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Satisfaction with new tractor resulted in second of the same model

A Norfolk farming family was so impressed by its first Fendt tractor, that another of the same model followed just 18 months later. David Williams visited the farm to find out more.

Fendt tractor

Trading as CB Gay, John Gay and his son Tom farm approximately 260ha of land rented from Blickling Estate. The farming enterprise is all-arable apart from a small amount of grass which is part of a livery yard, and the crop rotation includes oilseed rape, winter wheat, winter and spring barley and sugar beet. Wildfarmed grain is being grown for the first time this year as part of a strategy to farm more sustainably. Forty hectares of potatoes are grown too, on a sub-letting arrangement with a local producer.

Wanted more technical capability

Tom has been running the farm with his father for approximately 12 years, and he is the third generation of the family to farm there, since the land was acquired over 50 years ago. “We are keen to use the latest technology where it’s appropriate to improve our operating efficiency and accuracy,” he explained. “We got on well with our previous tractors, but always felt limited by the level of technology. I could see that investing in a tractor with more advanced precision farming capability would give us extra opportunities to improve our operating efficiency. We trialled a Fendt 700 Vario-series tractor loaned by Thurlow Nunn Standen (TNS), plus several competitor brand tractors from other dealers in our area.”

photo of Tom Gay
Tom Gay was keen to have a tractor with enhanced controls and more precision farming technology. The Trimble guidance terminal used with the previous tractor was retained and installed into the new tractor by the TNS team.

Strong dealer relationship

A shortlist of three tractors was created. “All the tractors we tried had their good points, but my father and I very much liked the Fendt,” expressed Tom. “We also knew that it would be very hard to fault the back-up from the TNS team; especially area sales manager, Paul Defew, and Philip Andrews in the workshop, as our previous tractors, combine harvester and many implements were all supplied and are looked after by the dealer.”

Surprisingly affordable

John said he had always assumed that a Fendt tractor would be out of the farm’s price range. “The standard specification is higher than other brands but includes many features we need. So, by the time the other dealers added the cost of the optional upgrades needed to bring their tractors up to a similar equipment level to the Fendt, the prices were surprisingly close.

“We were confident that the Fendt would be reliable which would keep repair costs low and expect the retained value to be higher than other brands, so the attractive deal offered by the TNS team made sense. We ordered a 722 Vario Power+ that was in stock.”

The 222hp Fendt replaced a 200hp tractor, and its primary roles include drilling with a Vaderstad Spirit 3m drill, applying fertiliser through a Kverneland GeoSpread mounted disc spreader plus general tasks including grain carting, mowing and cultivations. The drill and fertiliser spreader both utilise the tractor’s Isobus connectivity, and spreading accuracy is enhanced using section control and variable rate applications. The farm’s existing Trimble GPS terminal was retained for field mapping and guidance. “We get on well with the Trimble terminal and there was no need to replace it, so the TNS engineers helped us install it in the new tractor. It linked easily into the Fendt’s control system and provides the location reference for automatic implement control,” continued Tom. “The Trimble display is at the top of my right-hand window, and then I have the FendtONE terminal on the right-hand armrest and tractor performance and status settings displayed on the dashboard. “The main difference using the Trimble terminal rather than a Fendt screen for guidance is that field maps can’t be transferred to the other two screens, but it’s not a problem.”

photo of the rear view of a Fendt tractor
A large, heavy-duty 5.8m Major cutter is a recent purchase from Thurlow Nunn Standen. Operating with the Fendt tractors, it is used to maintain the farm’s 6m grass headlands and to chop cover crops.

Immediately impressed

After having the Fendt for 18 months, during which John drove it occasionally, the decision was taken to replace the farm’s other, 180hp tractor with a second Fendt. “Being older, it takes me a little longer to get used to new technology and I thought that the Fendt was over-complicated at first,” John stressed. “However, with help from Tom we set up the tractor’s systems to suit our preferences and various tasks and then stored the operating profiles so that that they can be recalled and installed just by touching the screen.

