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”.

Watch: zero-grazing Brassicas in the southeast
Peter Thomas Keaveney travelled to Foulksmills in Co Wexford to catch up with a contractor who is zero-grazing brassicas for dairy farmers.

Willie John Kehoe runs both a farming and contracting enterprise based near Foulksmills in Co Wexford. Each year after the winter crop harvest, he sows cover crops on his land for rejuvenation purposes. However, with the pressing issue surrounding the shortage of fodder in his local area, Willie John decided to zero graze the brassica crop and distribute it to local dairy farmers that had fodder deficits. He sowed a total of 45 acres of brassica crops, mainly Redstart and Rampart.

Zero-grazing machine issues

As for many people around the country, this was Willie John’s first year attempting to zero-graze brassica crops. Initially, he tried using a purpose built zero-grazing machine. The machine cut the crop well using the drum mowers. However, an issue arose regarding stones. Although Willie John explained that they rolled the ground twice, stones were still managing to find there way into the machine. Due to the lighter build of the zero-grazing machine, Willie John was afraid he might damage it.

Another issue with zero-grazing arose when transferring the crop to the storage part of the unit when the moisture levels were high. The zero-grazing machine uses a comb conveyor system to transfer the crop. This comb conveyer is equipped with forks. These forks were mulching the crop and as a result were blocking the conveyer unit.

Willie John Kehoe (contractor) and Paul Gannon (driver).

Mower and wagon

It was back to the drawing board for Willie John who then decided to try using a front mounted mower and one of his trailed forage wagons to cut and pick-up the crop.

The conditioner on the mower was breaking the leaves off the stem and mulching the crop. As a result the pickup reel on the forage wagon was unable to gather all of the crop. To overcome this, he removed the conditioner from the mower.

The design of the bed meant that the two outer hubs on each side of the mower rotated clockwise towards the centre of the mower. This directed the crop flow towards the centre of the mower, which left a nice swarth that the Strautmann Giga Vitesse II forage wagon was capable of picking up. Depending on the design of the bed, this may or may not be possible with other mowers.

From the forage wagon side of things, the only issue picking up the crop was that if the knives were left in they would mulch the crop. By dropping the knives and removing the conditioner on the front mounted mower, Willie John was able to cut and gather the crop at his ease.

The machine driver Paul Gannon explained that they only ever fill the wagon up to two thirds of its holding capacity. He noted, “This is because the brassica crops are a very heavy material with a high moisture content. By overloading the wagon it would mulch the material and possibly strain the panels. In addition, the land is beginning to get wet so two thirds of a load is plenty”.

Unloading the Strautmann forage wagon in a dairy farmers yard.

The crop

Willie John sowed a total of 45 acres of brassica crops on his own land this year. This is being sold by the tonne to local farmers, plus the cost of the machinery hire is separate.

Each tonne of fresh weight feed is costing the farmer €14 delivered to his/her yard. The majority of this feed was sold within a 10km radius. In addition, the hire of the machinery is €120 plus VAT per hour (tractor and driver, mower and forage wagon). Aside from his own brassica crops, Willie John has zero-grazed in excess of 200 acres on hire within a radius of 15km from his yard.

Willie John explained that the crop is yielding a fresh weight somewhere in the region of 10t/acre. Typically, each load from the wagon contains 12-15t of fresh weight. The weight and correct tonnage of each load is verified using a weigh bridge in Willie John’s yard. The gross weight of the three machines together and the load of brassicas amounts to 32t.

Willie John hopes to be out working on the land for another week or two. However, he explained that depending on how the storm pans out, the land may soon be too wet to travel on.

Nutritional advice for feeding brassicas

The zero-grazing of brassica crops is a relatively new phenomenon in Ireland. However, from a dietary point of view, zero-grazed brassicas should be treated in the same way as when cattle are grazing the crop outdoors.

Animals should be introduced to brassica crops slowly, over the space of a week- to -ten days.

Why regulate the crop?

Brassicas are rapidly digestible (80-90%). As a result, large intakes may lead to a risk of acidosis or bloat.

With this in mind, animals need to be introduced to brassicas slowly in order for the rumen microflora to adapt. When feeding the crop through a diet feeder, the inclusion rate of brassica crops in the diet should be gradually built up. Because the crop is so rapidly digestible, it’s essential that a source of fibre such as silage, hay or straw should be available at all times. Fibre will help reduce the incidence of acidosis by stabilizing the gut function. It will also slow down the rate of digestion leading to a further utilization and absorption of nutrients.

