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Materials handling: Big Cat impresses on-farm

Following its debut appearance at the 2016 Cereals event, Richard Bradley spoke to one of the first UK users of Cat’s D Series telehandler.

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Materials handling: Big Cat impresses on-farm

Armed with extensive user feedback on its previous C Series telehandlers, Caterpillar decided to freshen up its agriculture offering with its latest D Series range.

 

Comprising four ag-dedicated models, D Series machines were first shown in the UK at Cereals 2016, with Harry Horrell, of Pode Hole Farm, being the first to take delivery of one of the new loaders.

 

Based near Peterborough on the edge of the Fens, the farming enterprise comprises 607 hectares (1,500 acres) of mostly arable crops, plus 150 pedigree Beef Shorthorn cattle. The arable rotation includes wheat, oilseed rape, peas and sugar beet.

 

With a mixed workload the farm’s loaders generally clock up close to 1,000 hours per year.

 

Various telehandler brands have been used over the years, from John Deere to JCB, and most recently a Cat C Series machine.

 

Mr Horrell says: “We found the Cat well built with a heavy-duty construction. However, operating the C Series was not so good an experience.”

Arriving on-farm as the 2017 harvest was in full swing, the new TH408D was put straight to work loading and carting straw bales, handling grain and loading artic trailers and muck spreaders, plus general pallet and bucket work with the stock.

 

Feedback

 

Cat admits some of the C Series user feedback highlighted the need for visibility and control refinements. To address these, the D Series has a lowered boom pivot, redeveloped engine hood and improved mountings for the new cab. New axles and a Stage 4-compliant engine also feature.

 

In its top-spec guise, the 4.4-litre engine in Mr Horrell’s telehandler boasts a 20hp power hike to offer 142hp.

 

While the two smaller loaders in the range feature a hydrostatic transmission, Mr Horrell’s 408D and the higher reach 3510D feature Cat’s in-house made powershift transmission, providing six forward and three reverse speeds.

 

“The powershift transmission has plenty of get up and go, which is important as our gateway is on a busy road. With a block of land 25 minutes away, we run a dolly trailer to make use of the loader’s 12-tonne towing capacity, taking seed and fertiliser out to the drill along with bale carting duties.

 

“The new cab and mountings have made things smoother on the road and the new braked axles provide decent stopping force.”

 

With its new design the cab is much more refined than the previous C Series machine, says
Mr Horrell. The new joystick is a major upgrade, he says.

 

Previously, control of direction, boom extension and auxiliary functions were all via your thumb, restricting the tasks you could do simultaneously. The shuttle switch is now mounted under the joystick to remedy this.

“The new cab layout is a huge improvement. We like the simple touches, such as having separate switches for the two rear auxiliary lines and pickup hitch, without the need for diverter switches.”

 

Unlatching the hitch is also relatively simple and ‘does not require the talents of a contortionist’ unlike some other machines, says Mr Horrell.

 

“Another big improvement is the cab filter is no longer under the floor mat, and it is accessed under the steering column. Unlike the old loader, which could not keep up on a warm summer day, the D Series’ air-conditioning has to be turned down to stop you getting a chill.”

 

Mr Horrell’s loader was specced with Cat’s advanced screen which, along with displaying detailed greasing charts and a reversing camera, allows the operator to customise the two loader set-ups.

 

“Having two hydraulic modes is handy, especially when we are loading wagons with grain.

 

“Joystick sensitivity can be altered, so bucket dump is slowed right down to fill trailers with greater accuracy.”

With three different operators on-farm and a wide variety of work, the loader’s simple jump on and drive style is an important factor when choosing a replacement machine.

 

At six-feet tall, Mr Horrell says he could struggle with views to the offside of the C Series machine. But now even his shorter stockman has ample visibility on the D Series, thanks to its lowered boom and new sloping engine hood.

 

There are a few niggles. Under the hood the hydraulic oil cooler has taken the place of a stowage tray, previously used for storing tow chains. Lack of storage space is also an issue in the cab.

 

“Along with the lack of external storage for chains or straps, the compartment in the cab is not large enough for a decent drinks bottle. I would also like to see the manufacturer try to fit a cool box in the cab for hot days when bale carting.

 

Overall, by improving the areas which needed work, while retaining robust build characteristics, Mr Horrell believes Cat just about has the D Series sorted.

TH408D specifications

  • Engine: Cat 4.4-litre, four cylinder, 142hp
  • Transmission: Powershift, six by three speeds, 40kph
  • Lift capacity: 4,000kg
  • Maximum lift height: 7.6 metres
  • Operating weight: 8,500kg
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