Farmers got a glimpse of the future at the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors' (FCI) conference and exhibition last Wednesday.
The event, which was held at the National Show Centre in Swords, Co Dublin, focussed on 'Contracting - A Vision for the Future' and according to FCI chairman Richard White, the aim of the conference was to provide Irish farm and forestry contractors with a series of information seminars coupled with a machinery exhibition.
Here we look at some of the main machinery highlights of the day.
1. Valtra's Tractor of the Year
The Valtra T254 Versu featuring the SmartTouch armrest recently won the Tractor of the Year 2018 award at Agritechnica, but this was a chance for visitors to the FCI Confex to see the machine on Irish soil for the first time. With a maximum of 271hp, the T254 is aimed at contractors and tillage farmers.
With SmartTouch, it brings all the latest precision farming tools to the same user interface as the tractor controls and enhances driving with the power shift transmission, making it possible to drive like a CVT tractor.
The T254 Versu is the most powerful model in the T Series. The five-step power shift transmission features four main and two creeper ranges for a total of 30 speeds in both directions. Valtra claims shifting is precise and effortless whether operated fully automatically or manually with the drive lever.
Visitors to the Farmhand display were keen to discuss a couple of recent big launches, including the new generation Big M self-propelled mower and Big X forage harvesters.
So what has changed on the new Big X? Krone say a particular highlight of this new series is the ground-breaking cab lift - the first of its kind in the world.
At the touch of a button, the operator can raise the entire cab by 70cm on a hydraulic scissor lift, to give a perfect overview of the crops and of the trailer travelling alongside or following behind.
When the Big X recently won Machine of the Year 2018 at Agritechnica the innovative multi-tank concept scored highly in terms of comfort and flexibility. It allows customers to choose between seven different combinations of tanks (fuel, silage additives, water, urea). This system means that tanks can be filled to full capacity for a long day's work without the need for pit stops. Another highlight is the Optimaize Universal Package which offers versatility in maize harvesting (from 3mm to 30mm chop length).
In terms of engine power, Krone has once again relied on supplier Liebherr's expertise - engine oil and oil and fuel filters only need changing every 1,000 hours.
3. Claas Arion and Axion tractors
Aiming to improve operator comfort and comply with latest engine emission regulations, Claas has updated its larger Arion and Axion tractor ranges for the year ahead.
Heading into its third generation, Claas's Arion 500 and 600 Series makes up the firm's most popular tractor offering in Ireland, with both four and six-cylinder models offered. Thanks to a new 660 model, this range now boasts power over the 200hp mark, and at the other end of the spectrum, a new 510 model takes the range down to 125hp.
This really broadens the Arion's appeal and means offerings are now available that will suit both farmer and contractor.
Four larger framed 600 Series tractors are powered by John Deere 6.8-litre six-cylinder engines, with a variable geometry turbo, offering power from 165-185hp. The new top of the range 660 model is the only tractor in the range to feature a boost function, which offers up to 205hp for pto and transport work.
4. John Deere 8000 Series harvester
John Deere's exhibition featured the company's latest 8,000 Series self-propelled forage harvester. Several new features have been introduced on the 8,000 Series foragers for 2018, designed to enhance operator comfort and increase productivity. Chief among these is the HarvestLab crop constituent sensing system.
Introduced in 2007, HarvestLab was the first NIR (near infra-red) sensing system in the industry to measure silage dry matter and enable automatic length of cut adjustments. The latest version requires less maintenance, can operate in a wider range of temperatures and features a much bigger data storage capacity of 2GB, compared to the previous 32MB.
It also has a more operator-friendly web interface when used for stationary measurements away from the forager. Other new features include the optional Active Fill Control rear unloading system, which allows the spout to automatically fill a trailer when the tractor follows behind the forager, for example when opening a field. This uses the forager's StarFire satellite receiver to ensure a quick response, reduces operator fatigue and helps avoid silage spillage, especially in high-yielding crops.
5. SIP mowers
There was a strong focus on grass machinery at the FCI event. The SIP range of grass machinery is imported by Farmec Ireland and includes tractor mounted, front mounted, trailed and combination models with cutting widths from 2.16 meters up to 9.6 meters.
After a successful introduction of SIP grass machinery in the 2016 season, Farmec are confident that the equipment manufactured by SIP is ideally suited to the demanding Irish market conditions. A key feature is the disc drive safety system which consists of an intermediate flange with brass shear pins which shear in the event of a disc overload to prevent damage to the mower bed gear drive. The shear pins can be changed quickly and easily so as little time as possible is lost.
Other features include a central pivoting cutter bar, hydraulic stabilisation of cutter bar and a reinforced flat profile bolted cutter bar running in oil bath.
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