01/01/2016 A push for Greater Efficiency has led Farming Brothers to Challenger E Series.
A PUSH for greater efficiency has led farming brothers Ashley and Duncan McKay to break with tradition and buy their first-ever tracked tractor.
Ashley and Duncan farm 2020ha (5000 acres) between Paskeville and Thomas Plains on the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia – land formerly worked by their parents, Helene and the late John McKay.
Their sister, Sally, lives with husband Mark and their two children in Coffs Harbour.
The brothers’ holding is made up of two joined properties, “Victoria House” – which contains the original homestead built in the early 1900s – and “Kippara Homestead”, purchased by John in 1974.
Duncan said the property had been in the family’s hands for four generations.
“Our great-grandfather, Andrew, first started farming here in 1914 and now we’re seeing a fifth generation coming through in our kids,” he said.
Duncan and wife Janine have three children – William, Charlie and Addison – while Ashley and his wife, Paula, have three girls – Lexie, Victoria and Georgia.
“We do predominantly wheat and lentils, plus a bit of barley and oaten hay for export,” Duncan said.
“This year, we’ve put in Mace and Grenade for wheat, Herald and Jumbo for the lentils, Scope barley and our oats are Brushers.
“We usually start seeding Anzac Day weekend and go for four weeks, later it’s spraying and putting out urea, then the hay cranks up in late September and it’s harvesting from November till around Christmas-time.”
Extra help is brought in during seeding, hay and harvesting.
“We store a lot of our lentils on-farm where we do our own cleaning over four or five weeks, especially for the Jumbos,” Duncan said, “but the grains go straight to the port at Wallaroo.”
The McKay brothers have recently bought a new 285kW (385hp) Challenger MT765D tracked tractor from dealer G&J East at Kadina.
The MT700D Series features AGCO’s six-cylinder, 8.4-litre engine, track widths from 406mm (16”) to 762mm (30”), Opti-Ride suspension system, Tractor Management Centre controls and differential steering.
Challenger/spray specialist at G&J East Kadina Mark Oster said versatility was the key in the brothers’ considerations.
“Ashley and Duncan wanted to buy another tractor that utilised a lot more of the machine and the Challenger fitted the bill really well,” Mark said.
“They’ll get a lot more traction and generate a lot more power to the ground in pulling their implements.
“As it doesn't need to rev as hard to deliver that power, they’ll use less fuel and the unique ‘Marsh Mallow’ suspension system makes for a superb ride.”
Duncan said that, five years ago, the farm was running three tractors, but had now dropped back to two.
“We were pondering what to do for about 12 months and went down the path of stretching tractors out to 3m, but found we were running into too much cost,” he said.
“In terms of machinery, we’re running a Nitro SP sprayer”
“The whole idea of choosing the tracked machine was to follow the spacing used by the sprayer – the Nitro is 3.3m spacing and we have the Challenger on 3.1, which is perfect.
“The Challenger is going to be a multi-purpose tractor – it can do everything. When you have certain tractors for certain jobs, you can have the machine sitting around for half the year or more not doing anything.
“To have one tractor doing the lot is so much more efficient.
“After seeding, we’ll put our spreader on the back, because it has linkage, then go and top-dress all our wheat, barley and oats.
“And to have the tractor following in the tracks of the sprayer means you’re not losing yield by putting down that extra row.”
Duncan said the tractor was the first Challenger he and Ashley had owned.
“We’re very happy with it,” he said.
“It’s probably 10-12 litres an hour better on juice, it’s got the horsepower and with the track you don’t get as much compaction.
“The comfort in the cab is awesome. It goes down the road quite well and it’s magic in the paddock.
“The daily service inspections are quick, oils and filters are really easy to get to and the sight gauges on the idler wheels are clear to read.
“The TopCon guidance is pretty handy and easy to use, as are the read-outs on all your gauges and information on your screen.
“It tells you pretty much everything.
“There are a couple of similar Challengers around here and, with a lot of SP sprayers about, I’m expecting others will be looking at them for controlled traffic work.
“Over the next five or six years, I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of them in this area.”