“Within a short time, I had found out that driving the Fendt was actually very easy and enjoyable. The ride comfort is incredible, and I suffer less from back ache. We liked the idea of having two identical tractors to avoid complications when swapping implements, so we consulted Paul Defew again and agreed a deal to buy another new 722 Vario Power+ which was in stock.”

The only difference between the two tractors is the tyre sizes. Tom’s tractor is on 650/75R38 rears and 600/65R28 fronts and John’s is on 650/65R42 rears and 540/65R30 fronts. John does more road work as well as heavy cultivations and all the spraying – pulling a trailed 2,400-litre, 24m sprayer.

Diverse roles

John and Tom agree that the compact size and light weight of the 722 Vario is a significant advantage. “For spraying, the ballast is removed, we drop the tyre pressures right down, and it just tiptoes across the fields,” stressed John. “But with ballast added for heavy cultivations, it lifts and pulls our 2.8m He-Va five-leg, disc and tine cultivator so easily that we sometimes wonder if it is set to work deep enough in the ground. We rarely plough now, but it handles our 5f reversible and furrow press no problem. We also have a 5m Kuhn cultivator and recently purchased a mounted 5.6m Major Cyclone heavy-duty rotary mower to maintain 6m field margins within Countryside Stewardship schemes and for mulching cover crops, and the Fendt is ideal for that job too. For grain carting we use 14t and 16t trailers and the tractors feel stable and secure with loaded trailers behind at higher speeds on the road.”

Vario – efficient and versatile

Fendt’s Vario CVT transmission has particularly impressed John. “Even when our first Fendt arrived, I still favoured the idea of mechanical powershift transmission, but I was quickly won over by the Fendt Vario system and its ease of use. Pulling heavy trailers out of road junctions, it just accelerates constantly through the speed range rather than pausing to find new gears. For manoeuvring around the yard and turning on headlands it’s extremely user-friendly and smooth, but the biggest benefits are for PTO work. I can set the engine revs to achieve the correct PTO speed, then control the travel speed independently. With the fertiliser spreader that’s a real benefit as we can slow down ahead of headland turns without dropping the revs and reducing the spread width, and it allows us to maintain the optimum fan speed on the drill at the headlands too.

“It pulls well, including for heavy draft work, and the ability to maintain a constant speed in heavy working conditions means that we could easily upgrade our drill from 3m to a 6m model.”

John Gay with his son, Tom.
John Gay with his son, Tom.

No major areas of improvement

John and Tom agree that the Fendt tractors are proving ideal, and they have very few suggestions for improvements. “We could always do with extra cab storage space – especially for paperwork of which we seem to have increasing amounts for record keeping,” said John. “We had to pay to add toolboxes to both tractors, to avoid having tools and linkage pins rattling around loose on the cab floor. However, for the cost of the tractors, I feel Fendt should include these as standard.”

John said that he finds the seat occupancy sensor annoying. “Backing up to a trailer and leaning back to see the hitch means my weight on the seat is reduced and the alarm sounds,” he said. “It would be good to have an external mirror to view the hitch which would save leaning back so far, or a less sensitive seat switch could be added just to avoid the noise of the buzzer in that situation.”

Tractor and dealer create the best package

“We never wanted to move away from the TNS Fakenham team with who we have such a loyal and long-standing relationship, so we were extremely pleased when the Fendt proved so good and that the cost compared to competitor brands was so reasonable,” confirmed John. “Having started off concerned that the Fendt would be over-complicated, I quickly got used to it and now count myself as quite proficient. “Every time I use the Fendt I appreciate its quality – the way the doors shut and the absence of squeaks and rattles, the way the steering constantly self-centres on the road – everything about it is excellent. After using the previous brand tractors for more than 50 years on the farm, I believe we did the right thing changing to Fendt. The tractors are the ideal package – especially backed up by the team we rate so highly at TNS.”

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