Claas has updated its larger Arion and Axion tractor ranges with the aims of improving operator comfort and complying with latest engine emission regulations.
Heading into its third generation, Claas' 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.
The Arion 600 and 500 range from Claas are versatile, all-round tractors with a high level of comfort and convenience which are equally suited to field and grassland work, transport and front-loader activities around the yard.
Under the bonnet, the Arion 500 and 600 ranges stick with John Deere engines which meet Stage 4 engine emission standards thanks to the use of diesel exhaust fluid.
As before, Claas is using its own cooling package which hinges wide open for decent cleaning access.
Bonnet vents have had a re-work, now angled out and slightly forwards to try and divert hot air away from the cab, reducing heat and noise. Now offering three models from 125-165hp, the Arion 500 Series features Deere's 4.5-litre four-cylinder engine, with sequential waste gate turbos.
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.
Thanks to revised power curves, the firm says both engines offer maximum torque at 1,500rpm, allowing revs to be dropped for improved fuel consumption. Similarly, engine idle speed has been reduced to 650rpm.
While 510-650 models are available with Gima's Hexashift 24 by 24 speed transmission or Claas' Cmatic continuously variable transmission (CVT), the new 660 model will only be available with a heavier duty CVT.
For ease of use, the left-hand reverse shuttle now features a park lock on all models.
While more powerful engines could have been used, Class says the rear-end would need beefing up to cope with any extra grunt. Speaking of the rear end, a 110 litre per minute oil pump becomes the new standard fitment, and a 150 litre per minute unit is available as an option.
Arion 630,650 and 660 models now benefit from the option of fitting tyres up to 1.95m diameter, meaning up to 710/60R42 tyres can be fitted.
Aiming to reduce maintenance requirements, the previous Carraro front axle has been ousted for a Dana unit. Now featuring only four grease-points, Claas says the axle offers higher permissible weight now up to 5.2-tonne, further travel range and greater stability.
The optional suspended-axle is fitted with the firm's dynamic steering system as standard and can be specified with brakes.
Giving the customer extra choice, cab frames are now available in four- as well as the standard five-post format.
Customers can choose between the familiar 5-pillar cab, or a 4-pillar cab with an uninterrupted field of vision to the driver's left. The 4-pillar cab is already in use on the larger Axion 900 and 800 models.
Another new feature available on the Arion 600/500 is the Claas Dynamic Steering system which allows the driver to change the number of turns of the steering wheel needed to achieve the same steering lock.
This makes handling much faster and easier, especially during steering-intensive work such as when using the front loader or when turning at the headland.
For additional operator friendliness, LED lighting and wide-angle mirrors are now a standard feature, and a full chrome exhaust guard is on the options list.
All the engines meet the requirements of the Stage 4 emissions rules thanks to a combination of diesel particulate filter anda catalytic converter. Despite the inclusion of an AdBlue tank, the diesel tank capacity has also been increased.
Prices are yet to be confirmed, and models can be expected on farm by the beginning of next year.
Always trust your gut instinct on potential safety risks
Last week was Farm Safety Week, with a number of high profile events highlighting how lethal the occupation of farming now is.
2017 is really shaping up to be a black year, with 14 people having already lost their lives in farming related accidents as we enter August.
At this point we all know of someone - a friend, a neighbour or, most tragically even a family member - who has been killed in the line of duty while carrying out seemingly routine farming tasks. It is so tough on the families left behind.
Unfortunately, much is quickly forgotten after a high profile reminder such as farm safety week.
Between 2007 and 2016 some 197 people lost their lives on Irish farms.
It's hard to imagine an average of 20 people a year dying while going about their daily work in any other industry, and that figure not causing widespread consternation.
The Health and Safety Authority say 95 of the almost 200 deaths recorded in the ten year period mentioned were as a result of accidents involving tractors and farm machinery.
This a consistent trend now, and farmers working by themselves with powerful machinery seem to be at huge risk.
While still responsible for their share of accidents like limb fractures and amputations, traditional culprits like unguarded PTO shafts are no longer the big killers in machinery related fatalities.
Instead, high speed/momentum related accidents and crushing injuries are increasingly coming to the fore as tractor power and speed increases.
One of the most useful tips I heard last week came from IFA President Joe Healy, who said before carrying out a job farmers should take a second to stand back and ask themselves a simple question: What could go wrong here?
It sounds simple, but if your gut is telling you to beware, it's time to rethink the job.
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