Frequent reliability issues affecting his previous tractor brand caused Norfolk contractor David Reynolds to try his first Fendt. Now he runs two, and is certain he won’t need to look anywhere else in future. David Williams reports.
David and his son Alan offer a contracting service to industrial businesses and farms close to their Attleborough base in Norfolk. Trading as DNA Reynolds Services Ltd the business specialises in transporting and applying slurry and waste liquids, but also offers grass mowing and general cultivations as well as transport of soil and rubble.
David started the liquid waste handling business after he gave up pig farming. “Having dealt with slurry for many years it was an obvious service to offer and I had the equipment and experience to transport and apply liquids efficiently and safely,” he explained. “I kept costs down by operating locally and rented land to apply the waste within the local area.”
Because the liquid waste is transported by road and applied to fields throughout the year, powerful tractors were needed, capable of towing the heavy tankers safely. They also had to be capable of handling heavy draft implements. Where ruts were created a plough and heavy subsoilers were used to rectify damage, leaving the land fit for cropping. “Being able to rent land for application depends on us leaving it in excellent condition after we have travelled on it, and if we leave it compacted and rutted then the owner is unlikely to rent to us again. We designed our own subsoilers and cultivators to repair subsoil where necessary and have an excellent relationship with farmers in the area,” he said.
When he started his business, David considered which tractors might suit him and spoke with other users, then tried several and was impressed by one in particular. “I got on very well with it and bought nine similar over the years, eight from one local dealer. We need about 300hp for the 5,000-gallon tankers and the subsoilers, but it’s not just about pulling the load – we need to know we can stop safely too,” he explained, “so when we started suffering repeated braking issues despite our tanker running gear being checked and serviced every three months, we had to look elsewhere.”
Alan joined the family business in 2015, having worked for several years for an agricultural contractor who was heavily involved in maize growing and harvesting. “I was driving Fendt 936s, and was impressed from the start by their performance, comfort and reliability,” he said. “When I came home I tried to persuade my father to change to Fendt but the higher purchase cost was considered an issue so an additional tractor of the brand he used was purchased, equipped with a second 5,000-gallon tanker, and the business grew.”
Most liquid handled and applied is non-hazardous but, even so, strict licensing rules apply. “When Dad started the business things were far more relaxed but now training and certification requirements are quite complex so waste liquid handling has become a specialist activity,” commented Alan. “Building the business not only required investment in the new tractor and tanker, but also in full training and certification so that companies whose waste we handle and the farmers who rent us the land for application know everything is done properly and that we are fully accountable,” he added.
With the local dealer and manufacturer unable to resolve the repeated braking problems which now affected both tractors, David and Alan became concerned about road safety and demonstration tractors were borrowed from dealers in the area to identify a suitable replacement, including a Fendt 828 from local dealer Thurlow Nunn Standen (TNS). “I always considered the previous tractors ideal for draft work,” commented David, “but had to admit that the Fendt was even better and its braking performance on the road was excellent. None of the other tractors we tested came close for comfort or ease of use.”
Local area sales manager for TNS based at the Attleborough depot, Jolly Bullen, loaned the demonstration tractor and came up with an acceptable deal to supply a new Fendt 930 Vario to the contractors. “Fendt tractors have an excellent reputation for reliability and efficiency and I knew that David and Alan would be impressed by the levels of performance and comfort,” he explained.
A Fendt 930 Vario was ordered and delivered in early September 2017. “We both really liked it, so much so that rather than spreading the work between the 2 tractors the Fendt did almost all of it,” said Alan. “We tend to average approximately 1,200–1,500hrs worked per year on each tractor, but the 930 has already clocked up more than 2,000 hours just 15 months after delivery. We usually update tractors every 3 years, although that changed to every 2 more recently because of the braking issues. A second Fendt was ordered last year and delivered in early September, exactly a year after the first. “I wanted something slightly smaller and lighter so bought an 828 Vario, which we felt would complement the 930,” explained David. “It’s been excellent but with hindsight I wish we had bought a second 930 as it is just as easy to drive on the road, gives a smoother ride and carries out lighter tasks just as well. It doesn’t feel like a large tractor.”
The 930 is a ProfiPlus with VarioGuide GPS guidance and automatic steering and the 828 is a more basic Profi version, but was specified with front linkage and PTO for mowing. Both were purchased with 3-year, 3,000-hour warranties and fixed price service plans allowing accurate cost budgeting.
The Fendts have been reliable with only minor teething problems quickly dealt with by the TNS Attleborough service team. “Phillip Goss in the workshop is excellent, and our first point of contact although no matter who we speak with they are all very helpful,” complimented David.
Asked about fuel consumption, David said this isn’t precisely monitored, but isn’t an issue as the tractors work hard. “The fuel they use matches the work we ask them to do, so we are happy with it,” he said.
The company sometimes applies digestate from a local AD plant with a higher nitrogen content requiring more precise application. “Everything is weighed in and out so we know exactly how much liquid is applied and at what rate,” said Alan. “The Fendt 930 with its GPS guidance is used whenever possible to ensure optimal bout matching and the CVT transmission means we can precisely achieve any travel speed needed for the required application rate.”
Most slurry is spread on the surface as it is non-hazardous, but an injector can operate at the rear of the tanker when required. Cultivations are carried out using a Cousins Patriot 5-leg subsoiler with two sets of discs and a rear razor roll, or a Cousins V-Form 5-leg subsoiler also fitted with a rear razor roll. The razor roll was selected in preference to a standard rear press which was found to bulldoze soil ahead of it when working in especially dry conditions on some of the light, sandy soils which dominate farms locally.
Other cultivation equipment includes Maschio 3m discs, two 6m heavy-duty spring tine cultivators and a 6m chisel plough. “We used to plough everywhere, but this was sometimes an issue with the wide tyres used to reduce compaction. Using subsoilers we can leave the soil looser if required, adjust the discs to level the surface and use the rear press to consolidate when needed, and landowners tend to be pleased with the way fields are left.”
“We are very pleased with our decision to move to Fendt tractors and with the support from Jolly and the TNS Attleborough team so far,” added David. “The comfort and ride is excellent, controls are simple and easy to use after just a short while getting used to them, and they feel safe and secure on the road.
“They cost a little more than other brands we looked at, but I think you get what you pay for and I can’t fault them. We hope that when it’s time to update them they will have held their value well, making the ownership and running costs reasonable. We certainly don’t intend looking at any other brands or dealers when we change next time,” he concluded.