Father and son team, Eamon and Sean Tracey, are known throughout the country for their match ploughing abilities, but the duo also run a sizeable beet-focused contracting business.
Based in Garryhill in Co Carlow, the duo grow cereals and beet, and contract-rear 120 heifers.
Having run Steyrs for years, the Traceys bought their first Valtra back in 1999. This was bought for match ploughing and for spraying. Having served the business well, a second Valtra was added in 2007, namely an A95.
Sean explained that they were both big fans of the reliability of the Sisu engine. When Steyrs were no longer available in Ireland, he said that Valtra was the preference, and has stuck with the brand for over two decades, having purchased his eight Valtra earlier this year, namely a new N175.
Specialising in beet
Beet is the name of the game for the Tracey family. Growing in the region of 55 to 60 acres each year for themselves, the family sow up to 700 acres on hire each year.
All of this is sowed in ridges, with a 10- row Armour Salmon drill, which surely makes it one of, if not the busiest, beet drills in the country.
Spraying also makes up a significant part of the business. Running two mounted and one self-propelled sprayer, the Traceys assign one sprayer to a certain crop type. A Berthoud mounted spraying machine is used for the majority of the beet work.
The family would typically spray and look after the majority of the beet they sow.
Following on from the spraying, Sean estimates that they typically harvest around 650 acres of beet annually.
This is done using two twin-row Armour Salmon harvesters (1989 and 1997), which are meticulously kept and are running like watches.
The two harvesters are operated using a Valtra T151 and a new N175. Sean explains that the harvesting generally kicks off in in September, but doesn’t get busy until November, and starts to slow down into January and February.
When we visited Sean, he was lifting Magnum beet near Bennekerry in Carlow for a beef finisher. He was using his N175 to pull the 5t harvester, which was loaded with up to 4.25t of beet, in some sticky conditions at its ease.
Moving on at 8 to 9km/h, the crop returned a yield between 40t and 45t/acre.
Up to this spring, the Traceys’ tractor fleet included two A95s, a T151, a T174 and an N142. In mid-April, the 12,000-hour N142 was traded for a new N175.
Very happy with the manoeuvrability and torque of the high horsepower four pot N series, the Traceys opted to stick with the range, but this time to go for the flagship model.
The N175 is actually Valtra’s most popular selling tractor model in Ireland and Scotland, and in large parts of Europe.
Engine and transmission
Power for the four-model N Series is sourced from a 4.9l AGCO Power engine. With a rated 165hp that boosts up to 201hp, the N175 is the flagship model in the range.
The Sigma Power boost system delivers extra power for PTO work or for transport speeds. In heavy PTO use, the engine in the N175 will automatically produce an additional 36hp. The Stage-V N Series engines now come with a 600h service interval.
The N Series is available with four different specification options. These include: HiTech, Active, Versu and Direct. The first three are equipped with a five-step powershift transmission, while the latter comes with a CVT transmission.
Variations include hydraulic pump capacity, mechanical or electric spools, the control layout and the display terminals, etc.
Sean explained that his previous 2010 N142 was a Versu and had electric spools, which were troublesome from time to time.
The Traceys’ fleet has always been made up of power-shift tractors, and they don’t plan on changing this anytime soon.
After some deliberation, the Traceys opted to buy the tractor in an active specification, with the larger-capacity hydraulic pump and mechanical spools. So, instead of a 115 l/min pump, it is fitted with a 160 l/min pump.
The in-house designed, five-step powershift transmission can also be driven like a CVT. In automatic modes, the transmission does the shifting based on the operator’s acceleration and torque requirements, which can be adjusted.
The tractor was ordered with loader brackets, but without a loader. The Traceys have a Quicke 65 front-end loader that, up to this year, was only used on the T151.
However, the interchangeable unit is now swapped over and back between the two tractors.
“The N175 is a great match with the Quicke loader.
We have a JCB 526 sideboom telehandler on the farm and I find that the N Series is every bit as quick at loading and unloading trailers of straw or at carrying out general farm duties.
It offers excellent visibility and you’d take it off or put it on in just two minutes,” added Sean.
When Valtra brought out its fifth generation of N Series, it was evident it put a lot of effort into the cab’s ergonomics. Part of this included an improved user interface, controls and a smart A-pillar display.
Through this, the operator can see all the machine’s information and can make adjustments through it.
While the Active’s specification would be somewhat mid-range in Valtra’s offering, the tractor went through the manufacturer’s ‘Unlimited studio’, which allows for a huge amount of cosmetic customisation.
This included climate-control air conditioning, a sunroof, a fridge, an upgraded heated seat, extra LED lights and heated electric mirrors, etc.
Although currently on row crop wheels for the beet harvest, this tractor initially came shod on 650s and 540s on black rims. The tractor also came with the firm’s Aires front-axle suspension, a sprung cab, front linkage and PTO.
Only using basic manual GPS guidance up to April, the Tracey family decided to go all out when buying the N175, and opted for a full auto-steer kit, which they upgraded to subscription-based RTK. For those unaware, RTK is the most accurate precision farming solution, offering up to 2.5cm accuracy.
“We got the tractor halfway through the beet sowing campaign. Once we got the GPS set up with the implements, such as the drill and sprayer, we had huge comfort. Sowing so much beet with one drill means you have to work long hours.
“If a farmer was tilling in front of you in the dark, it was very difficult to see the scribes.
“With the GPS and autosteer, this is a problem of the past. We found that you wouldn’t be anywhere near as tired coming home in the evenings after a long day’s work. I also love the cab. The controls are all comfortably within touching distance. The steering wheel is nice and small, and neat. It has a great LED lighting package.
"I find it very comfortable on the road, much more so than the N142 it replaced,” said Sean.
“With over 1,150 hours clocked up on the tractor since mid-April, we’re very happy with its performance, in particular the power and torque.
“The N175 has an extra 30hp on our previous N142, and it’s streets ahead. With a 300l diesel tank on a typical 7:30am to 8pm working day harvesting beet, the N175 burns around 200 litres. The N142 was burning 220-230 litres per day on the same harvester.
“Meanwhile, the six-cylinder T151 is burning 150 litres per day at the same job. However, you won’t beat the manoeuvrability that the short chassis N175 offers – it’s a gift when turning on headlands and in tricky corners.
“We find the new N Series to be more solid on the road compared to the N142. The new front axle suspension is a great addition.
“We opted for the four years or 4,500 hours warranty package. To date, one regenerative sensor has gone, and Kelly’s of Kilkenny had it fixed an hour and a half after we rang them. Other than that, the tractor has been very reliable. We typically clock up around 2,000 hours each year on our three busiest tractors. We will probably run the tractor into 8,000 to 10,000 hours before upgrading it again,” concluded Sean.
Model: N175 Active.
Engine: 4.9l four-cylinder AGCO Power.
Horsepower: 165hp boosting to 201hp.
Transmission: five-step powershift.
Top speed: 50 km/h.
Hydraulics: 115l/min (standard), 160l/min fitted.
Wheel base: 2,665mm Length: 4,726mm
Turning radius: 4.5m Weight: 6,500kg N175 Active starting price: €160,000 plus VAT.