Cambridgeshire farmers, John and Nick Lee were so pleased with their first Fendt 300 Vario-series tractor and the back-up from Thurlow Nunn Standen Ltd (TNS), that they went on to buy a second, similar model within just 18 months.
“We always regarded Fendt as the best tractor brand but doubted we could justify the higher initial purchase cost,” explained Nick, who farms in partnership with his father, John. “I drove an 800 Vario-series belonging to a friend when I helped on his farm and was very impressed by the whole package, so we borrowed a demonstration 415 Vario from TNS to try on our own farm. It was a lovely tractor, and the whole operating concept was like the bigger model but the difference in cost between the Fendt and competitor brands seemed too much at that time.”
Livestock breeding enterprise
Trading as AJ & NJ Lee, the Lee family farms at West Fen, near Ely, only a 10-minute drive from the dealer’s Littleport depot. Cattle are the main enterprise and a successful commercial breeding herd supplies calves for fattening to three main buyers all within the Eastern Counties. The original herd was mainly Charolais, but now Limousin bulls are used – there are five on the farm, and the 140 breeding cows plus followers are a mix of Hereford-cross, Simmental and Simmental-cross, and some Angus-cross too. “We changed breeds for easier calving and better temperament,” continued Nick. “Progeny are sold for fattening as we don’t have the shed capacity currently, but we might fatten in future.”
As well as the large livestock buildings, the Lees own 40ha of grassland and rent additional land nearby. Some provides summer grazing, and the rest produces grass for silage. Straw is sourced from nearby arable farms and baled by the Lees using a Fendt round baler.
There are two tractors – one with a front loader, plus a telehandler. Bales are loaded onto trailers and transported back to the yard by the loader tractor, then the telehandler loads them onto a wrapper, and then stacks them while the tractor and trailer return to the field.
“The Fendt 415 Vario demonstrator was borrowed in 2008, and at that time we had been using a competitor brand for quite a few years,” explained Nick. “Having decided we preferred but couldn’t afford the Fendt, we changed to another brand which remained in use until 2017 when TNS Area Sales Manager, Jim Sculthorpe, who looked after our account at that time, suggested that we considered Fendt again.
“We agreed a deal to purchase our first 313 Vario. It was a factory order and arrived in October 2018.”
The Fendt proved even better than expected and the dealer’s back-up was excellent, so when the loader tractor was due for updating 18 months later, it was also replaced by a Fendt. “We didn’t set out to buy a Fendt loader tractor and were considering other options, but when we were at the TNS depot we noticed the 313 Vario in stock. We negotiated a price with our new Area Sales Manager, Jason Jolley – who replaced Jim Sculthorpe when he retired, and took delivery of our second Fendt 313 Vario complete with a Fendt front loader.”
The Fendt Vario CVT transmission is considered an advantage for all operations. “For grass cutting, tedding, raking and baling we can optimise the travel speed to match the conditions. For loader work, very fine adjustments are possible, and shuttling between forward and reverse is incredibly smooth,” highlighted John. “We’ve always preferred tractors on reasonably large wheels, and the Fendt ride quality and comfort is amazing – especially considering the compact size and relatively short wheelbase. I’ve operated many brands of tractor, but never experienced cabs which are so quiet before.”
Ideal loader tractor
John is the loader tractor’s main operator, and he said that the Fendt design makes it especially easy to use. The ability to use the foot throttle and steering column-mounted shuttle lever leaves the right hand free for loader control, and for transport only hand control through the joystick is needed.
Fast loading cycle times are provided by the capable hydraulic system and the tractor’s tight turning circle, while the curved windscreen allows a clear view of the loader and attachment when working at maximum height.
Nick said third-party loader options weren’t considered. “We had been so impressed by our first Fendt tractor that we decided the loader had to be Fendt too. They are designed to work together so it just made sense.”
Great dealer back-up
Since the first 313 Vario tractor arrived just over four and a half years ago it has worked 1,100 hours. The loader tractor has clocked up similar hours in just three years. Both tractors were purchased with 1,500-hour, 5-year warranties, and negotiations are in progress to extend these. Both tractors have been very reliable and similar hydraulic linkage issues which affected both tractors early on were quickly rectified under warranty by the dealer. A loan tractor was provided while the work was carried out.
Servicing is carried out by the TNS team, and routine maintenance and daily checks are described by Nick as ‘minimal’. Because the use is so varied, he said it is difficult to accurately measure fuel consumption, but he and John agree that the Fendts are very economical. AdBlue consumption is also low, and the tank is filled once for every two tanks of diesel.
Because the newer of the two tractors was already in stock at the dealer, it came with an optional front linkage. “It’s handy for carrying a box of tools as well as supplies for baling, but apart from that we don’t use it a lot,” stated Nick. “There is no front PTO, but if it had one then we would probably invest in a front mower although for the area we farm it would be hard to justify the cost.
“When it’s time to upgrade the loader tractor then we will probably not bother with a front linkage again. Our previous balers needed frequent repairs in the field so having tools with us was essential, but since changing to the more reliable Fendt baler a few years ago, breakdowns have become rare.”
Pleased with decision
Asked whether the current Fendts will eventually be replaced by similar models, Nick and John confirmed that this is likely. “Everything about them is superb. They are easy and comfortable to operate and using them means we get everything done so quickly. We believe they save us money in terms of fuel consumption and maintenance, and we expect high retained values when it’s time to trade them in,” said Nick. “The back-up from the TNS team is great too, especially Jason Jolley who looks after us well and provides honest advice when we call, and engineer, Robin Sugg who is usually our first point of contact when anything service-related is needed. We remain very pleased with our decision to change to Fendt tractors supplied and looked after by an excellent local dealer.”