James Rickard puts four diverse makes though their paces.
The humble loader tractor has experienced much competition from alternative materials handling machines over the years, including articulated loaders and telehandlers.
Try as they might, though, the loader tractor still remains a staple part on many UK farms.
Key attributes still make the loader tractor an attractive option - versatility and its road transport capabilities being high on that list.
Often, it is a farm’s only tractor, which has to do a bit of everything. For others, it is a support machine to a telehandler, carrying out those extra duties which are more suited to a loader tractor.
For our test, we wanted to look at the packages manufacturers offer when you order one of their tractors with a loader, and compare them against each other on-farm.
Unfortunately, we could not test them all, so for a good cross section of machines we wanted; at least one well-established manufacturer, one relative newcomer to the agricultural market, one low specification machine and one slightly less well-known contender.
To keep things fair, each manufacturer was given the same specifications for tractor and loader. We wanted a 4,000kg tractor with a 2.5m wheel-base and about 110hp.
For the loader, we wanted a four-metre maximum lift height and a maximum lift capacity of about 1,500kg.
Our criteria was realised with a Massey Ferguson 5455 equipped with an Alo 946 loader, a Kubota M108S fitted with the manufacturer’s own LA1403 loader, a Zetor Forterra 115 with a purpose-built TracLift TL 260 SLi and a Deutz Agrotron K 430 fitted with a Stoll ProfiLine FZ20.
The tractors and loaders were put through their paces on a Lancashire beef and dairy farm, carrying out day-to-day duties, including feeding, bedding, mucking-out and hauling.
This tested for the key attributes which make a good loader tractor - visibility, manoeuvrability, hydraulics, transmission and power.
Pictures by Marcello Garbagnoli.