Back in Harvest 2022, we caught up with Tom Coxall from 5 Counties Contracting Limited to see how he was getting on with his Fendt 8T Combine.
Since then, Tom has gone onto ordering a Fendt Ideal 9T. Approximately 1,600ha of arable crops are farmed on a mix of rented and contract-farmed land by Tom Coxall, Managing Director of 5 Counties Contracting Ltd, based in Royston.
Included in 1,200ha of combinable crops are wheat, winter and spring barley, oilseed rape and Ahiflower. Maize and sugar beet are also in the rotation. The business also provides a contracting service to local farmers on a further 400ha.
The tractor fleet consists of nine Fendt tractors – a mix of 828 Vario and 939 Vario models – all supplied by local main dealer, Crawfords. “We like Fendt products, but the main reason we use them is for the aftersales service available from Crawfords,” explained Tom. “The team there is fantastic, from Nunzio Rio who looks after us when we buy anything to Shaun and Neal who run the workshop, and the mechanics Jonathan, Dan and Mark who work on our machines.”
When Tom wanted to purchase his own combine; a Fendt from Crawfords was the obvious choice.
“I looked around at what else was available, but we borrowed a demonstration Ideal 8T during the 2021 harvest and were very impressed.”
”We needed a combine capable of high work rates, to make the most of harvesting opportunities when the weather allows, and crops are in peak condition. An Ideal 9T with a 40ft header was considered, but because we rowed and baled the straw rather than chopping it, we decided that the Ideal 8T would have plenty of power for that cutting width. We also considered an Ideal 9T with a 45ft header, but the 40ft cut suits our system better and allows us to keep the tracks in the tramlines every third bout. We don’t use a Controlled Traffic Farming (CTF) system, but we do what we can to protect and improve the land we farm, and the Ideal has the biggest track system on the market with a huge footprint which reduces soil damage and compaction.”
The Ideal 8T with a 40ft SuperFlow header arrived in time for the 2022 harvest. An extra long unloading auger was specified, allowing the tractor and trailer to travel alongside the combine clear of the header while avoiding the rows of straw.
“We are really pleased with the Ideal,” confirmed Tom. “Its first harvest was completed without any breakdowns, and with fewer teething problems than we expected for a machine of this size. The few issues that did occur were rectified quickly by the dealer.”
The combine’s main operator is Graham Critchley, and Tom takes over at meal times. Both rate the Ideal’s Vision cab highly. “I’ve spent many hours operating combines, but never a Fendt,” commented Graham. “At first glance there seemed a lot to get used to, but as soon as you get in the seat it’s very user-friendly. For anyone familiar with Fendt tractors, the control layout and systems are similar.
“The Varioterminal menus are logical, and it’s easy to set the combine for each new crop using the base settings, then fine-tune the separation and cleaning systems to optimise results. The 2022 harvest produced tough conditions for separation, and we had a toothed returns plate fitted during harvest which replaced the standard flat plate. This made the returns system more aggressive, and we saw a significant increase in our work rate while also running the Cyclone cleaning fans slower. It allowed us to reduce the intensity of the rotor action as well, which improved the straw quality even further. The grain quality was fantastic and all we could see in the tank was the ‘gold stuff’.”
Real-time yield mapping
The Ideal 8T came with yield mapping in real-time, allowing operators to view accurate yield information as crops are harvested. The resulting yield maps are extremely detailed and provide valuable field and crop management information. “I can access the yield data on an iPad, download the maps and then use the information during meetings with landowners,” said Tom. “It accurately highlights areas where there might be issues with compaction or drainage. It’s a valuable management tool.”
Graham and Tom both complimented the level of comfort. “The seat is excellent and the footrests are an advantage during long working days. The operator position is perfect, with an unobstructed view along the table without having to lean forward,” said Graham. “The mirrors are well positioned – they provide a really good view along the sides to the rear, but don’t get knocked by branches when travelling on the road.”
The SuperFlow header was praised. “We had few laid crops this year, but where deer had created paths we tilted the header forward and tucked the knife in under the crop to ensure nothing was missed,” said Tom. “The narrow sides are an advantage and meant that we could open new fields left- or right-handed. We have some slopes and undulating fields, and the Fendt header performance was fantastic.”
Exceptionally dry weather during late spring and harvest highlighted the superb ride quality of the TrakRide rubber tracks.
“The ground was like concrete, but the ride quality was amazing. On the road and in the field, we were really impressed.”
The sample achieved in the Ahiflower confirmed the Ideal’s superior capability. “Another brand of combine cut some too, and there was just no comparison in terms of the sample quality. The Ideal left hardly any on the ground and the sample was superb.”
Tom said that the Ideal coped well during a harvest of high straw volumes and some impressive yields. “Harvesting wheat and unloading on the move into a 22t chaser wagon, we harvested 500t in 14-hour working days without feeling that we were pushing the combine hard. Even with the wide 40ft header, we cut at between 4–5kph and had plenty of capacity. If conditions had become difficult or yields were exceptionally high, we could have reduced the working speed and still had plenty of capacity for the area we farm.
“We used between 500–600 litres of diesel per day while rowing the straw, with average consumption of only 12.6 litres per hectare. Losses remained below 0.25%. It’s a very impressive machine.”
The combine is easy to look after. Graham said that the engine bay remained clear of dust and chaff even though conditions were exceptionally dry. “There was so little dust build-up that I just blew the combine clean each evening after work. The risk of a fire meant this wouldn’t have been possible with any of the machines I used previously, but the Ideal stays so clean that it wasn’t an issue. I got in the cab clean every morning rather than covering myself in dust as soon as I got to the field.”
The Ideal 8T was purchased with a five-year manufacturer warranty and a full service package, which Tom said provided valuable reassurance and made it easier to fix the costs of ownership.
Using the Ideal 8T, Tom completed the 2022 harvest in good time, despite the high yields and large straw volumes, with minimal grain loss and no major reliability issues. “I was really impressed and the results we achieved confirmed that we chose the right combine.
“We have taken on a lot more land for next year, and to ensure we have the capacity we need we have already ordered an Ideal 9T to replace our current machine. With more power and a larger grain cleaning system, it will give us added flexibility and I’m confident that it will prove just as successful as the Ideal 8T did this year.”