Since taking delivery of its Case IH Luxxum in May, the Walton family which farms at Glasshouses, North Yorkshire has been making the most of its competition prize. David Williams reports.
JS Walton & Co won 6 months’ use of the 107hp Luxxum 110 and front loader in a competition run jointly by Case IH and Farmers Guide earlier this year. The farming business is based at Stockplains Farm and has livestock at three different sites several miles apart, including dairy and beef herds and a large flock of sheep, so there is plenty to keep the tractor fleet busy.
Like most farming businesses this year, the weather had a significant affect on the farm’s activities with the hard, late winter giving way to a brief spring and then a hot, dry summer during which the lack of rain had created grass shortages. Speaking in August, Daniel Walton said only one cut of silage had been achieved to date, rather than two expected by the same time in an average year and with so little rain, everything was “a good two months behind”.
The dairy herd is grazed close to the main farm buildings and parlour on some of the lower grassland which suffered badly from the drought. However, supplementing the grass with this winter’s silage was maintaining milk yields. “We haven’t really had an option,” explained Daniel. “Obviously feeding first cut silage now isn’t what we want to be doing and will result in a shortage later, but if we don’t feed it we risk declining cow condition and lower milk yields which will reduce profits.
“What we are doing seems to be working well; the herd is healthy and yields are generally where they should be,” he added.
Heifers and store cattle have done well at the local markets despite an abundance of stock for sale due to the feed shortage, which has reduced prices generally.
The sheep are brought down to the lower land for winter and spring but in the summer they graze outlying land at Menwith Hill. “On the higher ground a little more rain meant the grass fared better so the sheep were ok, but as the drought continued they became short of feed,” said business partner David Bradley who is responsible for the sheep. “Recent rain improved things but we could do with a lot more. The lambs aren’t as fat as they should be by this time of year. They have grown but need lush grass to finish them off so we will have to sell them later than usual. The ewes are healthy and a benefit of the dry weather has been good flock health generally as flies haven’t been an issue.”
The farm’s tractor fleet comprises two modern main tractors and an older smaller tractor with a JCB Loadall used for materials handling. When the Luxxum arrived it was hoped that the additional modern tractor would add flexibility and improve farm efficiency, especially with its 40kph transmission reducing transport time between work locations.
By August the Luxxum had clocked up just over 200 hours, much of it spent on the road although field tasks had included mowing for silage, grass tedding, muck spreading with side and rear-discharge spreaders, slurry application, bale loading and transport, and general yard tasks.
Steep hills are encountered on most road trips which means all the available power is utilised and Daniel commented that the tractor is quick on the road, although additional power would be a benefit when trailers and spreaders were fully loaded. “We dropped down through 16 gears to climb a steep hill with the Bunning spreader loaded with 8–10t of manure, so later runs were with a smaller load.
“It’s new though and I think it’s beginning to loosen up a bit and improve.”
The Luxxum’s transmission is more sophisticated than the Waltons require and Daniel said that the gear-matching function which automatically selects an appropriate gear for the travel speed and engine revs, sometimes drops to a lower gear than he would like, taking the operator by surprise when pulling away.
Cab suspension is described as very effective and the ride is comfortable, despite David’s initial fears that the relatively short wheelbase would make it choppy. “Its ride comfort surprised me,” he commented. “It’s a compact tractor designed to work in tight spaces but comfort on the road and in the yard is really good, and better than on our own larger tractors.”
The passenger seat is used frequently and described as adequate with enough space available to prevent the occupant obstructing the driver.
Visibility is excellent with narrow pillars creating few blind spots and being able to see right down to the trailer hitch through the rear window is an advantage. The rear quarter windows can be opened, a feature David really likes as he says they provide excellent ventilation. The air conditioning is effective but on the hottest days it struggled to compensate for the extensive glass area, he explained, adding that additional cool air outlets in the roof would be a benefit, as the Luxxum’s are all at waist level.
Cab access through the left door is good, with a large, unobstructed opening, and the right door can also be used although the control armrest has to be folded clear.
The loader performs well. “It’s a good, strong loader,” said Daniel. “Removing it was difficult at first as the new pins were tight in the brackets but it has been on and off a few times now, the pins come out more easily so it takes just a few minutes. Having the additional loader tractor is very handy. It’s not been parked up much and we bought an additional round bale grab to make the most of it for bale handling this season.” Loader control is by electronic joystick and he commented it has taken a lot of getting used to, compared with the mechanical loader control on the farm’s other tractor.
“The Luxxum’s loader is very quick with rapid cycle times and for field bale loading it was ideal,” he commented.
David said that the Luxxum is extremely fuel efficient although Adblue consumption can be higher than expected. “Features such as the economy PTO mode allow lighter tasks such as tedding at lower revs and that not only saves fuel, but also makes it much quieter for the user.”
Hydraulic performance is described as good and setting it to suit the application is easy.
For yard work the compact size and excellent visibility make the tractor ideal, although with the largest tyre option fitted, the turning circle is compromised.
Daily checks are all easy to carry out and take just a few minutes, said David, adding that the engine oil dipstick is easy to access despite the loader brackets.
Overall the Luxxum continues to impress, with its excellent visibility, good ride and quiet, comfortable cab. The level of technology available through the Multicontroller armrest and display is more than required by the farm for most tasks and all the main users agree that this means they aren’t familiar with the menus and settings available, so don’t always make the most of the tractor’s performance.
“Because we tend to rely on only two main tractors most of the time, we have really noticed the difference having the addition of the Luxxum this year,” explained David. “The drought has created additional work, including carrying round bales out to the field to supplement the grass, and without the Luxxum there would have been much more running around between the farms for our own two tractors. Having it has been really handy.”