Few tractor buyers stray from their preferred brand when purchasing replacements. But for one Buckinghamshire dairy farm, the value of a New Holland T6 equipped with Dynamic Command transmission was too good to overlook.
Geoff Ashcroft reports...
The importance of buying a premium product and backing it up with good customer care is a point not lost on the Lacey family, based at Bolter End Farm, near High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
After all, the family has been practising what it preaches since 2003, when it opened an on-farm processing and bottling plant to supply about 7,000 litres of milk each week to local independent retailers.
Since then, the farm has extended its repertoire to supply milk and creams to cheese, ice cream and chocolate manufacturers, along with developing a range of farm produce sold under the Laceys’ Family Farm brand through its on-farm shop and butchery.
“It is all about delivering top quality for our customers,” explains Ed Lacey, who alongside his twin brother Will, represents the seventh generation of Lacey family at Bolter End Farm.
"The twins farm in partnership with their father Daniel and uncle Gideon, where a 130-cow pedigree Guernsey herd provides the high-quality milk it needs for the retail business.
The quality ethos cascades through the farm’s tractor fleet too, which has recently seen a New Holland T6.145 with Dynamic Command transmission replace one of the farm’s three John Deere tractors.
Ed says: “We have no complaints with John Deere and our local dealer, Farol. But this recent experience has proved that John Deere is no longer the number one choice when it comes to choosing a quality tractor.”
The shift in colour followed a planned replacement of one of the farm’s older, lesser powered Deeres. Under the spotlight to go was a nine-year-old JD 6330 or a five-year-old JD 6430 – both equipped with loaders.
The Laceys’ frontline tractor is a JD 6140R with PowerQuad transmission, used for a wide variety of field and yard work, including cultivations, mowing and trailer duties at the 180-hectare farm. Ed reasoned that upping power would keep options open by having two well-matched front line power units.
He says: “Another 6140R would have been an easy choice, but the cost to change was pushing us towards a second-hand 6140R or considering a lower-spec, but new, 6130M.”
Having a T6 on demonstration from local New Holland dealer PA Turney during silage-making threw a curve ball at the Buckinghamshire farmer. While the farm could not try a direct horsepower match for its 6140R, the T6.175 demo tractor was identical in size to the 6140R-rivalling T6.145.
Ed says: “I really was not that excited, and I did not expect to like it. We all cab-hop and it is important that none of us need to learn a new operating system all over again. But this concern soon disappeared, as the convenience and comfort on the New Holland proved no different.”
The T6.175 demo tractor arrived as Ed was mowing with the 6140R. So the opportunity to put the New Holland in front of the farm’s JD 530 trailed mower conditioner was an opportunity not to be missed.
New Holland’s Dynamic Command transmission slots in between the existing 16-speed Electro Command and the continuously variable Auto-Command transmissions.
Offering eight semi-powershift gears in three ranges, Dynamic Command is a twin-clutch transmission.
Gears within the eightspeed powershifts are arranged so that odd-numbered gears are on one shaft and even-numbered gears on a second shaft.
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, says Ed, and the overlap between low and medium ranges will result in fewer range changes.
“Clutch-free loader work is possible by depressing the brake pedal when coming to a stop, and auto-shifting functions let you glide through the transmission without having to intervene when range-changes are needed.”
What the farm noticed while mowing was how much better the T6 was with fuel efficiency.
“We were burning 16 per cent less fuel than the 6140R,” he says.
“And that was quite an eye opener. Cost to change and depreciation were also key considerations, and given that our older JD 6330 tractor spends its days on the feeder wagon, I figured the younger JD 6430 tractor with its higher value, was the one that should be replaced.”
He says that when the cards were on the table, there was little difference in price between choosing the T6.145 or a JD 6130M.
“But they are worlds apart in specification and that makes the New Holland far better value for money,” he says. “A lot of the ‘must-have’ spec on a Deere is now an extra cost option. The only option we added to the T6 was the shuttle-park function to replace a handbrake lever. Even the work lights are LEDs.
“The Dynamic Command gearbox was something of a revelation,” he says. “Smooth, easy to use, and no need to mess around finding the right range with good overlaps on the powershift.
“We spend a lot of time getting in and out of cabs around the yard and the convenience of a shuttle park lever on the steering column also outweighs yanking the PowerQuad range lever in and out of its park position. Ultimately, I could not find a reason not to buy it.”
Equipped with a 760TL loader, the Laceys’ T6.145 has so far covered about 150 hours, and the honeymoon period is well and truly over. So is the tractor all it was meant to be?
Ed says: “It is not perfect, but it does everything the 6140R does and more. Visibility is good to the loader and loader speed is impressive too.
“I also like the sliding headrest which moves out of your way when you twist around in the seat to hitch up a trailer for example,” he says. “I would say it is a great match against the 6140R.”
He says that the loader’s palmsized joystick control is easy to use and also has some transmission controls built-in.
“It would be ideal if this joystick could carry the shuttle function, then I would not need to take my left hand off the steering wheel,” he adds.
“The cab is a great place to sit, although I have changed the control box mounting bracket for one that keeps the right-hand window much less obstructed.”
The farm chose the 40kph, 24-speed Dynamic Command transmission and, with little road work, felt the extra cost of a 50kph transmission was a step too far.
“We do not go far enough to warrant the extra speed, but the short road journeys we do have revealed that New Holland does not yet fit self-cancelling indicators,” he says.
One area of the T6 that perhaps needs a little more finesse is the electric parking brake.
“It makes quite a loud noise when being applied,” he says.
“It might just be the way they are, but I would like to judge it against another identical model. But with a five-year, 5,000-hour maintenance and warranty package, it is one of those issues that will be looked at along the way.
“And such a package lets me know what every hour on the clock will cost, giving me fixed costs of ownership.”