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Cat articulated wheeled loaders challenge telehandlers on-farm

Agricultural demand for articulated wheeled loaders has increased. Farmers Guide arranged for a large Suffolk estate to borrow two Caterpillar machines for an extended test, to find out whether their advantages justify the investment. David Williams reports. Since the mid-1980s telescopic handlers have become the all-round handling champion for most UK farms, often complementing or replacing tractors with front loaders. Materials handling is costly and timeconsuming, so anything improving the operation is a benefit. For contractors loading large quantities of bulk material from farm to farm, articulated wheeled loaders offer advantages including rapid cycle times and greater lift capacity. Early purchasers had to settle for models designed for construction or industrial applications, but operating characteristics between the industries differ and now there is a good selection of makes and models to choose from, all with engine power, transmissions, hydraulics and travel speed designed for agriculture.

Ideal test farm Caterpillar offers nine models in three sizes and a test farm currently using two telescopic handlers was offered the opportunity to select any size articulated loader to compare.

Farm manager Matthew Hawthorne looks after the farming operation at Euston Estate on the Suffolk/Norfolk border. The farm comprises approximately 2,500ha farmed in-hand by Euston Farms with cropping including wheat, barley, maize, rye and sugar beet. Vegetables are grown in partnership with RG Abrey Farms. Other enterprises include outdoor pigs and free-range poultry and the farm has its own herd of Red Poll cattle, with Suffolk Punch horses and Suffolk Sheep completing the Suffolk Trinity. Large areas of grassland support HLS agreements and provide animal grazing. The estate was an ideal test situation for the loader because although it is very traditional, Matthew and his team are keen to adopt new techniques and equipment to improve efficiency. Currently two telescopic handlers of different brands are operated, both capable of lifting 4t. The main difference between the two is that one has hydrostatic transmission and the other has powershift, each providing different

operating characteristics and each preferred by an almost equal split of the Euston Farms team. “I prefer the powershift drive,” commented Matthew, “as it is more progressive and when pushing against the back wall of a building during grain loading or mucking out it is easier to control the power needed. Others prefer the hydrostatic so having two different machines works well for us.” Most of the estate’s yards are traditional and manoeuvring space can be an issue while low buildings restrict access. Livestock sheds in particular are mainly low, so mucking out requires a compact handler. Matthew has considered investing in an articulated loader in the past, but the versatility provided by two telehandlers means most tasks are carried out efficiently and it worried

him that a larger loader wouldn’t be as manageable in tight spaces, or as versatile. “The articulated loader would offer advantages for us as we have so much handling work around the estate, but my reservation is that if there are tasks it can’t be used for, then we would be better continuing to use two telescopics. There are certainly some jobs it wouldn’t do where operating height is restricted so we couldn’t replace our telescopic machines completely, but if an articulated loader can be kept busy all year round then there would be nothing stopping us operating one telehandler plus a wheeled loader. Asked to select which of Caterpillar’s loader range he wanted to trial, Matthew opted for a 910-series mid-size machine but Caterpillar agricultural sales manager Adrian Street suggested a model from the biggest 920 series might offer advantages, so both were delivered to the farm to compare in late autumn. The models delivered were a 918M and a 926M. The 918M is the most powerful of the mid-series and the 926M is the least powerful of the three largest models. The main operator was Jonathan Bedford who is also the resident farm mechanic. “I’ve always liked wheeled loaders,” he explained. “They are capable, designed for the task and I think will carry out our handling work efficiently in open working areas, but my concern is the size and poor manoeuvrability so I’m not sure if they will suit our yard work.” Matthew said a wheeled loader would offer advantages for field tasks. “When you look where a telehandler has loaded beet from a field heap the continued over...

Cat 926M Ag Handler Turn Tip Load (lift capacity)

7,382kg

Bucket Size

2.1m3

Gross weight

12,994kg

Engine

Cat 7.1-litre, 6cyl, 166hp

Transmission

Hydrostatic with 3 adjustable modes

Max speed

40kph

Steering angle

40 degrees

Lift height to bucket pin

3,982mm Highlift option 4,475mm

Cat 918M

The 918M is a 117hp model, capable of lifting 5.68t and with maximum lift height of 3,818mm.

Turn Tip Load (lift capacity)

5,690kg

Bucket Size

1.9m3

Gross weight

9,489kg

Engine

Cat 4.4-litre, 4cyl, 117hp

Transmission

Hydrostatic with 3 adjustable modes

Max speed

40kph

Steering angle

40 degrees

Lift height to bucket pin

3,818mm

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20/02/2018 11:52

Farmers Guide March 2018  

Farmers Guide Magazine March 2018 Issue

Farmers Guide March 2018  

Farmers Guide Magazine March 2018 Issue