Since its official launch at Agritechnica, the new Case IH Optum range of tractors has caught the imagination of potential users. Offering high power and traction for the most demanding farm tasks they are also well suited to lighter top-work. The first UK tractor was delivered to an Essex farmer in early March. David Williams reports.
Case IH main dealer Ernest Doe Power has supplied the UK’s first Optum 300CVX tractor, to an Essex farm. Pictured with the tractor are (l-r) Ernest Doe Power service manager Neil Warwick, Michael Bateman, service technician Robert Tuck and Harry Stalley.
The 2-model Optum range is brand new and includes the 270CVX with 270hp and the 300CVX with 300hp, and is designed to fill the gap between high horsepower heavy-draft tractors and lighter, less powerful machines used for secondary cultivations and top-work. Apart from a specification allowing it to be set up to offer efficient handling and control of almost any modern implement, the main key to its flexibility is the range of ballasting options, its relatively light unladen weight of 11t carried on the latest 2.15m tyres to offer very low operating pressures and reduced compaction while, fully weighted up to 16t, it offers phenomenal traction.
This flexibility is what appealed to Roger Foulds who trades as J&R Foulds, and farms at Manuden. Roger ordered the first Optum 300CVX from local dealer, Ernest Doe Power, which has looked after most of the farm’s machinery requirements for more than 12 years. Roger farms approximately 190ha (470 acres) and crops include wheat, winter barley and spring oats, all established using a Weaving Tine drill, a brand also represented by the dealer. “Our soil types include light and heavy but the main challenge is our steep hills, when working and travelling,” he explained. “We are quite close to Stansted Airport and, despite being narrow and very rural, the local roads are busy at times and keeping the width of tractors and implements down as much as possible, while having the capacity to look after our land, is essential.
The tractor was chosen by the farm for its versatility and will be used for all field tasks from corn carting to fertiliser spreading, heavy cultivations and rolling. Its first task is applying fertiliser through a Kuhn Axis spreader which was supplied three years ago by the same dealer.
“In common with other farms our machinery has increased in size, and we had moved to trailed implements for most cultivations. But, this came at a price as the extra manoeuvring needed to get into the field corners and the extra wheelings on the headlands created noticeable compaction and rutting, so we sacrificed crop quality and yield. Recently we decided to move back to mounted equipment, carrying the tractor and implement’s weight on four decent-sized tractor wheels and this has proved successful.
“The previous Case IH Magnum 335 performed well, but has been replaced by the more compact Optum, which will do everything from heavy cultivations to fertiliser application. We have a small tractor which was converted to a self-propelled sprayer very successfully a few years ago and another used for maintenance with a mounted hedgecutter. The Optum was chosen for its ability to be an all-rounder, and will be used for all other field and transport tasks including rolling in the spring, for which a set of 12m rolls will probably be purchased with the objective of driving the tractor on the 24m tramlines, with one pass between, to minimise extra wheelings. The alternative would have been to purchase another larger tractor and a small tractor for the light work which would have been uneconomical for our farmed area, and difficult to justify. The Optum is a big investment for our size of farm, but we are viewing it long-term and it makes a lot of sense when one considers it will be used for almost everything.”
The farm moved to Case IH more than 20 years ago when it purchased its first Axial-Flow combine harvester and, with impressive performance and reliability, Case IH tractors soon followed.
Ernest Doe Power has a depot nearby at Fyfield, and Roger said the back-up received from the dealer and manufacturer is excellent. The latest Axial Flow 6130 was supplied in 2014, and performs well on the sloping land. Most of the the implements were also supplied by the dealer, including the 3-year old Kuhn Axis 40.1WT fertiliser spreader which was immediately put to work behind the new tractor for spring cereal applications.
“I loved the Magnum,” said main machinery operator, Harry Stalley. “The cab was luxurious and very comfortable and, although it obviously made sense to move down a size for its replacement, I felt the smaller tractor couldn’t be as good. However, I was immediately impressed with the new Optum and the comfort of the cab took me by surprise. It is light and spacious, has a comfortable seat and suspension. Although I haven’t yet used it in the field, noise levels so far have been impressively low. I love the roof window, which makes the cab lighter and adds to the feeling of space. I spend long days in the tractor at busier times of the year and I know this will offer the comfort I need.”
An option selected by the farm was the full LED lighting package, with up to 18 lights available for night work. “We don’t often work at night – perhaps less so with the higher work rate – but the lights will improve evening working,” added Harry.
“We are delighted to have sold and supplied the first Optum tractor,” commented Ernest Doe Power Fyfield branch manager Michael Bateman. “The Case IH range we currently have available is the best ever and the new Optum models, with their versatility and design, have created immediate interest with farmers in our trading area. We have had a demonstration machine available for just a few weeks, since the February Doe Show, at which we received a large number of requests for demonstrations and expect many of these to result in sales. Its versatility is excellent and the clever design means it is an all-round solution for farms of all sizes, and this investment by Roger Foulds is a perfect example.”