Jeremy Baird was looking for a new tractor to handle spraying and fertiliser spreading and which was also sufficiently powerful and versatile to back up the other large tractors on the farm in general agricultural work. He runs the family farm in a company with his parents Murray and Ruby.
It is an 1100-hectare mixed operation, with 600 hectares of cereal cropping in combination with 2000 ewes, some 400 heifers and, throughout the year, dairy grazing and varying numbers of trading lambs. This is a machinery-intensive business, and the farm comprises two blocks that are ten kilometres apart so plant spends a lot of time on the road.
The farm was included in a series of on-farm demonstrations in 1998 when JCB tractors were introduced to Southland, but the Bairds continued to run tractors of other colours. When the family decided they needed a new all-purpose tractor, Jeremy made enquiries in early 2017 to CLAAS Harvest Centre with another brand in mind. He was looking for a large tractor that could replace an old tractor-and-truck setup, which at one stage included an old Unimog, for their spraying and fertiliser spreading. The truck is required to cart material from the yard to other parts of the farm.
The new tractor had also to be capable enough to back up the other large tractors in general agricultural work. Because of the long stretch between the farm's two blocks, CLAAS Harevest Centre Sales Representative, Peter Henderson saw that a JCB FASTRAC 4000-series would be the answer, with its top road speed of 60 kilometres per hour.
Sometimes referred as the 'Swiss army knife of tractors' the FASTRAC seemed ideally suited to all of the Bairds' requirements. The 4000-Series FASTRAC improves the JCB-trademark features, including multiple implement mounting points for the ultimate in tractor utilisation, fast field and road speeds with more sophisticated all-round suspension and braking for stability, safety and comfort.
Peter offered an on-farm demonstration and duly turned up at the farm in a 235-horsepower JCB FASTRAC 4220. A worked-up paddock lay ready for drilling into black oats. Peter hooked up the farm's Rapid six-metre minimum tillage seed drill, drilled the paddock and then rolled it. The Rapid requires a lot of power to pull it but the FASTRAC accomplished the task with ease. As Jeremy says: "We got sold on it pretty quick." The family purchased a JCB FASTRAC 4220 two days later.
"When you're doing ag work, a conventional tractor can go down at the back and suck the front wheels up, and you really notice how this machine doesn't do that - it's a really good feature."
What Jeremy calls the "fast cycle time" – travelling between the yard and distant paddocks has proved a huge benefit: "It's ideal in that regard. The cycle time between the paddocks and the yard is a lot quicker at 60 kph than 40. It can keep up with the truck on the road. "We used to run an old Unimog and this can go as fast as that on the road, but this can go a lot faster in the paddock!"
He also likes the fact that the FASTRAC’S unique self-levelling rear axle suspension matched by a hydraulic front suspension system maintains correct ride height wherever an implement is mounted. It means that he doesn't need to add weights to the front of the tractor when the fertiliser spreader is mounted and filled. "When you're doing ag work, a conventional tractor can go down at the back and suck the front wheels up, and you really notice how this machine doesn't do that - it's a really good feature."
The self-levelling suspension is easy on gear and easy on the operator: "The tractor's nice and comfortable. If you get into rough ground it's not very nice in an old tractor. We're spreading fertiliser at about 25kph." "The suspension makes it the best tractor for that job. That and the road speed ... but the machine’s versatility is the big one for us." Another feature that appealed to Jeremy was the True Tracking steering. The JCB FASTRAC 4000 series features five instantly selectable steering modes (including crab-steer); the True Tracking mode sees the front and rear axles follow exactly the same line for minimal ground marking and crop damage.