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New tracked model is main attraction at Suffolk demonstration

The latest Challenger tractors by main dealer Thurlow Nunn Standen Ltd generated considerable interest

A working demonstration of the latest Challenger tractors by main dealer Thurlow Nunn Standen Ltd generated considerable interest, attracting new and existing customers from throughout East Anglia. David Williams reports.

The E-series machines in Challenger’s 700 and 800-series were announced in 2014 but deliveries have commenced only recently and the event was the first public demonstration of the larger 800E machines. The most powerful Challenger to date, the 875E, was the star of the show, with its impressive 16-litre V12 Sisu power unit developing up to 640hp. The Challenger range includes the 755E, 765E and 775E, producing up to 438hp, while the 800 models are the 845E, 855E, 865E and 875E. “We are delighted to have the two 875Es at the event,” commented TNS Challenger specialist Dave Lovell.
“There is very limited stock of the new models available for delivery to farms this year, and most of our allocation is already spoken for, although we have some of each size remaining. We have had considerable interest as a result of the demonstration from new and existing Challenger customers, so it is worth potential buyers getting in touch as soon as possible to secure a machine.”
Also on display was the Challenger RoGator self-propelled sprayer which has proved particularly successful for the dealer, and there are a large number of the machines working in the trading area.

TNS has six branches serving Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire and represents tractor brands including Challenger, Fendt and Massey Ferguson. Included in the many quality implement franchises are Sumo, Keeble Bros and HeVa all of which have cultivation equipment ideal for use with the Challengers and some of the latest machines from each brand were in action in the field near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, cultivating land ahead of maize for a local AD plant.
Farming in the area is varied, but mainly arable, and there is a big demand for precision farming products and services so specialists from the dealer as well as suppliers of Trimble and Topcon equipment were on-hand to deal with enquiries.
Dave said the TNS and Challenger staff involved were delighted with the success of the day. “We had approximately 100 customers visit including operators keen to see the differences between their current machines and the new models. Many visitors had come especially to see a particular piece of equipment working and, as well as the Challengers, this included the Sumo, He-Va and Keeble Brothers cultivation equipment. As a direct result of the event we have three requests for demonstrations of the RoGator sprayer too, so it was a worthwhile day for us.
“We are very grateful to the host farmer, Geo Gittus & Sons Ltd and all George’s managers for their help and for allowing us to use this land as the location, situation and conditions were ideal,” he added.

Pictured with the He-Va 6m trailed subsoiler are TNS demonstrator Dan Plant (left)and He-Va technical support specialist and demonstrator for the east Charlie Thompson. Launched earlier this year, the new subsoiler features hydraulic adjustment of working depth via the packer in conjunction with the depth wheel on the wings. The 6m version has 11 legs but there is the option of a smaller 5m model with 9 legs and all are available with hydraulic auto-reset or shearbolt leg overload protection.
Easy-draft low profile legs for minimal ground disturbance are an option for oilseed rape establishment and leg spacing is adjustable. Leg depth adjustment requires the removal and replacement of just two pins. A range of drawbars are available to suit the variety of attachment systems used on modern tractors.
Dan Plant commented that the dealer has taken orders for the new cultivators for delivery in time for the autumn cultivations season, including one 5m model equipped with two seed metering units for oilseed rape, an Opico Nitro-Jet liquid fertiliser applicator as well as an Accu Disc seeder for accurate control of seed depth.
The price of the 6m version demonstrated is #41,420.

Also at the event were implements from Keeble Brothers including the Crossover disc and tine cultivator designed to work between 4-12in depth and the heavier Progressive subsoiler which will operate down to 20in and is available with 5, 7 or 9 legs.
The Crossover working was the 15-tine 4.5m version with two rows of 18 discs, but the range also includes 4.0 5.7 and 6.3m working widths, the biggest having 21 tines.
“We are experiencing high demand for the cultivation equipment as customers appreciate the excellent build quality and rugged construction,” explained director Peter Keeble. “The Progressive was built for heavy Essex clay but we are seeing demand from vegetable growers all over the country, as they can cultivate down to 18in and it allows them to do the work of a subsoiler, plough and discs in one-pass, saving time and fuel. It moves a huge amount of soil and they love it, as it has proved so effective at creating ideal conditions for root crops and vegetables to thrive. It is versatile too, in that with its hydraulic adjustment of the individual working sections the user can select only the elements needed.” Pictured with the 3.8m Keeble Progressive at the event are (l-r) Paul Keeble, TNS sales specialist for Fendt and Challenger Steve Plumb and Peter Keeble.

