When it comes to choosing a loader tractor for a small to medium livestock farm, there is plenty of choice. James Rickard puts a selection through their paces on-farm.
While we cannot test them all, we have brought together three of the most popular tractor and loader packages which manufacturers offer for comparison.
For this test we chose a Claas Axos 340 CX equipped with a MX FL80 loader, a John Deere 5100R fitted with the firm’s own 583 loader and a New Holland T5.105 fitted with a Stoll 740 TL loader.
The selection provided us with a brand new model of tractor from New Holland, which replaces its popular T5000 series, while the John Deere 5100R is an updated version of its 5020 Premium series. The Axos, however, has been around since 2008 and still shares a lot of its DNA with the old Renault Celtis tractors.
To keep things fair, each manufacturer was given the same specifications. We wanted, roughly, a 4,000kg tractor with a 2.5m wheelbase, rear counterweight and 100hp.
For the loader, we wanted them fitted with mechanical control, parallel linkage, multi-coupler, and, if possible, soft ride (boom suspension).
As these tractors, in this guise, are predominantly aimed at the small to medium livestock market, we put them through their paces on a Lancashire beef and dairy farm, carrying out day-to-day duties including feeding, bedding and straw handling, and mucking out. This tested for key attributes which make up a good loader tractor - manoeuvrability, stability, visibility, hydraulics and transmission.
The goal was to find a machine, not necessarily the most technologically advanced, but something which is up to the rigours of day-to-day materials handling, is simple to use and easy to live with.
In a class of tractor which was once renowned for being basic and low-spec, we were keen to see how technology has filtered down from bigger models, especially in the cases of the new T5 and 5R tractors. Have manufacturers made these workhorses too complicated, or have they made life easier? And should simplicity be top priority, given what these tractors are intended to do?
As you can see from the scores, it is a close battle for top spot. Each loader/tractor package had its own strengths and weaknesses.
|Claas Axos 340 CX||John Deere 5100R||New Holland T5.105|
|Total out of 100*||76||77||78|
*Note - Scores are based on loader applications only.
The Deere had its higher-spec transmission and pressure- compensating hydraulics, the Claas was beautifully simple and robust, while the New Holland impressed with its visibility and manoeuvrability.
In contrast, Deere could do with a slightly heavier tractor to fill the gap between the 5R and 6030 series, especially when it comes to handling those heavier loads. While the interior of the New Holland looks good, it could do with placing a few more controls closer to hand. The cab on the Claas needs an update - perhaps it is something we will see when the firm gets around to sorting out its engine emissions for this tractor range.
Focussing on the loaders alone, the MX fitted to the Axos really impressed us. Its svelte-like frame and neat pipework really helps with visibility, and its easy to use multi-coupler and clever locking mechanism makes getting the loader on and off a doddle. It might be one to consider, whichever tractor you choose.
John Deere’s loader is simple to fathom, but its parallel linkage impedes views and its pipework looks unsightly.
The Stoll loader on the T5 suits it well and we really like its parallel linkage, which is integrated into the loader arms. A slight let down is the over complicated attachment and detachment procedure of the loader from the tractor.
One problem all of the tractors suffer from is you cannot rest your arm while using the loader joystick - something which can literally be a pain on long days.
But ultimately it comes down to which combination of tractor and loader you would want to live with day in, day out. Aside from demanding loader duties, the tractor is probably going to have to be a decent all-rounder, with the ability to ditch the loader in favour of field work and haulage duties.
As with all purchases of this nature, dealership back-up, a good deal and resale value will go a long way in influencing the decision process. All that aside though, we would pick the New Holland T5.105.
We felt the T5 had just the right amount of technology to make life easier, but without being overly complicated, especially for the type of work this size of loader tractor will be doing.
The blue package is by no means perfect - a couple of levers in-cab could do with being re-positioned and the bulbous bonnet does impede visibility in some areas, particularly directly in front.
Its Stoll loader complimented it well, especially with good visibility over the top and down the sides of the loader arms.
The other tractors and loaders put in strong performances, though. The Deere is a handy little tractor packed with technology, and we reckon the Axos is one to watch over the next few years as emission regulations drive development.