After many years using competitor brand tractors, an Essex-based farming and contracting business purchased its first Fendt, from Thurlow Nunn Standen. The decision proved so successful that when the Fendt was due for updating another Fendt followed, and now a third new Fendt has been supplied by the dealer, as well as a second-hand tractor of the same brand.
Trading as D McNair Ltd, Jim McNair farms at Mistley, near Manningtree, and provides an agricultural contracting service to farms in the area. Potatoes are the main crop, grown for a contract with Walkers within an extended rotation on the family’s own farm as well as on rented land. Other crops include wheat, flax, and spring barley, and some of the owned land is rented out to onion growers and for turf production.
Field operations for potato growers are the main contracting activity, but additional services include fertiliser applications, cultivations and a small amount of spraying. There are three tractors on the farm’s own fleet, with additional machines hired in as needed. “We bought our first Fendt in 2017,” explained Jim. “We used another brand previously, but when breakdowns occurred under warranty we were asked to pay an excess charge on every invoice, so we looked at what else was available.”
Versatile for year-around use
Among the brands considered was Fendt, represented by long-established dealer Thurlow Nunn Standen (TNS). The 700 Vario-series appealed for its versatility. The line-up included models with the required power output, and a low unladen weight made them ideal for transport, top work and crop applications, but with ballast added and large tyres they were also suitable for heavier field work. This meant that they could be used throughout the year for tasks including potato land preparation and harvesting, as well as transport, estate maintenance, top work and primary cultivations.
A 718 Vario (186hp max) was selected to replace the existing tractor, with the reassurance of an extended manufacturer warranty and a service contract. “We didn’t even have a demonstration before placing our order,” commented Jim. “Previous experience operating Fendts on another farm meant I was familiar with the performance and build quality, and we also liked the idea of a full manufacturer warranty which allowed us to fix the ownership costs and budget accurately. We knew that the TNS team would look after us too.”
The Fendt 718 Vario performed as well as expected, working almost 3,000 hours in two years before being replaced by a more powerful 724 Vario (246hp max). Jim had taken on additional contracting work and he wanted the extra power to operate wider implements and increase work rates.
“No other brands were considered as the Fendt 718 Vario was so good,” confirmed Jim. “The reliability was superb, the running costs were low, and everyone liked it. The high retained value also meant that the cost to upgrade to the new 724 Vario was surprisingly reasonable.”
Confidence in brand
An older Fendt 820 Vario has also joined the fleet. “We needed a powerful and reliable tractor for tasks including topping potatoes ahead of the harvester and for occasional use when the 724 Vario is busy elsewhere. We couldn’t justify a brand-new tractor for the role
but came across the Fendt 820 Vario which was ideal. It had worked 8,000 hours but that didn’t worry us as the model is considered ‘bomb-proof’. The specification includes Vario CVT transmission which we consider essential for all our own tractors, but there is much less technology than on later machines. Working just a few hundred hours per year we expect it to hold its value well, which means ownership costs will remain extremely low.”
724 Vario Gen6
Last year, at three years old, the 724 Vario was traded in for another tractor of the same model. “Again, we didn’t consider alternative brands as we remained so happy with Fendt and back-up from the TNS team,” continued Jim. “Area Sales Representative, Kyle Tew looks after us well. His previous role as an engineer at the dealership means he knows the products inside out and understands the technology. He’s friendly and easy to deal with and we value his advice. He always answers his phone too, even out of working hours and we appreciate and value that sort of service.”
The 724 Vario Gen6 has the latest FendtONE operating concept which allows users to customise the controls to suit the task and driver preferences.
“We chose the top ProfiPlus specification as we felt it would improve our operating efficiency,” continued Jim. “It took a while to get used to the FendtONE controls after using the previous model, but they really are brilliant. For drilling with our Isobus-linked Horsch Pronto, I use the roof level terminal to control the seeder. I rarely touch it once it’s set up, but it’s easy to glance up and check that the drill is performing correctly, while the GPS guidance map remains on the dashboard screen. I use the terminal on the right-hand armrest to set up tractor functions and monitor performance.
“With Isobus-compatible implements there is no need for an additional display with extra wiring, so it’s a tidier and more convenient solution too.”
Jim added that the FendtONE multi-function joystick is comfortable and easy to use, and the second, smaller joystick is perfect for working with a side-arm mower. “It has buttons to shift between forward and reverse so I can operate the mower and tractor without swapping controls when I’m working.”
Capable and versatile
The new 724 Vario was ordered with large 650/65R42 rear tyres and 540/65R30 fronts. “With ballast added it puts the power down to the ground very effectively,” stressed Jim. “On our heavier land the semi-mounted 7f plough takes a lot of pulling, but we can add an eighth body on lighter soils, and it still pulls it without a problem. We also use a 3m, 6-leg Sumo Trio stubble cultivator and a heavy Tim Howard 5-leg subsoiler and it handles those well too. For operation with our 6m seedbed cultivator, and 4.6m Cultipress we remove the ballast and fit dual wheels all-around, and it just floats across the fields.”
The Fendt tractors have lived up to the brand’s reputation for fuel efficiency, confirmed the operators. During a full day working with a George Moate two-bed Tillerstar bed former the Fendt used an average 44 litres per hour of diesel, which they say is considerably less than other tractors they have used performing the same task.
Harry Long is one of the Fendt’s main operators. He describes the cab as quiet and comfortable, and said that the Fendt Vario transmission is easier to use than competitor CVT systems. He particularly likes the FendtONE controls. “When I’m using the Tillerstar, I have the PTO speed, engine revs and working speed all displayed on the dashboard screen. The right-hand terminal controls hydraulic oil flow rates, and I divide the display into sections, including one for the radio. Bed forming is a low-speed operation, and once the guidance lines are set-up there is little need to check the guidance map, so I allocate that to the roof screen. Having three terminals so easily adapted to each operation is a great idea.
“Another big improvement over our previous tractor is that the seat swivels further towards the rear. For potato field work that saves a lot of neck ache,” he added.
The Fendt has Fendt Connect telemetry which allows the owner and authorised users to view information including the tractor’s location and working status remotely though a smartphone app. “It’s a useful management tool as I can monitor work rates and fuel use, and it also helps me plan work schedules and check work records when invoicing customers,” said Jim. “The TNS service team can access the technical data, and they contact us when services are due to arrange a suitable time.
“Unless we are under severe pressure due to weather, we try to ensure everyone has at least one day off per week. On one occasion the TNS engineers came out on a Sunday to carry out a service to avoid interrupting our work. They really are brilliant and we couldn’t ask for more than that.”
Will a fifth Fendt follow?
Jim said he can see no reason to change brands or the supplying dealer when the 724 Vario is due for replacement in two years’ time. “The power-to-weight ratio makes it the best all-round tractor in terms of versatility, and it carries out all the tasks we need it to with ease.
“I also like the look of the latest 728 Vario Gen7 which became available last year, but whichever model we select it will almost certainly be ordered through Kyle at TNS.