Anyone with a question regarding precision farming products and services would have been hard-pressed to find a more knowledgeable team on the day than was present at the TNS demonstration. Pictured are (l-r) LH Agro Topcon precision agriculture equipment distributor area sales representative Rob Thurkettle, RTK Farming sales and support specialist PJ Walker, TNS technology services and sprayer specialist Jamie Thompson and Trimble distributor sales director Lee Clarke.
‘PJ’ commented that Challenger users invest in precision farming products to optimise efficiency of their farm operations. “They are keen to get what they can out of their machinery and our RTK network systems help them achieve that,” he said.
Lee said autosteer system enquiries are increasing, with customers of TNS operating Challenger and Fendt tractors accounting for many of these. “Modern systems are generating a lot more useful data regarding farm operations, and we are receiving enquiries as to how to handle this efficiently too,” he said. “Trimble’s Connected Farm is ideal for this task and, while some of the uses such as creating drilling rate maps are still in their infancy we expect their use to increase rapidly.”
Jamie Thompson said TNS is investing heavily in back-up to help users get the most from their equipment. “We are building up a team of three workshop specialists, backed up by AS Communications due to the increased demand for the service. We sold 75 Trimble systems last year, mainly to fit to machines supplied by us, but also for other brands too, and as well as Trimble equipment, we are always busy with Agco and Topcon products.”

BBC Radio Suffolk Breakfast Show presenter Etholle George often includes features on farming events on her show. She is pictured following a test-drive of the Challenger 875E under instruction from Dave Lovell, highlights of which were broadcast the following day on her show. “We are broadcasting to an audience in a very agricultural county, and it is important to keep the public informed regarding agriculture and issues affecting the countryside. I have very much enjoyed my test-drive with Dave, who was an excellent instructor and I am tempted to advertise my services as a contractor during the afternoons when I tend to be free,” she joked.

Frederick Hiam Farms managers Will Brice (left) and Andrew Wilson were at the event, having first started using Challengers earlier this year. The farm business operates from eight main locations in the UK, most of which are throughout East Anglia and it also has a site in Wales. Two Challengers were supplied on hire from TNS including a 775 and an 855, the smaller model used for cultivations ahead of sugar beet and the other for ridging up approximately 565ha (1,400) acres for parsnips and potatoes. A new-model 875E has also been in use working with a Keeble Progressive subsoiler and it completed more than 1,000ha (2,500 acres) ahead of onions, potatoes, parsnips and maize, successfully achieving one-pass establishment in most situations. “We still plough ahead of sugar beet and second wheats, as well as when the conditions demand it,” explained Will, who has particular responsibility for potatoes, but the 875E with the Progressive was excellent and really got across the land. It was very economical too, and comfortably worked all day on a full tank of fuel. It is a big bit of kit and needs escorting on the road, and it wasn’t as smooth during transport as a wheeled tractor, but one has to remember what it is and what it can achieve in the field.”
Andrew, who is the vegetables manager said the farm has used only wheeled tractors previously, but that the implements in use this season couldn’t have been handled by a wheeled machine. “We dealt with Dave Lovell and were well looked after and he had the experience to give us the information we needed to make decisions, and we dealt with Nick in the service department at Hinderclay for back-up. The whole experience was faultless,” he added.
The farming business has dealt with TNS for many years; its main fleet of tractors including a number of Massey Fergusons and Andrew said that an attraction of the dealer was the flexibility it offers for servicing, including carrying out tractor maintenance during weekends.
All Frederick Hiam’s East Anglian farms use RTK for some field operations, the Trimble equipment supplied and installed through TNS and the network provided by AS Communications. “It is the first year we have had RTK fully available,” explained Andrew, “and we find the back-up from AS Communications really good. It is the first experience we have had of telematics too, and see this as an area for further development in the future.”

Alastair Sharp trades as John Sharp & Son Ltd and is based at Redgrave, near Diss, Norfolk. He farms approximately 1,200ha (3,000 acres) of tenanted and contract-farmed land and cropping includes winter wheat, winter barley, winter beans, winter oilseed rape, spring barley and sugar beet. The land includes a mix of soil types including some challenging heavy land and rubber-tracked crawlers were a feature of the farm soon after they first became available in the UK, the first being a green Claas machine followed by a Challenger 765A and then, as the farm size increased, two 765Bs were bought as a pair. “At that time the Challengers were way ahead of anything else on the market, with more power and a better ride through the track suspension,” he said. “We do a reasonable amount of road work too, and the suspension made a huge difference. The area farmed reduced slightly and we decided we could manage with a single machines, so when the 765Bs were traded in we bought a single 765C, then a 765D and we currently have a 775E on order which will give us slightly more power and provide greater output allowing us to increase work rates. The bigger fuel tank is one of the main improvements we are looking forward to as it will allow us longer working days.”
Regarding the service received from TNS, Alastair said he couldn’t fault it at all. “We farm around the TNS Hinderclay depot, so it is very convenient for us and we find the dealer excellent on all fronts. Dave Lovell is very knowledgeable and all the fitters are very obliging and will fit service work in around our work schedule; for example attending early in the morning or late afternoon for routine servicing.”
Alastair is pictured (centre) at the event with a new 775E, similar to the one he has on order, with Fred Barker (left) of FW Barker Farms Ltd, for who he has contract-farmed land since 2002, and Dave Lovell.

As well as the TNS product specialists on site at the demonstration, Agco Challenger staff were on-hand too. Pictured (l-r) are Dave Lovell, Steve Plumb, Agco Challenger national sales manager Steve Sampson, Jamie Thompson and Agco Challenger area sales manager James Wallington.

  • Written by: Farmers Guide
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