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Super tractors hit New Zealand

Super tractors hit New Zealand

Big tough Canadian-built Versatile tractors are making a powerful resurgence on the New Zealand farming scene.

Waikato-based Power Farming, which now handles the brand in this country, has recently landed another shipment of the giant machines and National Tractor Manager, Brett Maber, says we can expect to see a lot more of them in the future.

Versatile tractors are at the top end of the horsepower spectrum and are designed specifically for the massive broadacre cropping operations found primarily in Australia, North America and Europe.

Mr Maber says increasing developments in minimum tillage equipment brought about by the search for greater efficiencies through one pass machinery, demands greater horsepower which will mean more demand here for the huge machines.

The largest Versatile to go in to service here recently is a 460 horsepower DeltaTrack, bought by world record holding South Canterbury arable farmer, Warren Darling.

The Versatile 460D DeltaTrack is one of the few machines designed as a dedicated track machine instead of simply having a track assembly added to an existing platform. It is powered by a Cummins QSX 15-litre engine that meets Tier-4 emission standards without the requirement for additives, coupled to a CAT TA-22 16-speed Powershift transmission.

Mr Darling operates a three crop rotation of wheat, barley and oil seed rape on his third-generation 450-hectare property - Poplar Grove - just south of Timaru where in January he harvested a world record 13.8 tonnes of barley per hectare.

He describes the 460DT as a “huge lugging machine”, and he’s impressed with its performance and economy.

“It's a big tractor, but it's very manoeuvrable and has the same headlands as a normal wheeled tractor,” he says. “It’s very cheap to run – we’re only use 20 litres of fuel per hectare for our cultivation including our drilling, and half an hour per hectare of time, so we're not doing big hours on the machine. But we need that big horsepower to pull the cultivation gear we’re using.”

In a one-pass operation, the Versatile is pulling a Great Plains Simba SL500 cultivator with discs incorporating residues, sub-soiling legs and a consolidation roller, followed by a Great Plains Simba Centurion drill.

Hawke’s Bay agricultural contractor Stu Mawley has recently replaced two 250hp Versatile tractors with two new Versatile MFWD 320hp tractors, two of the bigger machines Power Farming has sold in Hawkes Bay.

The new tractors have six-cylinder 8.3-litre Cummins QSC engines that meet all Tier 3 and Stage IIIA emission standards. Their advanced electronics provide enhanced engine control, higher torque and better throttle response at every rpm.

Like Warren Darling’s DeltaTrack 460, the 320s feature American-made Caterpillar transmissions, in this case 16 x 9 speed Powershift that has been further refined for smooth shifting, particularly when under load.

Mr Mawley’s business, Te Mata Contractors Ltd, specialises in row-crop work, planting and general cultivation. For a large part of the year, his operation is running 24 hours a day, seven days a week so he relies heavily on the reliability and economy of his equipment.

Those factors were uppermost in his mind when it came time to replace his two existing 250hp Versatile tractors that had been at the forefront of his extensive fleet for four and a half years and had clocked up 8500 hours each.

Mr Mawley loves the simplicity of Versatile, and particularly the fact that they are easy to service so he can do most of the servicing himself.

“Our 320s are front line tractors doing heavy specialised work pulling disk rippers, cultivation rippers, a big rotary hoe and power harrow,” he says. “We've got multiple drivers in them and they're running 24 hours a day for a lot of the year so easy operation, reliability and ease of servicing are really important to us.

“Versatile has put a lot of thought into servicing and lubrication checks. That’s all done at ground level and with visual sight glasses without the need to raise the hood or remove any panels, so it’s really very easy to service them and look after them.”

Power Farming has sold more than 30 of the big DeltaTrack machines in Australia, where their size and power make them ideal for the large broadacre cropping operations there, but the 460 is not the biggest.

“On the New Zealand tractor scene, the 460 is at very top end in terms of horsepower,” Mr Maber says, “but in fact this same chassis now goes up to 620 horsepower, and we’ve sold quite a few of those in Australia. However, the market for such massive power is limited in New Zealand.”

Mr Maber says Versatile has an international reputation for building tractors with big strong engines and bulletproof transmissions and componentry.

“In recent years the company has spent tens of millions of dollars on research and development and on improved engineering, and they’re now producing a new generation of tractors with a little more sophistication and style, but still with real rugged durability and toughness that make them bulletproof,” he says.

“They just go and go and the feedback we’re getting is that farmers are getting a really good run from them, so we're pretty excited about that.”


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