An additional tractor has been launched by Claas to fill a gap in its Axion model line-up
An additional tractor has been launched by Claas to fill a gap in its Axion model line-up at an exclusive press event in North Yorkshire. Also demonstrated was a selection of models from the specialist Xerion range. David Williams was there.
Powerful but lightweight
Claas has filled the gap between its Axion 800 and 900-series tractor ranges with the addition of a new model. The current Axion 800-series includes models from 205-264hp with unladen weights from 8.9-9.5t and the Axion 900-series starts at 320hp with the 920 model, while the Axion 950 flagship produces 410hp – with unladen weights for the series of 12.8-13.0t. The all-new Axion 870 is rated at 280hp, with an extra 15hp available in boost mode through the Claas Power Management system, when travelling at speeds in excess of 14kph or when the PTO is in use.
The new model has a 6.7-litre FPT 6-cylinder engine. Unlike the smaller Axion 800-series models, which offer a choice of transmissions, the Axion 870 is available only with Claas CMatic CVT so the specification includes Cebis control and electronic hydraulic control. Claas Sequence Management provides intelligent headland and implement management.
The Axion 870 is expected to prove popular with mid-sized arable farms where the power available and comprehensive ballasting options will make the tractor ideal for top work such as stubble cultivations and drilling, but also capable of heavier draft tasks such as subsoiling and ploughing.
Claas Xerion high horsepower tractors have proved popular since their launch for use on large arable farms where their superb grip and fuel economy have made them a popular choice for cultivations.
The latest range includes three versions; the Trac – which is a conventional layout with the bonnet in front; the Trac VC – which has a reversible cab; and the SaddleTrac – which has the cab at the front leaving a flat load body available for rear mounted accessories. All models are available in three power outputs; 430, 480 and 520hp. Two transmission options are available, including a ZE Eccom 4.5, which provides 50kph in forward and reverse, and the Eccom 5.0, which is available only for the Trac and SaddleTrac models and provides a reduced travel speed in reverse and is available with or without PTO drive and offers travel speeds of 40kph for the Xerion 5000 and 40 or 50kph for the smaller 4000 and 4500 models.
Claas has extended the range of ballasting options available for the Xerion. Previously adding weight to the front end without having a front linkage fitted wasn’t possible, but a new weight system has been developed allowing up to 7t to be fitted at the front, even without the link arms. This means those with no other use for a front linkage other than for weight carrying can save significant extra cost, when ordering the machine.
Alastair explained that the Xerion’s superb fuel economy is due to the highly efficient CVT transmission, compared to equivalent sized tractors fitted with powershift, and the engine’s ability to operate at very low revs, with most tasks carried out within the 1,300-1,500rpm rev range where maximum torque is available.
He went on to explain that the CVT transmission makes the tractor very easy to operate, incorporating effective cruise control.
Further benefits include reduced headland damage compared to rubber tracked crawlers; the Xerions’ four wheel steering allowing tight headland turns to be carried out without causing damage which has to be rectified later.
An application at which the Xerions have excelled is slurry transportation and application. SGT manufactures polyester tanks to fit the Xerion, with capacities up to 16,000 litres available for the Saddle Trac models and up to 14,000 litres for the Trac VC, and there are currently 8-10 Xerion-based SGT tankers operating within the UK.
A self-contained loading system is available incorporating a 10in stone trap and hydraulic-driven macerator, a 10in docking arm for self-filling from a tanker and a 9,000-litre/min Vogelsang lobe pump to fill and discharge the load, all built around the tractor for convenience of use and transport between sites.
Other options from SGT include trailed tankers to use behind the Xerion, with up to 21,000 litres capacity on a single axle, up to 26,000 litres on twin axles and 30,000 litres on triple axles. Dribble bars up to 36m are in use and with the mounted tank on the tractor, very large volumes of slurry can be transported and applied, reducing time spent travelling to fill.
SGT is a Dutch company, which became part of the Bauer group in October this year, and has 25 years’ experience in slurry transportation and application since regulations were introduced in Holland that required slurry to be injected rather than spread on fields. The large number of biogas plants, which have been commissioned in recent years, have generated considerable extra demand and SGT has supplied more than 160 Xerion-based machines to date, with demand expected to continue. A new development, expected for 2016, following the merger with Bauer, is a tandem axle tanker with two steering axles and a goose-neck hitch, for improved on and off-field performance.Spreading the load
A brand new innovation demonstrated at the event was a Xerion-mounted Tebbe spreader. Demand across Europe is high for a high capacity, self-propelled spreader since production of TerraGators ceased and Alastair explained that there have been many requests from customers for a spreader to fit the Xerion but the previous 3800 VC model couldn’t accommodate the volume needed.
The larger chassis and flatter load area of the 4000, which replaced the 3800, lends itself to this application with its greater load capacity and more versatile load bed. “Many contractors carrying out applications for utility companies demand that self-propelled spreaders, rather than trailed spreaders are used to fulfill contracts and this is an obvious application for our machines,” he explained.