When the animals are getting accustomed to the crop, two thirds of the diet should include a fibre source such as silage or hay and only one third provided by the brassica crop.

However, when the animals have become fully adjusted to the brassica crop, one third of their diet (on a dry matter basis) should be from a long fibre source.

Serious innovation ahead of SIMA 2019
Gary Abbott attended the SIMA preview held in Paris last Thursday, where a number of innovations were awarded medals.

Last week’s SIMA preview in Paris gave an insight to how the agricultural manufacturing sector is looking for 2019, with 2018 in review.

Awards for best innovations ahead of the upcoming show were also presented. SIMA is held from 24 to 28 February in Paris Nord Villepinte Exhibition Centre.

The 78th instalment of the show features 1,800 exhibiting companies from 42 countries. There are 15 exhibition sections covering all aspects of agriculture. The core theme for SIMA 2019 is Innovation for Competitive Agriculture.

SIMA continues to encourage the growth of new and upcoming companies with areas such as the Startup Village and the Innovation Village, new for this year’s show. The idea behind these villages is to help make up and coming companies stand out. They will also have the opportunity to take part in workshops organised by La Ferme Digitale.

With farming in the digital age being the current hot topic, yield mapping, precision farming and automation were the focal points of more than half the award-winning designs. Having said this, labour still proves to be an increasing problem, with 65% of companies in the manufacturing industry looking for workers. According to Axema president Frédéric Martin: “The sector of agri equipment is in good economic health, continuing to hire but remains facing a shortage of manpower.”

It is predicted that 58% of machines working in fields will be robots by 2035. Companies in the sector reported having invested 4.1% of their turnover in R&D for 2018.

There were three categories of awards handed out – bronze, silver and gold. There were 20 bronze awards, five silver and two gold presented on the day.

Gold winners

Claas Jaguar 960 Terra Trac

Claas, renowned for its range of Terra Trac crawler track units for combine harvesters, has just lifted the main obstacle to the use of crawler tracks on forage harvesters: churning up the headland during turning manoeuvres. An automatic system raising the front drive roller substantially reduces the shear effect when working on crops such as grass. This lifting of the track front is intelligently triggered beyond a certain turning angle without damaging soil structure. Thus the average soil pressure exerted by the remaining surface area (approximately 60%) is lower than that of a standard tyre.

Laforge DynaTrac implement guidance interface

The Laforge DynaTrac implement interface allows for lateral movement of connected attachments.

The use of tractor-mounted implements makes the tractor and implement rigid. Achieving a small amount of movement in one direction often results in a tail swing in the opposite direction before reaching the desired movement. This is what led Laforge, a manufacturer in tractor attachments, to design and produce a versatile guidance interface. The implement interface and tractor together means the implement follows the tractor along the pulling line. The interface corrects deviations without creating any other restrictions. It slides sideways according to the steering performed by the GPS guidance system in order to guarantee the positioning of the trailed implement to an accuracy close to 1cm. The DynaTrac, which can be used with all tractors and all implements on the market, provides a guidance function to a standard and therefore cheaper implement.

Instead of adding this function to each implement individually, the user only needs to learn how to use one type of guidance interface instead of having to understand and configure several different ones.

Silver medals

Live NBalance

Live NBalance is a unique innovation by John Deere and Airbus to offer the first regular and mapped monitoring tool for nitrogen efficiency and use throughout the crop cycle. It supplies a dynamic dashboard giving the farmer all the necessary information to analyse their fields and make educated decisions, in real time. Live NBalance puts the farmer back at the centre of the decision-making process.

Field Sensor by Bosch

Bosch Field Sensor is a set of connected sensors which collect information on the crop, soil and the climate on a daily basis. The sensors are all contained within a spiked stake, notably containing a multispectral camera which takes daily pictures of crop development. From these information sources, several agronomic variables are calculated – leaf area, soil moisture and temperature etc.

The Bosh field sensor collects information from its sensors, calculating argonomic variables then transmitting results back to the farmer.

Farmers can monitor these results from their smartphones, with an array of tips to enable them optimise the land’s potential. With the integration and merging of satellite imagery along with drones, crop quality and yield can be predicted.

