In search of better visibility from the cab, one Yorkshire farmer has gone from a rigid chassis handler to a pivot-steer machine, choosing a German-built Schaffer model over more traditional choices. Geoff Ashcroft reports.
With 400 head of cattle to feed on a daily basis, plus bedding and mucking out, beef farmer Mark Green needs reliability, productivity and performance from all his machinery.
But the one he relies on most is the farm’s Schaffer 9640T pivot-steer telescopic handler. It is one of two materials handlers used at the 120-hectare (300-acre) Laund House Farm, Wigginton, York, the other is a compact Kramer Allrad 750T.
Mark says: “We are now on our third Schaffer handler. We have run them for about 10 years since replacing a John Deere 3200 rigid chassis machine. Our primary objective was to improve visibility when working in and around livestock buildings, and having a high seating position with a pivot-steer handler was the way forward for us.”
The farm’s first Schaffer was a 9330T, followed several years later by a 9630T, both supplied by J. Wood and Son, Kirbkymoorside. The current model arrived in July 2019 and was bought as an ex-demo unit from local dealer Brockhills of Yorkshire, Thirsk.
“We really wanted a new model, but the uncertainty of supply over Brexit meant we were looking at a potential nine-month wait. So this one arrived with 500 hours on the clock and it has now done 1,300 hours. We will cover about 1,500-1,700 hours each year with the Schaffer.”
However, buying its third Schaffer in succession was by no means a done deal. The farm simultaneously demonstrated the 9640T against a JCB TM320, side by side, to make sure it was getting the best machine for its requirements.
“It was a useful comparison and interesting to see working against the market leader. While there was little to separate them on price, we noticed quite a difference in build quality and our impression was the Schaffer had more strength and robustness in all the right areas.
“You only need to look at wheel nuts – five on the JCB and 10 on the Schaffer. The JCB headstock looked thinner and weaker too, where the Schaffer looked better able to withstand harder work,” he adds.
And son Edward agrees, saying: “We needed to make a comparison to confirm we were still buying the right machine for our needs. And the Schaffer continues to improve – this latest model also has a much heavier centre-pivot joint than the last one. Okay, it is a beefier machine, but all those little things inspire confidence that product developments are taking place.”
Both agreed that while the JCB offered the larger cab, the Schaffer’s relocated air conditioning controls, moved from the lower part of the front windscreen to the right-hand side of the cab, was an improvement they wanted. LED lights, a leather seat and leather-trimmed steering wheel added to operator comfort and convenience for the German-built machine.
Edward says: “The JCB did have a neat additional mirror on the front right-hand mudguard for road work. It was an idea we adopted, but rather than stop at one, we fitted a pair on the 9640T to improve visibility down both sides of the chassis to the sides of the rear wheels.
“This adds a lot to the overall scope of visibility from the cab. And with a sloping engine canopy at the rear, you are not blindsided like a rigid machine. Overall, it is quite a good package.”
He says JCB’s integration of the chassis oscillation point with the centre-pivot created a feeling neither felt they could get used to.
“With all these little differences, we chose to stick with red,” says Edward.
“The biggest trade-off is probably the awkward handbrake position, which requires reaching down between the right-hand armrest and the console to operate. It could be better.”
Schaffer’s 9640T offers a 4.2-tonne lift capacity, a straight tipping load of 5.3t, a maximum forward reach of 2.75 metres, and a maximum lift height of 5.2m – helped by an operating weight which can be ballasted from 8.4t to 9.7t.
Power comes from a 136hp Deutz four-cylinder diesel engine, driving all four wheels through a hydrostatic transmission – or optional dual clutch transmission. A 40kph road speed is available on either version.
Edward says: “The demo model had a hydrostatic transmission which gave a good level of controllability. And it is proving to be light on diesel consumption, particularly with the Eco mode enabled. When we put the Schaffer and JCB head to head, the 9640T was using about five litres less fuel per hour. This is a big saving over a three-year, 5,000-hour ownership period.
“While it does not have the biggest fuel tank, the Schaffer will easily do a day’s work without needing a top-up. And with steel fabricated diesel and hydraulic tanks behind the rear wheels, both add to the counterweight effect.”
At Laund House Farm, the 9640T handles the lion’s share of materials handling duties. Given its 1,500-hour minimum annual workload, the handler will make the most of its three-year/3,000-hour warranty and then be replaced, keeping a frontline handler in tip-top condition.
However, there are times when the family needs access into tighter spaces. It is why the farm also runs an older Kramer Allrad 750T, which is used in the two Roundhouse livestock buildings.
“The circular buildings are great for cattle and ventilation, but less-so for larger machinery. And should there ever be a problem with the Schaffer, then we still have a loader that can fill our 28-cube feeder wagon,” says Edward.
Attachment choices are historically pin and cone-derived for the Green family. In addition to a dedicated grain bucket, there is also a feed bucket, bucket-brush, muck grab, pallet forks, bale spike and a Spread-a-Bale attachment – the latter can be telescoped over feed barriers to reach into buildings when bedding cattle.
“With a generous lift capacity and a telescopic boom, the 9640T handles the Spread-a-Bale with ease,” he adds.
But it is not all livestock work at Laund House Farm. While 15ha (37 acres) provides grass crops for hay, the remaining 105ha (159 acres) plays host to combinable crops, giving rise to a ready source of straw, albeit baled by a local contractor.
Drill filling, fertiliser spreading and lorry loading are also tasks that the 9640T caries out.
Mark says: “We do not pull trailers with the Schaffer, but it offers great strength and performance for everything else, particularly for bale stacking and loading trailers.
“Our experience has proved that while there is a good choice of pivot steer machines now available, we have been pleasantly surprised by residual values from this lesser-known brand.
“Add to that some great backup and servicing from our local dealer and we have little reason to move away from Schaffer. It has become a machine we rely on.”