In 1959, the first Claeys MZ combine harvesters took to the harvest fields of the UK for the first time. Sixty years later the Claeys combine family, which later became New Holland, retains a strong reputation for performance and reliability. Many older machines are still in operation and David Williams visited a Hertfordshire farm where a 1977 example is in regular use and its owners have no intention of updating.
By the 1960s Claeys was one of the largest European combine manufacturers. The company was taken over by Sperry New Holland in 1964, changed its brand name to Clayson in 1967 and merged with Ford in 1986. The New Holland name gained extra prominence from 1991 when Ford was acquired by Fiatagri and New Holland became the recognised agricultural brand for the full range of combines, tractors and balers.
During the 1970s New Holland 8070 and 8080 combines were a common sight on larger arable farms and Richard ‘Jim’ Harvey who farmed at Bury Green, near Ware bought his ex-demonstration 8070 in 1977, replacing 2 smaller models including a New Holland 1540 with a 14ft header and an older New Holland 122 with a smaller 10ft header. “My late father ran the 2 combines on 2 farms,” explains Michael Harvey who owns and runs the farm now with his wife Gill, and assisted by their daughter Ella.
When the 8070 was purchased from local dealer Braceys of Benington, Herts its extra capacity over the 2 previous machines was needed to harvest 245ha of crops including wheat, barley, oats, beans, linseed and peas and the 15ft header was considered essential to achieve the work rates needed. “Our family dealt with Braces a lot for much of the machinery and received good service,” explains Michael. “It was convenient being close to the farm too.”
New Holland 8070
Engine – Ford 6cyl, 5.945-litre turbo
Power – 140hp
Transmission – 3-speed
Fuel tank capacity – 300 litres
Std cutter head – 4.57m
Since the 1990s the Harvey family has reduced the area farmed to 100ha of owned land which includes 24ha of grassland for horses at the farm’s other main enterprise – a thriving livery yard.
Arable crops on the predominantly heavy land include wheat and barley, mainly later maturing varieties which means harvest in a typical year starts in late August, and the aim is to finish within 10 days. “We rely on the combine to harvest our crops at the optimum time for a quality sample when moisture content is ideal for storage, so it’s looked after well, kept under cover and serviced each winter,” explained Michael. “We have never had any major problems with it and unlike modern combines if our 8070 does need attention; it’s likely to be belts, chains or a bearing – all of which are easily fixed on farm.”
Brand and dealer loyalty
Michael has a strong loyalty to Ford and New Holland products, partly due to their proven reliability on the farm and also because of the back-up which has always been available from the local Benington dealer depot, formally Braceys and later part of Ernest Doe & Sons. Other New Holland products operated include 2 tractors – a TM130 and an 8340, both very reliable.
“We have considered changing the combine but then the obvious upgrade would be to move to a wider header, but that wouldn’t fit down the narrow lanes locally,” Michael said. “If we were to update then obviously it would be to another New Holland,” he added.
Asked about parts availability, Michael confirmed that anything required has been available almost immediately and the only complication is that parts books and microfiches have to be used for part number identification rather than the quicker modern computer-based parts systems. “Our usual contact is Ernest Doe Bennington area sales manager Rob Freestone, and he lives locally and knows our machines well. If anything is needed he helps identify it at the depot and then sometimes delivers it after work which is a great help. The service from everyone there is excellent.”
The Harvey’s combine achieves average work rates of approximately 9ha per day, but it could achieve more if Michael wasn’t also transporting grain from the field to the farm store.
“It does what we need it to, and it’s very easy to set up for a great sample with minimum losses,” he added. “With straw walkers rather than a rotary separator the straw is in good condition for baling too, and there is really no point in us updating it unless something major goes wrong.”