment at the turn
of a dial and the nudge of a lever. Both tractors are available with a choice of open operator station or cab.

"Customers are looking for efficient, durable and easy-to-use solutions that allow them to do more work in less time with less effort," says Jared Lowe, John Deere product marketing manager for compact utility tractors. "When designing the new 2R Series models, we focused on improving machine stability, comfort and implement attachability to meet those needs."

The 2R Series improves productivity with several easy-to-use features, such as Twin Touch foot controls, eThrottle to automatically increase or decrease engine speed and cruise control. The 2036R has the all-new CommandCut system for the mid-mounted rotary mower deck.

Versatility is increased by fully independent power take-offs, allowing front-, mid- and rear-mounted implements to be attached at the same time and combined in different ways. New Holland has revamped its mid-range tractor model offering with a comprehensive lineup in the under-120hp segment.

Image: New Holland Agriculture

The 17-model offering includes the T5 Electro Command, recently launched T5 Utility, renamed T4 and existing TD5 ranges. James Emery, New Holland’s mid-range tractor product specialist in the UK and Ireland, says: "When the T5000 series was discontinued in 2013 it created a gap in our mid-range offering, particularly for users who need a versatile, compact tractor with good power and lift capacity.

The under-120hp sector is important to New Holland and the recent launch of T5 Electro Command and T5 Utility ranges ensures our customers can choose a tractor that perfectly suits their business."

The three-model 100hp to 120hp T5 Electro Command range (above right), best utility winner at Tractor of the Year 2017, features a Tier 4B compliant engine, updated styling and enhanced front suspension, uprated rear lift capacity and 16x16 Electro Command transmission.

The five new T5 Utility models offer between 75hp and 114hp and continue the heritage of the well-regarded T5000 series, while the six-model 65hp to 115hp TD5 range offers all-rounder simplicity with a comfortable cab designed for long days and good visibility for loader work.

The three-model T4 range, previously named T4 PowerStar, is powered by a 3.4-litre Tier 4B compliant Common Rail F5C engine. Precision fuelling enables enhanced response when the engine is placed under load. Fuel savings of up to 13% have been achieved.

Image: Deutz-Fahr

Agrokid: high-performance compact tractors for almost any application

The Agrokid range of compact tractors from Deutz-Fahr is used by local authorities, grounds maintenance teams, landscape gardeners and fruit growers. Available in three models, each with a liquid-cooled direct-injection Mitsubishi four-cylinder diesel engine from 39hp to 51hp (28.5-37kw), the Agrokids feature a robust chassis to withstand heavy loads. A wide variety of tyre combinations is available along with swivelling front mudguards.

Ground clearance of up to 39cm on all models improves stability and reduces the risk of damage caused by objects such as curbs, while the narrow frame and 57° steering angle make them ideal for tight areas.

The robust, synchronized 12x12 shuttle transmission with pressure lubrication saves time when turning. Traction is achieved via engagable four-wheel drive and electronically activated front and rear differential locks. The high-performance hydraulic control system and auxiliary hydraulics make the tractors suitable for almost any application.

To make steering easy and ensure low-speed manoeuvrability, the Agrokids have a separate steering hydraulic system. The braking system also meets the highest requirements, with cooled oil-immersed disk brakes on the rear wheels.

All three tractors are equipped with an easy-fill 28-litre fuel tank directly in front of the operator platform.

Rear-mounted attachments for TYM tractors

Reesink Turfcare is introducing a range of rear-mounted attachments for its TYM tractors including finishing mowers (1.5m to 1.8m), flail mowers, 3.6m wide-area mower and six-bladed rotary tillers. They are suited to estate and commercial work but take up little room in the shed.

TYM sales manager Steven Haynes says: "Reesink is careful in selecting items to pair up with existing products, but with over half-a-century of experience producing mechanical solutions for the agricultural industry we are happy to partner with SICMA to bring a reliable range of quality attachments to our customers.

"These attachments offer something for everyone whether they have a 25hp or 60hp tractor, increasing the versatility and productivity of the machine."

Front-end loader for the new McCormick X2 Series compact tractor - image: AgriArgo UK 

Greater versatility for McCormick X2 Series

A front-end loader for the new McCormick X2 Series compact tractor line-up has been introduced by distributor AgriArgo UK. With a lift capacity of 740kg to full height of 2.6m, the quick-attach,
self-levelling MClassic 25 loader adds to the versatility of the 43hp, 47hp and 54hp mechanical-drive tractors, giving them the ability to load and rehandle materials such as gravel and soil, or to lift pallets and small bulk containers.

"The X2 Series tractors, which recently replaced our GM models, are small but durable machines that are often used for different horticultural and grounds maintenance applications," says general manager and sales director Ray Spinks. "With a loader fitted the little tractor becomes even more useful, especially as it can get into buildings and other locations that are denied to larger, more powerful tractors and handlers."

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