Machinery News

  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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A ‘giant of a small tractor’

Fendt’s 300 Vario series tractors have a strong reputation with livestock and grassland farms. Significant updates in 2015 included features which will increase appeal to arable farmers

Fendt’s 300 Vario series tractors have a strong reputation with livestock and grassland farms in Alpine Europe and are one of the manufacturer’s most successful ranges on the continent. Significant updates in 2015 included features which will increase appeal to arable farmers. Farmers Guide took the flagship 313 for an extended test to see how it fared.

The 300 Vario range includes four models from 110-138hp available in Power and Profi equipment levels. Power variants are designed for hands-on functional applications while Profi models offer greater comfort and more features for increased performance. The top of the range 313 Vario Profi model supplied for Farmers Guide test was loaned to Euston Estate in north-Suffolk.

The farm
Comprising approximately 2,510ha (6,215) acres farmed in-hand by Euston Farms, crops include wheat, barley, maize, rye and sugar beet. Vegetables are grown on the farm in partnership with RG Abrey Farms. Other enterprises include outdoor pigs and free-range poultry and the farm has its own herd of Red Poll cattle, with Suffolk Punch horses and Suffolk Sheep completing the Suffolk Trinity. Large areas of grassland support HLS agreements and provide animal grazing.
The farm was chosen partly because it doesn’t currently run any Fendt tractors, but also because its fleet includes several brands, so farm staff experience different makes and models. The range of crops ensures there are always field tasks to be carried out and, with a variety of soil types, operations can be adjusted in response to the weather.
“The new 300 Vario has brought the features users like in the larger models down to the lower horsepower end of our product range,” explained Fendt sales support specialist for UK and Ireland, Ed Dennett. “There was sometimes a feeling that the series lacked the attention to design immediately apparent in the larger ranges but, with the new model’s introduction, interest from mixed and arable farms has increased. We were keen to work with Farmers Guide and lend it to a large arable farm to see how the tractor fared.”

The test
The 313 Vario arrived on the farm brand new and its main users were farm manager Matthew Hawthorne and machinery operator Matt Whiting.
One of its first tasks was powering a large Agri-Hire rear discharge spreader, which involved travel on the estate’s private roads from the heap to the spreading site.

“My usual tractor is also modern, quality brand but I preferred the Fendt cab,” said Matt. “There is an immediate feel of quality, and lots of glass with narrow front pillars so visibility is excellent and the driving position is very comfortable.
We usually have a 210hp tractor on the spreader, which is more than it needs, but I would have expected the Fendt, at just under 140hp, to struggle with the loads we were spreading.
We had estimated the total in-field weight of the tractor and loaded spreader at approximately 17t, and considered it coped well on the gentle slopes but, out of curiosity, we later put it over the farm weighbridge where it proved to be over 24t, so it really was very impressive for a tractor of that size and power.”
Matt said he had expected to find the controls confusing at first. “There is a general belief that Fendts are difficult to drive, but that just isn’t true,” he explained. “The controls are a little different but it took a few minutes to work out the main functions and I found the Varioterminal display logical and easy to set-up and use.”
Matt commented that Fendt’s Vario CVT transmission was superb and he liked the range of operating modes. Fendt’s Field Management function made field tasks easy but the lack of a 50kph transmission, which he was used to on his own tractor, was a disadvantage when on the road.
One criticism of the cab was the roof-mounted radio, which was difficult to adjust from the seat when the tractor was in motion. The air conditioning controls, on the right hand panel, and slightly to the operator’s rear, were not where one would expect them to be, and weren’t immediately familiar, he added. The suspended cab and seat ensured good ride quality on the road and field.

Cultivations
Draft work included deep cultivation of Breckland soil after outdoor pigs, and ahead of ploughing to encourage drainage and level the field. “The tractor was impressive,” commented Matthew.
“It was on top of the job although I would rate the cultivator as needing at least 150hp on our land. The engine and transmission management system took some getting used to as, when a tough patch was encountered, the gear ratio and engine power adjusted in response, but the change seemed slow compared with our own tractors which immediately respond with more engine revs.

This was just a characteristic of the Fendt system and the tractor coped well and was impressive in what it could achieve for its size.”
Matthew said the hydraulic controls were easy to use, and conveniently located on the panel alongside the seat. Manoeuvrability on the headland was very good, helped by the impressive turning radius.
Other tasks included some mowing with a Spearhead 460 heavy duty 4.6m bat-wing mower which gave the tractor no trouble and Matthew explained that its low stature made it ideal for mowing in height restricted areas such as under trees. Various trailer work tasks including carting digestate and chicken muck were carried out, for which the tractor proved ideal.

Summary
Excellent VisioPlus cab – plenty of space, uncluttered layout, easy to access, superb visibility around narrow front pillars, well-designed and effective windscreen blind, ‘amazingly bright’ in-cab lighting, powerful outside LED work lights.
Versatile monitor mounting bar provides range of positioning options.
Varioterminal – clear display of information, easy to set-up, useful functions such as task recording for up to 10 activities, a useful aid on the farm. Overall it was described as ‘brilliant’ by both operators.

The Vario joystick was considered ‘big’, but liked for its ease of use and functions available, and the ability to instantly set and recall operating speeds proved useful for all tasks. The ability to select hydraulic spool float mode using one joystick-mounted button was considered an excellent feature.
Speed control by either foot pedal or joystick, selected by control panel mounted switch, was a feature immediately liked by Matt, who used it frequently when alternating between transport and field tasks. He described the Vario transmission as ‘lovely and smooth,’ providing precise speed control on the field and road. Forward and reverse shuttle is via a small toggle switch which was deemed easy to use but ‘fiddly’ for such an important control.
The ignition switch location – close to the windscreen on the right of the dashboard was described as an afterthought and a more easily accessible position would be preferred.
In-cab storage was excellent, with several large compartments available, but the refrigerated lunch box holder was too small for long working days in the field.
The cab door felt solid and easily able to stand regular farm use and was a good size allowing easy access.
Steering and manoeuvrability were described as ‘fantastic.’
Overall the cab was judged excellent – “Lots of small points add up to make it a very good place to work,” said Matt. “There are some small criticisms but overall I really liked it.”
The rear linkage offers compatibility with Cat 2 and 3 implements but the ease with which it is swapped over could be improved, according to Matthew, who also criticised the stabiliser bar’s design. This includes an upward-angled threaded section, which he felt would trap water and seize over time.
Daily and weekly service checks, including engine and transmission fluid levels, were easy and took just a few minutes.

Verdict
Both operators felt the latest 300 Vario was well-designed and equipped for arable farm use and, despite its lower power and smaller size than the usual tractor operated by Matt on the implements, it had proved up to the tasks. Fuel economy was described as very good although, without another tractor carrying out similar tasks alongside, making an accurate comparison was impossible.
Matt preferred the cab and controls to those of his usual tractor. “The transmission is superb and the features available mean it’s rewarding to constantly try to maximise output. It’s a giant of a small tractor,” he said.


  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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