The North Yorkshire winners of a Case IH Luxxum tractor and loader handed back their prize in late November as the 6-month loan period came to an end. David Williams reports.
Glasshouses, Northallerton-based JS Walton & Co entered the Farmers Guide and Case IH competition to win six months’ use of the tractor in early spring, just as warmer weather replaced many months of hard frosts and snow on the dairy, beef and sheep farm.
The 107hp Luxxum 110 equipped with a Case IH LRZ120 self-leveling loader has proved a useful addition to the farm’s own single brand 4-tractor fleet which includes models from 45–105hp. An 80hp tractor carries out loader work between the farm’s 3 sites although most handling on the 80-cow dairy unit is performed by a modern telescopic handler.
“We have received Farmers Guide for almost seven years and it’s one of the few magazines we look out for each month,” explained farmer Daniel Walton. “We noticed the competition to win the use of the tractor and I suggested to my nephew Will Bradley that he enter on our behalf. However, we never thought we would win it so the completed form was left on a shelf, but noticed just in time by my mother who posted it.”
Dairy, beef and sheep
The family’s main farm base is at Stock Plains Farm, Glasshouses where Daniel farms with his father John, nephew Will – who also works on a nearby farm and is a student at Askham Bryan College, and Will’s father David whose main responsibility is the sheep and who also works at another farm locally. The land has been owned by the Waltons for more than 60 years and now livestock are kept at 3 sites; 2 owned and one rented. The dairy and 30ha grazing for an 80-head herd of mainly Holstein cattle with a few crosses is at Stock Plains Farm, where average rainfall totals 40 inches, ensuring plenty of grass.
Calves are kept and reared through to stores including Holstein crosses, Blue and Aberdeen Angus and sold through Otley Wharfedale and Pateley Bridge markets.
The 260-ewe sheep flock is mainly Texel Mule crosses with some Suffolks and a separate small flock of pure Texels is also kept, with grazing across the farm’s sites up to 20 miles from the base.
At the time of the Luxxum’s delivery in early May, Daniel commented that the hard winter had placed heavy demand on feed and bedding stocks and that he was looking forward to the easier summer months. However, the severe drought affecting most of the UK last summer took its toll on the usually reliable Glasshouses rainfall and by August, as grass growth slowed, the decision to supplement field grazing using this winter’s silage had to be taken and the Luxxum proved a useful addition to the fleet delivering round bales to the field while the telescopic handler remained on yard duties. The decision to feed the silage early proved successful and milk yields held up well, although limited feed stocks for this winter have meant harsher than normal decision-making regarding any cows not in calf as autumn progressed.
The Luxxum performed a wide variety of tasks since its arrival, from general yard loader work including stone flooring for a new barn, slurry spreading with the farm’s 1,500-gallon tanker, manure application through a 12t manure spreader, silage mowing and tedding, loading and carting 800–850 silage, and 250 straw bales from the fields, and other general transport work where the 40kph transmission proved useful.
In the yard, excellent visibility won consistent praise from users, including through the rear window down to the hydraulic push-out hitch when backing up to trailers. Large mirrors were described as excellent, but care was needed to avoid catching them on hedges. Lack of manoeuvrability when working in tight spaces was a criticism attributed to the large tyres fitted initially, but once the steering angle stops had been adjusted correctly the turning circle improved dramatically, making it much more user-friendly.
The Luxxum came with electro-hydraulic joystick loader control and, with the hydraulic flow rate set to match the application, this proved easy to use providing rapid cycle times. “The loader supplied was larger than we usually require and its long arms meant a rear counter-balance weight was needed,” explained Daniel. “It was very efficient though and visibility to the attachment was quite good.”
The cab layout and glass area was complimented, making the compact cab feel light and spacious. “It’s well designed and feels bigger than it really is and the space available and comfort level is good for such a small tractor,” commented Will. “The cab suspension works well and on the road at higher speeds it’s far less bouncy than other tractors I’ve used, despite the short wheelbase.”
Access through the left hand door was good, but controls restricted on the right side. Opening side windows drew compliments from all users, improving comfort in the field and allowing users to hear what was happening around them in the yard. Cab noise levels proved impressively low at all speeds, making it less tiring to use than the farm’s other tractors.
The Luxxum had a higher equipment level than Daniel had expected and he said that although everything could be programmed to suit a task, simpler controls would have been adequate and taken less time to get used to. “I found the power shuttle lever to the left of the steering column easy to use but, because the direction control can also be operated from the joystick, the shuttle lever always returns to the central position. On our other tractors a glance at the lever tells the operator if forward or reverse is selected before moving away, but there is no way of knowing on the Luxxum unless one looks at the dashboard indicator.”
Controls were described as well laid out and logically positioned, and all within easy reach. “One thing which would have helped at times is more colour coding of the selector switches,” observed Daniel. “For example the 4wd selector button is black, the same as buttons around it. It’s well positioned but when it’s needed quickly such as when travelling down a steep slope it would be useful to be able to identify it at a glance without needing to read a label.”
Automatic gear matching is also included on the Luxxum, but wasn’t used. “I can see the advantage for pre-selecting different gears for forward and reverse for headland turns in the field,” said Daniel, “but for our use where most shunting is in the yard, I preferred selecting the ratio needed myself each time.”
The Luxxum’s fuel economy impressed all of its users, compared with the farm’s other tractors. “From when it arrived we were surprised how little fuel was used whether it was working hard during a task like manure spreading or for lighter yard duties,” remarked Daniel. “Adblue consumption was fairly constant and increased slightly when working hard, but wasn’t an issue.”
Will agreed; “I did most of the grass tedding and selected economy PTO mode allowing lower engine revs which helped reduce fuel consumption, but during transport work too it used very little diesel.”
Daniel said winning the use of the tractor came at a good time for the farm. “Having another modern and capable tractor to use was a real help, particularly because of the drought making it necessary to feed in the field and increasing demands on the tractor fleet this summer,” he said. “Without it we would have spent more time hitching and unhitching other tractors from implements and trailers to free up the loader, and the telescopic handler would have been under more pressure too.”
“The Luxxum impressed us throughout the loan period with its quiet and comfortable cab and the ride quality which proved far better than expected,” added Will. “It took us a while to get the best from some of the functions available as it has a higher specification than we are used to. Reliability was excellent and the fuel economy impressed us all. I really enjoyed using it.”