In Ireland, our tough weather conditions and short working windows mean that we need large and efficient machines to get the work done quickly once the weather comes good.
In the last number of years we have seen almost every machine increase in size so that more work can be done in a short space of time.
Not only are machines now larger, but safer and much more environmentally friendly than ever before. Today’s machines are also smarter.
The level of technology on board is constantly increasing, with many machines now able to steer themselves and in some cases make their own results-based decisions and carry out a particular task themselves.
Many machines now can be monitored from a smartphone or computer through a process called telematics.
Here are four of the largest agricultural machines working in our fields throughout the country.
Case IH Quadtrac 620
The Case IH Quadtrac 620 is one of the largest tractors working on Irish soil. It earns its keep on a large tillage farm in Wexford. This beast of a machine produces a maximum of 692hp and weighs in at 26,680kg.
Tractors of this size are really only used for pulling large machinery on tillage farms. These articulated machines are different to the wheeled tractors that we are all used to.
There are four tracks instead of tyres and they articulate or turn in the centre. The benefit of tracks is that they leave a reduced footprint by spreading the tractor’s weight across a larger area compared with tyres.
Imagine putting something thin and heavy into the water; it would sink whereas something wide and light would float. The principle is the same with tracks.
There are one or two more Quadtracs working in the country but they are smaller models. There is also a John Deere 9RX (John Deere’s take on a Case IH Quadtrac) now working in the country, we believe.
A new Case IH Quadtrac 620 will set you back in the region of €505,528 plus VAT.
Krone Big X 1180 forage harvester
The forage harvester is the machine that lifts the grass out of rows, chops it and blows it into trailers.
Ireland, for a small country, has a large number of self-propelled forage harvesters, many of which are the largest that brands such as Claas, John Deere, New Holland and Krone offer.
However, the Krone Big X 1180 edges the other brands in terms of power, carrying the title of being the world’s most powerful forage harvester in production.
Launched in 2018, the Big X 1180 produces a massive 1,156hp from its 24l Liebherr V12 engine. To help understand this, take for example your typical 120hp tractor, common on Irish farms. Now imagine 10 of these 120hp tractors combined as one.
These 10 tractors together would have the same horsepower as one Big X 1180. The horsepower of the average forage harvester in Ireland is currently in the region of 500hp, still plenty of power to chop grass.
The Big X 1180 in question was delivered to a large contracting outfit in Co Derry, just in time for the 2021 silage season.
This big machine comes with a big price tag.
If you want to say that 1,156hp is yours then you’ll have to be prepared to part with its list price of €550,000 plus VAT.
Claas Cougar 1400 self-propelled mower
The Claas Cougar 1400 is one of the world’s largest self-propelled mowers, capable of mowing 12.6m (41ft) in just one pass. However, these particular machines are no longer in production.
Claas only built Cougar models for retail between 2005 and 2009. Since then, no other manufacturer has brought a larger self-propelled mower to market entirely.
Krone did build a Big M 500 model capable of mowing 13.2m in one pass but it never went into full production. The closest competitor to the Cougar on the market today is the Krone Big M 450 with its mowing width of 9.95m (32.6ft).
Many of these machines are working in Irish contracting fleets.
This year, 12 years after Cougar production stopped, we saw the first Irish-bought machine arrive in the country. This machine started out its life with a large UK contractor before making its way to Westmeath contractors, Malone Agri.
With roughly only 100 units ever built, not many remain in action today.
The Cougar’s cab turns 180° depending on whether road or field mode is selected. Powering the Cougar is a 480hp Daimler Chrysler engine. Weighing in at 18,500kg, it is 11.5m long, 3.96m high and up to 3.5m wide.
Grimme Varitron 470 potato harvester
The Grimme Varitron 470 is a self-propelled four-row potato harvester. Like most potato equipment, it might look unusual to some people.
This is because it is rather specialised in how it works. The harvester’s job is to pick the potatoes from the row and separate them from the soil.
Before self-propelled harvesters, all harvesters were trailed machines, meaning they were pulled using a tractor. This is still the case on many farms today.
The move was made 15-20 years ago towards self-propelled machines capable of lifting two rows of potatoes at once.
However, in the last five years a number of large Irish farmers have made the move to four-row machines which allow double the amount of potatoes to be harvested at the same time.
Effectively, one of these four-row machines can do the work of two older two-row machines. This not only reduces fuel used but the amount of workers needed for that particular job.
Some large potato farmers are moving to these four-row harvesters for these reasons mainly and cutting out a second harvester.
This machine also can help soils as it only drives half the distance in the field compared with smaller machines so creating less soil compaction and in other words, half the ruts when conditions are wet, which they can be around harvest time.
The Grimme Varitron 470 is fitted with a 460hp engine and weighs 34,000kg fully loaded. Buyers have the option of fitting these machines with rear wheels or tracks.
Being such specialised machines, many farmers tailor them from new to suit their preferences.
The Varitron 470 potato harvester can be up to 15.62m long by 3.86m wide and 4m high, so it’s fair to say it’s a machine not designed for tight spaces.