Other silver awards

Kuhn won an award for its virtual assistant, routine machine maintenance and adjustments mobile app, Redvista. The app provides real-time data to the farmer or operator on their machine and the location of lubrication points that may be hidden after a long day’s work without the need to wash the machine first.

John Deere won a silver for its proactive and collaborative support for farm machinery, with services such as fuel guarantee and expert alerts.

French company Sodijantes Industrie won a silver award for its tanker wheel that can be deflated and re-inflated from the cab of the tractor almost instantly.

The wheel rim includes a so-called build-in air tank, maintained at six-bar pressure to inflate the tyre at any given stage. This helps farmers set tyres to the correct pressures for both field and road work, in turn saving on fuel and reducing tyre wear.

Bronze awards

With 20 awards in the bronze category, we took a look at some of the standout winners.

Case IH XPower connected electrical weed killer

The weed control system from Case IH, XPower, is an alternative method to the use of chemical herbicides. This system uses high-frequency and high-voltage electricity to eliminate undesirable plants of all types. The killing effect can be noticed 30 minutes after application. The full system comprises an electrical accessory on the tractor, a weather station and a soil moisture sensor. Thanks to accurate data which takes into account variations between fields, the system can be optimised by supplying the right voltage in each location.

Arbos Blaster

The Arbos Blaster boom sprayer uses an articulated chassis. The rotation pin is not placed on the drawbar as it is on most trailed sprayers on the market. Instead, it is placed near the rear axle, which itself is close to the boom. Two steering sensors on the towing eye and on the rotation centre of the axle help to directly steer the axle by means of two hydraulic actuators. Thanks to the “power” steering of this axle and the hydraulic adjustment of track width to that of the tractor, the wheels of the sprayer can strictly follow those of the tractor during changes in direction and headland turnaround. The sprayer can be turned in less than a radius of 4m due to its steering angle of 28°.

Claas Convio Flex header

Claas Convio Flex header is designed to suit a wider variety of crops.

Crop rotations are evolving towards more complex operations and a wider range of crops are being grown, a more flexible combine header could be helpful. This is where the Claas Convio Flex fits into the market. The header features a conveyor belt to feed in crops, moving at the same speed as the combine’s forward speed, automatically adjusting the conveyor in addition to its own cutterbar setting range of 225mm. Full communication between the header and the combine allow for all the main settings to be done through the CEBIS terminal in the cab. There are three operating methods to choose from – flexible with adjustable pressure, laid crops and rigid. Another feature of the header is its flipover concept offered as standard on the front reel. The shape of the new plastic tines prevent material from balling, even in the worst conditions.

Manitou Eco Stop

Manitou has created a simple solution to save on fuel within its MLT range of equipment. The principle is simple, the engine shuts of automatically when the engine is idling and there is no driver present. Something similar to stop-start on cars, Eco Stop can be activated or deactivated with the press of a button. Product manager for the Manitou agricultural range Arnaud Sochas said: “Through the data collection made possible by connected machines, we estimate that engines run for between 15% and 30% of the time with no driver present in the cab.” On the basis of 15%, for a machine using 1,000 hours per year for three years, the Eco Stop function generates savings of up to €4,500 according to Arnaud.

Watch: doubling beet output with a self-propelled harvester
Peter Thomas Keaveney travelled to Lisbeg Farms in Co Galway which recently made the transition from a trailed double-row Thyregod beet harvester to a self-propelled six row Agrifac WKM 9000.

Based near Laurencetown in Co Galway, Lisbeg Farms is run by the Bourns family, namely Richard, Deirdre, Chris and Sarah. The family run a mixed farming enterprise consisting of sheep, beef and tillage. Beet has always been a popular crop on the farm, with over 150 acres sown this season and plans to sow up to 200 acres per year.

Over the years the Bourns family always grew a small amount of beet. This was used for both feeding livestock on the farm and for the sugar beet industry. However, it wasn’t until 2007 when Chris decided to focus on growing more of the crop. He started off by purchasing a six-row Armer Salmon drill and initially planted 27 acres. The following year he upped the acreage to 37 acres and purchased a single-row Armer Salmon harvester. Each year from then on Chris planted anywhere from 30 to 60 acres along with carrying out some hire work.

In 2013, he opted to purchase a twin-row Armer Salmon trailed harvester that had been modified to include electric controls and a larger bin. At this stage, Chris was harvesting 110 acres of beet per year. In December 2016, the Armer Salmon harvester was finding it very difficult to lift beet that had been damaged from frost. As a result, Chris purchased a twin-row Thyregod trailed harvester. By now he was harvesting around 120 acres per year for himself.

