A relatively new option for John Deere’s smaller 6R Series users is the firm’s CommandPro joystick.
To find out if it is a box worth ticking on the order form, Alex Heath visited a mixed farm on the Llyn Peninsula, North Wales.
When John Deere launched the 6250R in 2016, a large proportion of the hype around the tractor was focused inside the cab with the introduction of its CommandPro joystick.
While not a revolutionary addition, with the likes of Fendt, Case IH and New Holland already offering a multifunctional joystick, it was a revelation for many Deere users who had wished they could have such functionality.
Two years after it was initially launched, the CommandPro was filtered down the rest of the 6R range.
One of the first tractors to arrive onfarm with the new option was that of Hywel Jones, Abersoch, in the form of a 6130R, one of the smallest tractors the joystick can be fitted to.
Located on the stunning Llyn Peninsula, the tractor arrived on-farm on Saint David’s Day this year and has so far amassed almost 1,000 hours. The man in the seat for most of that workload is employee Tom Smith, who explains the reasons for choosing the optional joystick.
He says: “We are predominantly a livestock farm, with 50 suckler cows and 1,200 ewes plus followers, with all stock finished on the 182-hectare farm. In addition, 14ha of spring barley and 3ha of potatoes are grown, used for fattening the cattle and selling to the local chip shops.”
Mr Smith says after a demonstration 6130R was provided by longtime supplier Mona Tractors, the AutoPowr transmission was an obvious choice for the farm.
He says: “We had been considering a stepless transmission for a while, giving us more control over speed when spreading, for example, and we were impressed with the demonstration tractor, but I was not sold on having the small drive lever as having to operate multiple levers felt too busy.
“We looked at a Fendt 313 and New Holland T6.175, but keeping everything one colour makes working relationships with the dealer easier.”
The new tractor replaced a 6430 of the same make and is joined in the five-strong fleet by a 6110RC and a trio of 5050E cabless tractors.
The latter are used for a diversification project of boat parking and launching for the thousands of holidaymakers who flock to the North Wales coast each summer.
It was a coincidence that as the farm was looking for a replacement to the 30 Series boasting 7,000 hours that JD announced the rollout of the new joystick.
“A neighbour had a demo of the flagship 6 Series tractor, so I went to see it in action, had a couple of hours in the seat and got the 6130 ordered later in the week with the joystick,” says Mr Smith.
“As an option costing about a grand, it is expensive, but when included in the final invoice, it is hardly noticeable.”
With machines increasing in complexity, such as the farm’s Kverneland Geospread fert spinner, which is IsoBus operated and covers more than 1,000ha per year, Mr Smith found the cab of his old tractor becoming increasingly claustrophobic, with screens for GPS and IsoBus, plus the tractor’s Command Centre all cluttering up the righthand window.
Now everything runs through the tractor’s 4600 touchscreen terminal, which Mr Smith says is easy to navigate and offers all the functionality he needs.
The tractor itself is the manufacturer’s Ultimate edition, so was already well specced, but Mr Smith says the joystick has transformed the tractor.
“The added functionality it offers is excellent,” he says. “It took some time getting used to the joystick, probably about 200 hours before I was completely confident with it, but now I use it for everything.”
Mr Smith says all the implements used on the tractor have now been set to run through the joystick and its programmable buttons. This, he says, makes it comfortable to operate the machine all day and as it is the farm’s front-line tractor, this can include changing machines up to six times per day.
It took a while to input all the settings needed, and when the pressure is on, as it often is due to the coastal location, it can be a bit frustrating to perfect, says Mr Smith.
However, now the settings are stored, it is simple to change which machine is in use by going into the screen and selecting the correct implement and thus the settings which are transferred onto the joystick.
Compared to the 64, he says driving is much more pleasant, especially with jobs such as mowing or ploughing where his left leg would have had a good workout, operating the clutch all day.
He also says the tractor feels much more stable on the hills when coupled to the four-furrow reversible plough and three-metre Pottinger mower-conditioner.
He says the driving experience is different, not least because of the transmission differences, but also the way the engine performs.
“With the 6430 the engine would be revving hard and power was more instant, whereas with the 6130 the engine does not rev as hard, is quieter and ultimately more efficient. But, I do miss not having the right-hand window and listening to the throat warble of the 64.”
On the joystick, transmission and speeds are controlled, as well as the responsiveness of the stepless box.
Three settings can be chosen from, something Mr Smith says is useful when swapping between the road and fieldwork.
He says pushing the stick all the way forward on the road results in impressively fast acceleration. His only grouse at the moment is occasionally going downhill with the sprayer or trailer.
“The transmission seems to let go, even when pulling back on the stick. Not a massive issue, as the brakes are used, but a bit annoying,” he says.
However, he has been assured there is a software update to fix the issue.
Concluding, Mr Smith says having everything needed on the joystick to complete jobs around the challenging landscape the farm occupies allows him to focus on doing the task in hand to a higher standard and in a less tiring manner.