Every three years a new fleet of tractors arrives at the Salesian Agricultural College in County Limerick; this year, a trio from Valtra arrived on the farm.
One of Valtra’s most impressive achievements in recent years is how it has established itself as a quality brand in an already crowded market.
Under the AGCO wing
Having a major American company experienced in the dark art of brand management certainly helps, but it’s still necessary to cross the threshold of acceptability to a conservative audience.
The Finnish manufacturer has now reached this happy milestone and a recent agreement with the Salesian Agricultural College, Pallaskenry, Co. Limerick, underlines Valtra’s arrival as a serious competitor in the mainline tractor market.
Yet despite the brand’s many virtues, the purchase decision was based on a competitive bidding process, won by Clarke Machinery of Co. Cavan.
Modern machines essential for training
This does not mean that price is the only factor, the tractors will be used for both farm work and student instruction, so they should be up to date and represent the latest design thinking and tractor building.
So far, the three machines acquired have not disappointed either of them. Indeed, the machine instructors who work with them are full of praise for their latest tools.
The feature that has been most noticed is the Valtra GPS system which would seem to be a game-changer in hands-on fieldwork.
GPS a godsend on Valtras
Agricultural engineering has many milestones and the advent of GPS systems is quickly being recognized as another great leap forward, certainly the benefits are becoming more and more evident.
However, to take full advantage of GPS, it should ideally be used in conjunction with automatic guidance, according to Colm Egan, who was happy to demonstrate the capabilities of the largest of the new tractors, the Valtra T195.
This machine comes factory-equipped with both, as well as headland management, although it is still awaiting installation of the SmartTurn option which is delayed due to a ransomware attack suffered by AGCO last month.
In the field, it becomes immediately apparent that the machine can indeed outperform the operator’s precision when it comes to ground coverage.
Still, it must be remembered that unless the software is aware of the presence of items such as drinkers, it will jump right over them, the driver is in no way redundant.
The T195 is unabashedly a big tractor. You can feel its size when sitting in the cabin. It is the newest in the fleet and therefore has not yet been fully tested.
At the time of our visit it had a Vicon twin disc with section control fertilizer spreader, which it handled easily and communicated instantly via the ISOBUS connection.
It was also fitted with a Rossmore sack crane, another new feature on the farm and also well proven, removing the need to have a loader close at hand and generally making the loading operation much more efficient. .
The other two tractors are an N175 and a G115.
The N-series is the next range of the T-series from Valtra. It’s a four-cylinder model offering just 20 hp less than the T195, but it’s a much smaller tractor and comes with a factory-fitted Quicke loader.
It is an excellent example of the trend among all manufacturers to increase the power of mid-range tractors, while keeping physical dimensions as small as possible.
A practical limit to power density?
This, it seems, is a mixed benefit. Yes, it works great on a rev loader where power and maneuverability in a compact package is desirable, but away from the yard, it’s possible that a tractor’s capabilities outweigh its stability.
While this hasn’t been an issue with the Valtras, there is an awareness that issues have occurred elsewhere with some machines deemed too light in the rear.
Loader operation is by electronic joystick, a departure from the cable-operated unit of the previous John Deere.
Jeren Right doubts the fly-by-wire system is a huge improvement over mechanical binding. What he particularly appreciates is the proportionality of the control, as well as the automatic increase in engine speed when it is activated.
The overall impression, based on around 15 minutes at the wheel, is of a capable and nimble machine that, while it will never match the performance of a dedicated handler, is no slouch.
The third, and smallest of the trio, is a 115hp model from the company’s new G-series, which sits between the A and N ranges, a necessary addition as more segments are needed to cover the power split. horsepower as tractors get bigger.
That day, this was coupled to a 2,300 gallon slurry tanker with drip bar that was used for tractor handling assessments.
Dribble bars, with their associated need for higher forward speed and power-hungry macerators, found many tractors of this size lacking when added to existing tankers.
power to cope
Shane Ryan, who was working with the students, reports no such issues were encountered with the Valtra, he just dug in and got on with the job.
However, he also notes that they had a dry spring so the ground conditions were never particularly difficult, which lightened the load on the tractor.
He also mentions that students adapt well to it and are quite comfortable with the modern working environment of screens and switches found in Valtras, rather than dials and levers, adding that many would be confused. by sticks coming out of the drivetrain and quadrants. folded over the side of the seat.
Hobsons (good) choice
It has already been mentioned that the decision to go with Valtra was as much a financial decision based on meeting the stipulations of a contract as it was a management decision made after considering the options.
Still, the college is not at all disappointed with the Valtras, coming to see them as representative of the most up-to-date technology and they work well as teaching tools.
The brand was unfamiliar to the staff and yet they embraced the machines with great enthusiasm which certainly felt genuine.