When Sussex-based farming partners Tom Cole and Jack Wheatland decided the time was right to invest in their first brand new tractor, they chose a Valtra. Impressed by the brand and with back-up from the local main dealer, Crawfords, their fleet has grown to include two Valtras, and a third is likely to be added soon.

Trading as CW Farms, Tom and Jack are tenant farmers based near East Grinstead in the Sussex Weald. Their mixed enterprise comprises a herd of 150–180 dairy heifers and arable crops, including wheat, beans, oats, maize, oilseed rape, and wildflower mixes. “When we took on the farm, we implemented strategies to improve soil health and reduce erosion while also growing crops for which there is genuine market demand,” explained Jack.

Tom and Jack also provide an agricultural contracting service for local farms, while other activities include a contract fencing service, which operates throughout East Sussex, and a simulated game shoot.

The Valtra T174 Versu operated by the CW Farms farming partnership.

Reduced tillage

A reduced tillage farming regime has replaced ploughing with min-till cultivation ahead of all crops except maize. Most of the land is prepared by a Cousins V-Form cultivator before drilling by a Weaving 6m Tine Drill. There are also two 3m power-harrow drill combinations available for use. “Our land can be challenging, and we remain willing to plough when conditions require it. However, we rarely plough for our own crops, and most of the ploughing we do is for local farms as part of our contracting service. We also do a lot of contract drilling with the tine and power-harrow drills. ”

Valtra looked ideal

For the first few years after taking on the farm tenancy, Jack and Tom relied on several older tractors of various brands, but in 2016 they invested in their first brand-new machine to improve their working efficiency and ensure reliability.

“We had more or less decided to purchase an alternative brand, but just before placing the order, we were distracted by a Valtra T-series tractor in the dealer’s yard,” continued Tom.

“We’d always liked the look of Valtra tractors but expected them to be out of our price range. However, a brief test drive convinced us that we would rather spend long working days in the Valtra cab, and when the dealer worked out the price for us, it was less than we had expected. We placed our order, and the T174 Versu exceeded our expectations.”

Even better service

After three years, the Valtra was due to be updated. Another T174 Versu was selected, supplied by local main dealer RW Crawford Ltd – which had recently opened its new Billingshurst depot to serve customers in West Sussex and part of Hampshire. The Valtra was six months old and had worked 500 hours as the Crawfords demonstrator, but it was purchased with the reassurance of an extended six-year warranty.

The later model came with a revised cab layout. Most of the main controls were relocated to the SmartTouch armrest, and set-up, performance monitoring, and GPS guidance were available through the Valtra SmartTouch 9 inch touch terminal. The tractor was also Valtra Guide auto-steer ready.

Jack describes the cab comfort as excellent, and he says the SmartTouch armrest-mounted controls are just where he would want them. The SmartTouch terminal is clear and easy to set-up and use.

 

“The SmartTouch terminal is brilliant,” stressed Jack. “We have owned, hired, and borrowed several popular brands of tractor since starting our farming operation, but Valtra’s SmartTouch display is by far the easiest to set up and use. Tasks such as setting an A-B guidance line take seconds on the Valtra, whereas on other tractors, even that could be complicated. The display is also very clear and attractive, which is essential when the driver has to look at it for much of the day.

“Previously, we relied on an after-market steering wheel motor for GPS steering, but the T174 Versu came with Valtra Guide, which means that everything is built in. It’s convenient, neater, and more reliable.”

Versatile tractor

The T174 does most of the arable fieldwork. “It handles all the heavy cultivation machinery easily, and the rear hydraulic linkage performance is impressive,” said Jack. “It’s also ideal for spray and fertiliser applications, and the GPS guidance ensures accuracy and helps us obtain the best results from the products applied.”

“The tractor also does most of the farm transport, including pulling large grain and bale trailers. The cab and front axle suspension provide a very comfortable ride, even on uneven minor roads and farm tracks, many of which are in our operating area.”

Second Valtra for fencing

A second Valtra, with a front loader, was purchased for use by the contract fencing team. “The business was growing, and we needed an additional reliable, modern tractor with a loader to handle materials and operate the post knocker on site,” explained Tom.

“There is demand for our fencing service from farmers throughout West Sussex, so it had to be suitable for travelling long distances too. Because we liked the T174 so much and enjoyed great back-up from the dealer, it made sense to look for another Valtra. It didn’t need the same level of technology as our main arable tractor, so we bought a 2008-model T151 privately and relied on the Crawfords team for servicing and maintenance.”

Fantastic workshop team

Tom suggests that Crawfords’ aftersales service would be tough to beat. “The workshop team is fantastic, and issues are sorted quickly when they occur. The Valtras give us very few problems, but knowing we have access to back-up from such an excellent dealer is reassuring as we can’t afford downtime.”

The latest T174 has Valtra Connect telematics. The system allows authorised users to monitor the tractor’s operating status and location through a smartphone app. The Crawfords service team can connect wirelessly to the tractor to check for error codes for remote fault diagnosis and plan routine servicing.

“The Crawfords workshop team keeps an eye on the working hours and lets us know when services are due. We invested in the extended warranty for peace of mind, and knowing that the hours are being monitored by the dealer saves us worrying that we might lose track and miss a service, which could compromise the terms of the warranty,”

Since it arrived in September 2019, the T174 Versu has worked more than 3,000 hours. Jack said the fuel economy is as good as the previous model, and AdBlue consumption is minimal. Fuel quality issues meant filters had to be replaced frequently, but this has improved since an additional in-line filter was added to the supply.

Jack and Tom with their Valtra T174 Versu, supplied by the Billingshurst, West Sussex depot of RW Crawford Ltd.