Fendt technology and safety go hand in hand
Michael Collins recently attended a Safe Family Farms event where secondary school students got to experience cutting-edge Fendt technology and its safety benefits.

“New tractors are everything and more when it comes to technology but still pose the same level of risk when not respected,” that was the message that Sean Gorman, area sales manager with Fendt Ireland, wanted to get across to the students of St Michaels College, Listowel, Co Kerry.

The students present were winners of a recent Safe Family Farms competition. They were selected from three finalists for ideas they submitted to make family farms in Ireland safer.

Fendt sponsored the ESB Networks and Irish Farmers Journal Safe Family Farms partnership event which was recently held at Munster agricultural society showgrounds.

The competition was focused on farm safety but the event pinpointed tractor safety. The prize was an opportunity for the students to drive a brand new Fendt Vario 718 courtesy of local dealer Atkins, through the Fendt tractor driving experience.

The tractor was fitted with the most up-to-date technology, which included GPS steering. Every student got to experience this under the direction of Sean Gorman.

Respect machinery

I spoke with Sean and asked him what the key safety messages for new modern tractors were.

“Tractors and machinery are getting bigger all the time. Modern tractors are more powerful, can travel faster and are bigger in size compared to those of previous generations."

The key message I want to get across to students today is to respect machinery. Even with all the new technology and safety devices, these tractors can still be dangerous in the wrong hands. Young people need to remember this when they get behind the wheel.”

Fendt and safety

Having experienced the VarioGuide track guidance on the curved course, Sean had set up a couple of obstacles. The Irish Farmers Journal asked Sean how important safety was to Fendt.

“Safety is extremely important to Fendt. Unfortunately, on-farm fatalities are still a serious issue in Ireland and a lot of these are related to farm machinery. Fendt have put particular emphasis on ensuring their tractors are safe. This also comes from making them as comfortable as possible for the operator.

“The more comfortable a tractor, the more alert and refreshed the operator is at the end of the day, meaning he is more alert to potential safety issues. Systems like VarioGuide Trac make the drivers life a lot easier as they don’t have to concentrate for hours on end to maintain a straight or curved line when working in a field.”

Students in the cab

Watching the students taking their turn in the cab to experience the tractor being guided around the course by the GPS system showed just how much technology has come on. Sean sat in the passenger seat all the times with the students as they took their turn in the driver seat. He said: “They thoroughly enjoyed it. A lot are from farming backgrounds and were really amazed with what the tractor could do with little or no input from them.”

Safety lighting and mirrors

Sean pointed out a number of features which are often taken as a given, but which are all part of making tractors safer for operators and bystanders.

“Lighting is now a lot better on these tractors. This is not just beneficial for working at night but also for visibility to other road users.

“Even working in farmyards at night is now safer as more of the area around the tractor is better lit up. LED lights are brighter and standout better at night-time. Mirrors are now larger and fewer blindspots are present thanks to dual mirrors on both sides. A large mirror is fitted for a better rear view and a second mirror allows a clear view of the area beside the rear wheel which would have been previously out of view.”

When sitting in the cab this is clearly evident. The farmer in me couldn’t help but surmise it could also prevent a tyre getting damaged in a tight gap on a sharp stone. “Reversing cameras are also an option on this tractor with the feed displayed on the Vario terminal when reverse is selected. These are getting more common as the camera can be on the rear of the tractor or the implement with a number of cameras feeding into the one screen.

“Some tractors are even fitted with a reversing buzzer to warn unsuspecting bystanders of the tractor. Air brakes are standard on these tractors and they are also air-actuated. The big benefit here is the speed of response when the pedal is depressed – it’s instant.”

Improved suspension

Looking to the cab, Sean pointed out the pneumatic cab suspension featured on the Fendt.

