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Comfort to go the Distance

Paul & Ian Cunningham

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AFTER clocking up more than 7000 hours on two pre-owned CLAAS AXION 950 tractors, South Western Australian farmers, Paul and Ian Cunningham, had no hesitation when it came time to ordering a new replacement.

The brothers grow about 2800 ha of canola, barley, wheat, lupins and oats across several properties based around “Marlo”, 12 km west of Tambellup. The properties feature a range of soils, including grey clays, red and chocolate loams and sandy gravel and have an average rainfall of about 405 mm.

The Cunninghams purchased their first pre-owned AXION 950 in 2017 for use in their spraying program. The 410 hp tractor was fitted with 710/75 R42 single tyres set on three metres. “We wanted a bit more horsepower to tow our 8500-litre trailed sprayer and that suited our controlled traffic system,” Paul Cunningham says.

“Plus, we wanted something that was more comfortable. One of our workers has a bad back and didn’t like driving the old tractor."

“During seeding, we are running 18 to 20 hours a day for three weeks straight. Likewise, we pass over the entire property at between 18 and 24 km/hour at least four times with our spraying program. That’s a long time to be uncomfortable."

“The cabin suspension really was a pleasant surprise in terms of comfort – there is no comparison with our old tractors.”

The brothers purchased a second pre-owned AXION 950 the following year. It was fitted with 710/75 R42 dual tyres on the rear axle and 620/70 R34 single tyres on the front axle – and duals when necessary. “At the time, we had a 280 hp articulated tractor for seeding and we wanted something a bit bigger and more versatile,” Ian Cunningham says.

“We wanted something big enough to tow our 12 m airseeder and a 36-tonne chaser bin but still be nimble enough to operate an AMAZONE ZA-TS 4200 spreader.

“It was a huge step up in terms of efficiency. It doesn’t rev as high, even when it’s working hard."

“Our fuel consumption dropped from 7.5 L/ha to 3.8 L/ha – that’s $20,000 in fuel savings with one tractor alone."

“It just shows CLAAS’ engine management technology really works.”

When the time came to update the seeding tractor, the brothers were more than comfortable ordering a new AXION 950. “We put more than 7000 hours on our first two AXIONs and we were very happy with their performance and reliability,” Ian says. “We got two competitive quotes on the new tractor and we are totally convinced we are getting good value for money with the AXION.”

The new series features Tier 3 emissions control technology, a heavy-duty front suspended axle and brakes, up to 2.2 m diameter rear tyres and a 12” touchscreen. The 8.7 L FPT engine delivers a maximum power output of 423 hp and impressive 1760 Nm of torque at just 1400 rpm. This is combined with a continuously variable transmission, which seamlessly transfers full engine torque without any reduction in performance, even at low speeds.

The new tractor will be primarily used to tow a 12 m Aus-Plow DBS D260-46N tool bar and 13,000 L Simplicity airseeder fitted with two 2500 L liquid tanks, plus spreading and harvest work. “This new tractor is probably bigger than what we need but it’s worth it for the extra power to the ground, fuel efficiency, comfort and all the technology that comes with it,” Ian says.

“We have 10 different soil types in every paddock and your power requirement can change dramatically from one minute to the next.

“You simply set their desired speed in the cruise control and the transmission chooses the correct engine speed and gear combination to achieve this.

“It’s remarkably smooth and quiet. When you hit the hard country, it doesn’t lose speed or torque. “Plus, there’s lots of little things – like being able to check the coolant level without popping the bonnet – that just make driving it a pleasure.

The Cunninghams’ tractor is fitted with 2.2 metre diameter 710/75 R42 dual rear tyres and 650/65 R34 single or dual tyres on the front.

“We’ve got more than enough ponies – the challenge is making sure we get all that power to the ground,” Ian says. “We like the duals for extra flotation and traction in wet conditions.

“The new heavy-duty axle and bigger steering cylinders make it much easier to steer in the paddock or on the road, particularly with duals.

“It’s easier than driving a car, even with a full rig.”

The tractor is fitted with six spool valves and a maximum flow rate of 220 L/min, each with a release lever for easy coupling and uncoupling. Paul and Ian also opted for front linkages to allow easy fitting of the modular ballast system

“We’ve got 1800 kg of wheel ballast on the back axle all the time but we can quickly remove the 1500 kg of ballast at the front during spreading or chaser bin work,” Ian says.

“This harvest, we’ll probably put on a 1000-litre fire unit on the front instead.”

The AXION is controlled via the CEBIS operating system, which features a multi-function control lever and new ISOBUS-compatible 12” touchscreen display in the right-hand armrest.

“Once you get used to it, you really can get more out of this technology,” Ian says.

“My 11-year-old son can operate the airseeder by himself because it’s just so easy to operate.

“Until now, we have used the CEBIS to control the tractor and a separate terminal for the autosteering and whatever implement we’re using but this year I’m looking forward to running the AMAZONE spreader through this new terminal,” Ian says.

AXION 900 is also fitted with TELEMATICS remote monitoring and GPS Pilot automatic guidance systems, which is compatible with all leading manufacturers.

“There is a marked improvement in the autosteering,” Ian says.

“Our technician says the integration between the Trimble guidance system and GPS PILOT is the best he’s seen.”

AXION 900 can also be equipped with the new CEMOS machine optimisation system, which helps the operator to set up the tractor and implement for maximum productivity and efficiency.

The Cunninghams have operated CLAAS combine harvesters for almost 20 years, their most recent purchase being a LEXION 780 TERRA TRAC with VARIO 1350 front.

“We’ve owned three CLAAS harvesters and three CLAAS tractors over the past 20 years and we’ve been very happy with their performance, reliability and longevity,” Ian says. “CLAAS Harvest Centre Katanning has always helped us with parts and service, even though most of those machines were sourced second-hand from elsewhere.

“Their sales representatives and service team really go the extra mile, even on the Sunday of a long weekend.

“Another time, we had a breakdown in the middle of seeding and they gave us a demonstration machine for a couple of days until ours was fixed.

“Service like this makes you realise they are genuinely committed to supporting our business.”

First released in Australia in 2013, AXION is now in its fifth generation. One of the first designs to emerge from CLAAS following its entry into the tractor market, the AXION was designed from the ground up to deliver optimise performance, efficiency, versatility, reliability and comfort.

Like all CLAAS tractors, it features a long wheelbase and a low centre of gravity for greater stability, equal weight distribution over the front and rear axles for greater traction and a compact shape and narrow waist for maximum manoeuvrability.

To learn more, view and compare specs across the entire range of CLAAS AXION Tractors, click here.

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