Following our test drive of the Case IH Maxxum with ActiveDrive 8 transmission earlier in the year, we catch up with a customer to hear about their experiences with the machine. Geoff Ashcroft reports.
A good transmission is the making of a tractor.
This is the thought process of Gloucestershire farmer Dave Brewer, who has recently bought a Case IH Maxxum 125 Multicontroller, equipped with the firm’s latest ActiveDrive 8 transmission.
“The caveat here is cost,” he says.
“I did look at and compare CVT-type tractors from different manufacturers, and quickly ruled them out solely on price. And that quickly led me to the ActiveDrive 8 transmission.
“It is a cracking alternative to a CVT and at a much more affordable price,” he adds.
Mr Brewer runs a herd of sucker cows and followers totalling 220- head from the 65-hectare Gravel Farm he runs with his wife Laura, near Westbury on Severn. The business also provides a 12,000-head contract turkey rearing operation.
The grassland farm also sees the production of about 500 bales of hay and 1,200 bales of silage each season. And where baling and wrapping was been the domain of a local contractor, he has recently bought a combination baler wrapper to add efficiency to the system for next season.
“I do need reliability from my kit, but as I also spend most of my days working alone, there are times when I need additional comfort and operational flexibility from all my machinery,” he says.
“And that includes my tractor.”
Mr Brewer relies daily on three key pieces of machinery: a JCB 527 telehandler, his frontline Case IH Maxxum 125 tractor which also carries a Quicke loader, and an older Case IH 4230, which is used with a straw chopper.
“Having a tractor that delivers much more when it comes to comfort, convenience and performance, means those longer days in the cab are now much more enjoyable,” he adds.
His latest is not his first Case IH, as Gravel Farm has hosted a succession of red mules in recent years, and that is in part to the relationship and customer care he gets from Cotswold Farm Machinery.
“My two-year-old Maxxum 125 was a good bit of kit, but the limited steps of the old powershift transmission did make driving a chore when you needed to change through ranges,” he recalls.
“You just could not drive it smoothly. “I was not planning to swap so soon, but having looked at what the new Maxxum had to offer, the deal was done and the new tractor arrived in early 2019,” he says.
“And this new transmission eliminates all that clunkiness. It is just a joy to use, and with eight steps in each of three ranges, you will always find a suitable gear for field work, without having to jump ranges.”
The ActiveDrive 8 transmission is a twin-clutch transmission, that offers eight semi-powershift gears in three ranges.
Gears within the eight-speed powershifts are arranged so that odd-numbered gears are on one shaft and even numbered gears are carried on a second shaft.
Mr Brewer says: “A clutch pack on each shaft affords an almost uninterrupted power delivery when shifting, and cleverly, the gearbox can predict your next shift from monitoring travel speed, throttle position and engine revs, to pre select the next available gear.
“Range changes are equally as slick, and the overlap between low and medium ranges results infewer range changes. Range one covers speed up to 10.2kph, while range two has been engineered with eight speeds covering about 90 per cent of field work requirements, spanning 1.6-18.1kph.”
For road work, the transmission is designed to start in range three, and a skip-shift function allows rapid progress through the powershift speeds.
An auto-shift feature means the tractor can also progress automatically through any set of eight speeds in the field, and through all 16 speeds in the top two ranges, when on the road.
A pedal kick-down function can be used to over-ride the automation and create a downshift. Clutch-free loader work is also possible by depressing the brake pedal when coming to a stop.
“Brake to stop is absolutely brilliant,” he says. “I do not have to reach for the clutch pedal, so the tractor is much easier to drive, and offers precision when hitching up or using the loader.”
Mr Brewer reckons the loader is used about 25 per cent of the time, leaving the farm’s telehandler to manage the brunt of materials handling duties.
“My telehandler takes care of most materials handling tasks, but having a loader on the tractor is both cost-effective and practical,” he says.
“The tractor and loader is great for hauling bales on a trailer, where the JCB is less suited to towing a loaded trailer – more so if I have to leave the farm to collect bales.
“The tractor wins on comfort, hands-down, and I have now got a 50k gearbox,” he adds. “It is quicker and more comfortable than my telehandler, and it will clock up 4,000-500 hours/year.”
He adds that time is of the essence when Gravel Farm’s poultry sheds are emptied, cleaned and refilled for the next batch of turkeys.
“If my telehandler suffers a puncture or a breakdown, for example, I am not completely stuck – the tractor and loader will keep me on schedule,” he says.
The only downside is the visibility to the loader’s carriage, despite an increase in wheelbase, which has reduced manoeuvrability compared to the previous model.
“Trying to look over the Maxxum’s bonnet and through the loader arms when swapping attachments is really poor,” he says. “Though it only takes a matter of minutes to fit or remove the loader. And that lets me remove unwanted weight when using the tractor’s front linkage. It is quite a versatile solution and it is still a very manoeuvrable tractor.”
Aside from silage and haymaking, Mr Brewer operates a sixmetre pasture rejuvenation system, that sees a front-mounted comb harrow used in combination with a rear-mounted aerator.
“The Maxxum handles this easily,” he says.
“And with such a simple transmission, it is not a tiring tractor to operate. Gear changes are effortless, and being able to set the shift point lets you adjust the power delivery. This lets you hold more revs with a loaded trailer, or change up early, for better fuel efficiency.”
Mr Brewer worked his way through a few options when choosing the tractor. These included an AFS Pro 700 touch-screen monitor, leather seat, reversing camera, fold-up front linkage and in Multicontroller spec the seat-mounted armrest and joystick bring added versatility over the previous Maxxum 125 used at Gravel Farm.
“There is little difference in fuel consumption between this one and my previous Maxxum, but the new transmission is light-years ahead of what I had before,” he says. “There is so much choice in each range; and with so much functionality too.
“Gear changes are now ultra smooth and without pauses or lurches between shifts, so this tractor just keeps the power on, all the time,” he says.