For one Angus farmer, finding a tractor with enough power to do all the tasks required on a mixed farm, yet tread lightly enough to preserve the valuable grassland, has been realised with a machine from John Deere.
Alex Heath finds out how it is performing...
With 53 hectares and 50 pedigree Aberdeen-Angus cattle to look after in the rolling Angus countryside, Geordie Soutar’s biggest desire when replacing his main workhorse was manoeuvrability and a feather weight footprint.
He says: “We farm on some particularly stiff land, most of which is down to grass.
“The tractor must be light in order for us to get on the field to get the grass off when it is ready, and, where we are, the window of opportunity is tight.
“Remediation work correcting compaction from heavy tractors is time-consuming and unnecessary for us.”
His answer has come in the form of John Deere’s 5125R, a 135hp, 4.5-tonne ‘pocket rocket’, in his words.
Having replaced a 10-year-old Claas Arion 510, he says the difference in performance has impressed him, being a smaller neater package, but packing considerably more punch.
Having considered a small chassis 6R model from the same manufacturer, he decided the extra size and weight was unjustifiable.
The farm itself is relatively flat, so Mr Soutar is not particularly worried about needing weight for traction on slopes.
Instead, he prefers the tractor to leave minimal compaction, to preserve his rotational grassland.
Instances of the lack of weight being an issue are few and far between, but can occur when baling straw on neighbouring farms, which can test the guts of the tractor, while pulling his 2017 JD F441R round baler he says.
However, as he and a trusted part-time worker are the only ones driving it, picking a sensible route for him is the best course of action.
The nimbleness of the tractor is also replicated in its tiny turning circle.
While small fields may help the management of cattle grazing, they are less than ideal for the increasing size of farm machinery, but Mr Soutar says the new tractor’s turning circle of 3.75 metres is excellent, and handy for squeezing through tight gateways.
Other work the little tractor carries out is ploughing, using a four-furrow reversible Dowdeswell after potatoes and beans which the farm lets out in rotation each year.
He says so far it has manned the plough without any problem, with just 400kg keeping the nose down.
It also runs the farm’s 3m power harrow combi-drill, again without issue.
The 5125R was specced with the manufacturer’s Command8, eight speed powershift transmission.
However, it is not a conventional powershift, in that the ranges are selected via buttons, and can include the top three ranges, B,C and D grouped together to speed up shifting.
There is also an automatic shifting feature which Mr Soutar says makes operating the tractor near effortless and delivers good pulling performance.
No stranger to the green and yellow marque, Mr Soutar also owns a 2006, two-wheel drive 6020. In mint condition, he says this tractor has had very few issues and helped to sway his decision to go for the new 5R.
With the 20 series having come from Netherton Tractors, he had built a relationship with the dealer, and was confident that his new mainline tractor would have the service and backup he desired.
The dealer already had the model in stock when Mr Soutar enquired about one, and had all the niceties he required, including the high-spec transmission.
It came with mechanical spool levers mounted on the console over the rear right wheel arch, rather than the company’s premium CommandArm.
Mr Soutar says the omittance of the hi-spec armrest is not missed, saying the layout on the console is neat and easy to navigate, with the feeling given through the mechanical levers superior to electrical control.
On the front righthand pillar, the tractor’s essential information can be viewed on a sleek looking portrait screen. Control of this is through a rotary knob on the control console, with a series of quick access buttons.
Most of the tractor’s parameters are changed through here also, which Mr Soutar says is relatively straightforward to use.
The tractor has so far covered just under 300 hours, and Mr Soutar admits the farm does not put massive hours on its tractors each year.
However, reliability and comfort when in the seat is critical, especially when making hay for the cows’ winter diet.
Being in the north east of Scotland, the weather is changeable, so the farm cannot afford down time when the pressure is on, explains Mr Soutar.
He says the tractor has been reserved on its fuel use, better than his previous mainline machine, and the fact it is not fitted with any AdBlue system is a bonus in his eyes, as it is one less thing to have to think about, especially considering none of his other machines require it.
The 40kph tractor is plenty fast enough on the road, says Mr Soutar, who pulls a 14-tonne trailer in the winter fetching turnips and carrots from local farms to feed the cattle.
He says the hydraulic brakes are sufficient to bring the set-up to a halt when needed, and the tractor handles the trailer well, despite its small stature.
While Mr Soutar is impressed with the finish inside the cabin, he has encountered a few niggles, exclusively concerning the pto.
Evidently a safety feature, he says when he gets off the seat, the pto automatically cuts out, which while commendable for operator safety, can be annoying if trying to suss out where a problem is coming from without the implement running.
Likewise, there is no pto switch on either of the rear mud guards, which when lining up shafts and checking around the machine is an inconvenience.
However, Mr Soutar admits these are small grievances.
Overall, he has been suitably impressed with the little tractor’s performance to date.
The power to weight ratio sets it apart from any other tractor on the market, he believes, and having a good relationship with his local dealer is also beneficial.
Mr Soutar says the tractor is set to stay on the farm for as long as the Claas which preceded it, and does not envisage any major problems.
He concludes it has just enough technology on it, but with a good dose of mechanical simplicity, comfort and power without the bulk of most other models.