A test unit has been developed by Tebbe and fitted to a Xerion 4000, and has worked more than 150 hours with a Yorkshire-based farmer and contractor.
The spreader body is easily fitted and removed, with three mounting points, as well as hydraulic and PTO connections. Capacity is 13.2m3, and the steel body is 4.5m long, 2.2m wide and has 1.3m sides and can transport up to 16t of material. Unladen weight of the Xerion with the spreader body is 22t, and the arrangement provides 4m loading height.
A steel scraper floor, with two conveyors pulled by four steel chains, feeds material to a pair of horizontal spreader discs at the rear, and a hydraulic drive through spur gears provides infinite feed rate control and forward and reverse chain travel options, to relieve blockages. Two 650mm beater rotors, driven by duplex roller chains shred the material before it meets the two 1,000mm diameter shaft-driven spreader discs.
The CVT transmission of the Xerion makes it ideal for the application, providing infinite speed control and comfort for the operator and full tractive performance to the wheels compared with hydrostatic drive machines.
The forward-mounted cab means the overall length is short, and the 4-wheel steering provides superb maneuverability.
Claas sees significant potential for the Xerion in future years as demand for versatile fuel-efficient high horsepower tractors grows and is keen to ensure that those investing in the concept are assured of the after-sales back-up essential for professional users. Every multi-branch dealer will be required to have at least one Xerion specialist technician to look after the product.
SGT tankers and Tebbe spreaders are being added to the franchises available through Claas dealers, so that customers can purchase the complete package from one source, simplifying the process and providing peace of mind in terms of after-sales back-up.
Put through its paces
The test unit has been operating as part of the machinery fleet of AWSM Farming, a very experienced spreader user currently owning two TerraGator spreaders and one Xerion-based tanker. The tanker is based on a Xerion 4000 and has a capacity of 16,000 litres, and digestate is applied at the rear through an adapted 3.5m Sumo Trio subsoiler. The slurry is from pigs, dairy cattle and an anaerobic digester, and it is injected at approximately 40t/ha.
The tanker’s main operator, Chris Lees, has operated the machine for more than 900 hours since it arrived in May this year, and he said that he enjoys operating the Xerion as its ease of use and comfort is excellent. The transmission makes it very smooth on the field and road, and the automatic GPS-controlled steering makes it easy to apply the slurry accurately.
“We work within a 60 mile radius of our Hutton Magna base,” explained managing director Adam Metcalfe, “and the Xerion replaced a Terragator-based slurry injection system which we had operated for five years. The TerraGator had a 3-point linkage at the rear but, when we used the injector behind, we often suffered breakages which held up our operation. The Xerion’s CVT transmission provides better fuel economy, and most of the time it runs at little more than tick-over.”
The land farmed by Adam is a mix of owned and contract-farmed totaling 1,200ha (3,000 acres) and there can be up to 50 miles travelling distance between parcels of outlying land. Some of the slurry is treated food waste, applied to the land through Environment-Agency based contracts.
“Previously we would apply the slurry through a dribble bar and then cultivate it in, or inject it through a shallow injection system,” he continued. “Last year we used the Trio for the first time, but the TerraGator wasn’t designed for that sort of stress which is why we had problems. We looked at alternatives and the Xerion, with the back-up available through our local dealer Sewards at Sinderby, was an obvious choice. We used to wait 7-10 days for parts to arrive, but Sewards are used to dealing with combine users, and know that when a machine breaks down it needs to be up and running again as soon as possible. Edward Chilton is our main contact there and we can’t fault the service.”
The material which has been spread by the Metcalfes, since the spreader arrived, has been mainly chicken manure, gypsum, and sewerage sludge and Adam said the performance has been impressive; “Operator comfort is better than that offered by the previous machine, and it is good both on and off-road. We do see the Xerion as a viable alternative to the machine that we were running and although the spreader body is removable, we will have sufficient work for it that we will probably leave it on permanently.”
Popular Arion upgraded
The popular mid-sized Arion 400 range has been improved with three hydraulic pump options available. The standard open-centre pump set-up provides 60 litres/min but there is also a high specification load-sensing pump available, offering flow rates up to 110 litres/min. A new option provides 98 litres/min using two pumps; one of 60 litres/min capacity and the other 40 litres/min. For general tasks the 60 litre pump provides oil to the spools, leaving the 40 litre pump to supply the rear linkage, but when extra high flow rates are needed a button in the cab diverts linkage oil flow to the spools, providing 90-100 litres/min of oil flow to the spools or loader. Claas tractor product specialist Alastair McCallum explained that this provides a significantly cheaper option for users who require high oil flow than the sophisticated load-sensing system.
Another upgrade to the Arion range is a cab suspension option; 4-point on larger Arion models and 2-point on smaller versions, and available independently of front axle suspension. The 2-point suspension maintains a low cab height, popular with many livestock farmers, by raising the cab by just 35mm over the fixed cab.