Earlier this year another farmer came to look at Chris’s beet washing system and ended up buying his Thyregod harvester. At this stage Chris had decided he was going to invest in a self-propelled harvester. To complement the new harvester, Chris purchased a 12-row Stanhay Webb planter from the UK.

Agrifac VKM 9000

Chris decided to purchase the self-propelled harvester for a number of reasons. Firstly, in order to reduce the labour hours required to harvest the crop each year. As there is a lot going on around the farm between the different enterprises, time is of the essence. With the new harvester he has doubled the output in comparison with the previous machine. By increasing his output and freeing up land quicker, this has also allowed Chris to sow a lot more winter wheat in the same ground this autumn.

The harvester is running on large flotation tyres, two 710/75R34 on the front and two 700/50x26.5 on the back.

Secondly, compaction was a pressing issue with the previous trailed harvesters. The self-propelled harvester has a larger footprint, spreading the weight of the entire machine across three metres. Each tyre is offset, meaning they all run on different tracks. The harvester is running on large flotation tyres – two 710/75R34s on the front and two 700/50x26.5s on the back. In addition, because he is harvesting six rows instead of one to two rows with the previous harvesters, it means there is less driving up and down the field.

After spending some time searching online, Chris got in contact with Agrifac in the UK. He travelled across the water earlier this year and purchased a 2007 Agrifac VKM 9000 at a cost of €75,000 plus VAT. This price included a one-year warranty.

The workings of the machine

At the front of the machine a flail topper chops the leaves off the beet. Two support wheels determine the cutting height of the flails. An auger and spreader distribute these chopped leaves to the left-hand side of the machine.

Next up are the scalpers. The scalpers cut the heads off the beet. However, these are only used when harvesting sugar beet. Behind the scalpers are the two depth control skids. These skids determine the depth of the walking shares that dig the beet out of the ground. The entire front harvesting unit is in the middle the machine. However, it can be hydraulically shifted to 20cm to the right of the harvester if necessary.

The two support wheels determine the cutting height of the flails.

After digging the beet out of the ground, it is collected using the two large lifting turbines powered by slow-running hydraulic motors. The lifting turbines pass the beet on through the four cleaning turbines. The beet is then transferred into the ring trace elevator which rotates clockwise, dropping the beet into the hopper.

The machine has a 10t hopper, capable of unloading via a conveyer while on the go. Chris explained that the harvester will almost fill a 15t trailer while on the move as it’s both harvesting and unloading at the same time.

Transmission and engine

The harvester is hydrostatically driven. It has both a field mode and a road mode. In field mode, the machine will travel from 0-10 km/h while in road mode it will travel from 0-25 km/h. The harvester is powered by a V6 Deutz engine that churns out 303hp.

It is steered from the rear. However, when using the guidance steer system, the front wheels can steer up to 7° either side. This is to help manoeuvre the machine or to correct the machine if working on a slope.

At the time this machine was built, Agrifac was using Claas cabs. This cab is the same as that of the Claas Jaguar self-propelled foragers of the same era. The only exception is the control layout inside.

The machine can harvest an average of two acres/hour (at 30t/acre).


Chris uses an engine-mounted Cross Rhino to de-stone, wash and chop his beet. The unit was purchased new during the summer of 2017. The machine is capable of washing and chopping up to 60t per hour. The Rhino uses a water-powered cyclone washing and cleaning system in combination with a tumbler cleaning cylinder to clean the beet before chopping it.

This year, Chris will be putting 150 acres (estimated over 4,500t of beet) through this machine. Of this beet, Chris will be selling 1,200t, with the remainder being used on farm for finishing 2,000 bulls. Currently he is feeding 10t of beet per day. Beet harvested over the past four to six weeks was yielding 25t/acre while beet harvested this week on Chris’s farm is yielding 30t/acre.

Machine specs

Engine: Deutz V6 diesel engine with ?direct injection and inlet air cooling (intercooler).

Horsepower: 303hp (223kw).

Working width: three metres (six rows).

Transmission: Continuous four-wheel-drive hydrostatic.

Fuel tank capacity: 610 litres.

Output: two acres/hour (at 30t/acre).

Year of manufacture: 2007.

Price paid: €75,000 plus VAT with a one-year warranty.