“This has a number of benefits. Comfort is the obvious one, but safety is a big part of this as the operator can travel in a more controlled fashion and not get thrown about as much if he hits an unexpected bump in the road or in the field. Also, at the end of the day, he won’t be as tired compared to a tractor without this feature”.

Keenan gets the nod of approval from customers
A large crowd, mainly of existing customers, travelled to the Keenan Alltech open day in Carlow to see what was on offer.

The Keenan Altech open day in Borris, Co Carlow, had a wide range of focal points for attendees on Wednesday. The large crowd consisted mainly of current customers of the Keenan and Alltech brands. However, there were also some smaller agri-companies in attendance for the first time, showcasing their brands and products, including Grasstec, Moocall, Actus, Herdwatch and Samco.

As well as having a large variety of new and used machines on show, the event also had beef and dairy nutrition seminars running throughout the day, as well as a full factory tour running on the hour, every hour.

There was a large variety of new and used machines on show.


The primary focus of the day was undoubtedly the machinery on display. There was a large range of new diet feeders on show, ranging from 8m3 up to larger 28m3 capacity machines. With regard to prices, a standard 17m3 feeder with steering axle is priced at approximately €39,000, while a 24m3 model with steering axle will cost approximately €57,000. Without doubt, the most eye-catching machine on display was the Keenan MechFibre365 self-propelled feeder – the one rested in the yard on the day was readied for a trip to Donegal to begin its working life.

Despite the obvious interest in the brand new machines on display, the sales reps seemed just as busy talking to customers about the Keenan-approved range of diet feeders also showcased on the day. It was explained that Keenan-approved machines are a range of used feeders which are taken back through the factory line to be tested, shot-blasted, have new parts fitted and finally, resprayed.

Again, turning to prices, a 2008 20m3 approved feeder was being offered at €21,500 while 14m3, six-paddle mixer was priced at €13,000.

Cathal Bohane, Keenans, during the dairy seminar.

Feed budget

Something of great interest to the farmers in attendance were the nutrition seminars running throughout the afternoon.

The dairy seminar commenced with a talk by Cathal Bohane, a nutritionist with Keenans. Bohane went through a range of nutritional factors to be considered on every dairy farm. The importance of a consistent mix, as well as the reduction of feed-loss, “which can be up to 20% on farms”, were highlighted as two key problem areas for dairy farm feed practices.

Perhaps the most interesting and relevant area touched upon by Bohane was feed budgeting and alternatives. The advice was “prepare for the worst, hope for the best” in regards to budgeting. Fodder alternatives were also a hot topic, with Bohane warning farmers that “it is important to know that feed stuffs such as soya hulls are fodder replacers – they should not be confused as replacements for concentrates”.

Finish better, younger and faster presentation.

Beef finishing

A smaller crowd of beef farmers was given a presentation from Gerry Giggins, a nutritionist with Keenans, during the beef seminar. The presentation, entitled “finish better, younger and faster”, went through the key areas in a finishing programme, including rumen health, housing management and minerals of the diet.

The area of induction was keenly highlighted by Giggins who stated that “animals bought in should be allowed rest and recuperation for at least two days, with access to clean water and feed before further handling.”

Giggins also expressed the importance of water to rumen health, stating that “a finishing bull will drink up to 60l of water each day”. Richard Dudgeon, an Alltech nutritionist, explained the importance of minerals and mycotoxins in the diet of a finishing animal.

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Under the Hood: Cereals, classic Cases and seven seats
This week we take a look around what was on show at Cereals 2018 and visit a contractor who runs some classic Case tractors with a modern fleet.

In this week’s machinery pages, we look at what is new in the world of tillage equipment with a roundup of what was on display at Cereals in the UK. Though much of the gear on display is far too big for most Irish farmers, it is good to see what direction things are going. In vintage, Peter Thomas Keaveney visits a silage contractor in the midlands who has a penchant for classic tractors and uses them as his main workhorses. In motoring, I look at Peugeot’s latest seven-seat offering and find it to be very family friendly.