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This year, we achieved daily outputs of over 1,000 m3 with our new draught horse, which is quite astonishing under the conditions prevailing here.

Marcel Döring, Contracting company Döring, Fritzlar, Germany - Fendt 900 Vario

This year, we achieved daily outputs of over 1,000 m3 with our new draught horse, which is quite astonishing under the conditions prevailing here.

Reliability counts

The new Fendt 942 Vario pulls the loader wagon and slurry tanker at Döring's contracting company for around 1,200 hours a year. For Marcel Döring, one thing is particularly important: the reliability of the technology. We are on the road in Hesse. About 20 km southwest of the city limits of Kassel is where the Döring agricultural contractor is based in Werkel, a town with 800 inhabitants. The sat nav guides me through winding alleys, and right in the village center I have reached my destination. "The access road to our company is not easy. Particularly during harvest time, we need to be very sensitive, because we don't want to offend the neighbors. That's why we leave the machines with the customers if possible, or park them at night on the outskirts of the village," explains LU Marcel Döring by way of greeting. In general, you see a lot of large machines and trucks on the company premises - tractors, on the other hand, are scarce. "For our service portfolio, which includes transport, combine threshing, beet harvesting, corn chopping, slurry spreading and green fodder harvesting, we only need two tractors: the new Fendt 942, among others, since the beginning of 2020." On the day of our visit, grass silage harvesting is on the agenda at LU Marcel Döring, where both tractors with loader wagons are in use. Customers in this service segment range from 50-cow farms to 350-cow farms, with areas from 1 ha to 20 ha. Structural change has picked up speed again and many smaller farms are currently giving up production, he knows to report: "However, the areas do not go out of production, but continue to be farmed by the remaining farmers." However, he cannot see a trend towards more self-mechanization even among his large customers: "At least, when it comes to harvesting equipment, such as choppers or even loader wagons, they are holding back. Even loader wagons are so expensive today that it hardly makes sense to use them on individual farms. After all, a loader wagon is often not enough, because in grass silage harvesting, clout is what counts if quality forage is to be produced."

Driver Benjamin Schäfer praises the automated all-wheel drive of the 942 Vario, which ensures greater safety and protection of the turf, especially on slopes.

Grass silage harvest

However, calculating the grass harvest area has become more difficult for him in recent years, he said. Since 2018, revenue has been lost in this area due to the prolonged drought in the spring and summer. "We don't mow or windrow. Our customers are technically well positioned in these areas, and rolling is not an issue for us either. We harvest exclusively - either with the chopper or with the loader wagons," the contractor adds. First and second grass cuttings are done within ten days in his region: "During this time, the pressure is high and customers are impatient. We have to be flexible and have enough staff on hand for these peak times. We cushion this by using temporary staff.

LU Marcel Döring uses a forage harvester, as well as two loader wagons, in grass silage harvesting.

Toward the later cuts, the situation equalizes significantly." Two tandem loader wagons with a loading volume of 43 m³ are used for silage harvesting: "We toyed with the idea of buying larger vehicles with tridem chassis. However, the unladen weight is then too high for us. The payload would be limited, especially in corn, where we also use the loader wagons. Added to this are the sometimes very small yard areas of the customers, as well as the terrain in which we travel with the loader wagons. Certainly, a tridem is even safer on a slope, but it also has to be pulled uphill. The hydraulic undercarriages of the tandem wagons also ensure enormous stability on slopes and are thus in no way inferior to a tridem wagon," explains Marcel Döring and continues: "250 hp and a decent operating weight of the tractor are the minimum requirements to be able to work quickly and safely under our conditions. With the Fendt 942 Vario, of course, the whole thing works out a bit more comfortably than with our other 270-hp tractor."

Slurry spreading

Another important "tractor" service for the Döring company is slurry spreading. And this is where the 942 Vario comes into its own in the truest sense of the word. A 28-m3 tridem barrel from Kotte with a 30-m drag hose boom is used for this. "The tractor-barrel team with a wide drag hose fits our region. The customers work the slurry in themselves," Marcel Döring describes the slurry business and adds, "In the past, a Fendt 939 Vario ran in front of the barrel. The new 942 copes better in difficult conditions and off-road because it simply has more reserves. Per day, we've come up with daily outputs of over 1,000 m3 this year with our new draft horse, which is quite amazing given the conditions here." The barrel is equipped in such a way that the weight can be shifted to the rear axle of the tractor in the best possible way. Thus, it has the largest possible tires, a multi-chamber system and a top cylinder. This technology is complex and expensive, but it offers the advantage, especially on slopes, that the tractor stands securely even in unfavorable conditions and can always build up enough traction.

Full Service Package

First and foremost, a tractor must function reliably, and the connection to the sales partner must be right. The brand is of secondary importance to me," says a convinced Marcel Döring, adding: "We have already tried out a number of brands. And we were very dissatisfied in some cases, also with regard to the service provided by the dealer and manufacturer. Even the two Fendt 900s that we had in operation before the 942 didn't always run smoothly, and damage occurred that we wouldn't have expected from a premium manufacturer. What we can say, however: Our dealer, RWZ, did not let us down. We were always helped, if necessary with a replacement tractor - that's what I call 1A service, which ultimately also persuaded us to invest in a Fendt again. We assume, however, that problems such as the partly insufficient stability of the previous series have been eliminated with the new 942. After all, during the development of the new series, many solutions were adopted from the 1000 Vario that have proven themselves in practice. Ultimately, the new 900 Series is also quite differently dimensioned."

Marcel Döring bought the new tractor with a full service package and a warranty extension up to 5,000 hrs. After that, the tractor will be replaced with a new one. "We have also agreed with our dealer on a minimum price for the trade-in at the end of the period, because we want to be able to calculate firmly with the cost of the tractors. This is only possible if I cover as many costs as possible through these contracts. Instead of buying used tractors, where you never know exactly how the predecessor handled them, we now only buy new technology. That may be more expensive to buy. But I can protect myself better and over a longer period of time against breakdowns, which can end up costing me a lot of money as a contractor. In general, we try to keep our machinery young," says Marcel Döring, explaining his purchasing strategy and adding: "In the other divisions, we primarily buy young used, except for key machines such as forage harvesters and tractors. A broken-down thresher or truck is easier to compensate for with the rest of the fleet than a special tractor or chopper, if you only have one of each."

In slurry spreading, the 942 Vario runs in front of a 28-m3 slurry tanker. The slurry is brought in by truck.

Driver comfort

We are not extravagant when it comes to tractor technology. We need a well-functioning and reliable steering system. For slurry spreading that is gentle on the soil, the factory-fitted tire pressure control system is mandatory and the 44-inch tires are an important factor," he adds. The Fendt 942 Vario is also equipped with the large LED lighting package. "This was very important for us, as we also often have to work in the dark when spreading slurry at the beginning of the year. Another point: the driver's seat. Here we make no compromises and choose the highest specification. The driver must be able to get off as relaxed as possible even after long working days," he adds.

In his view, however, there is also technology that can be dispensed with on a tractor in this horsepower class: "Our tractor was already at the dealer. Therefore, we were limited as far as options were concerned. If I were to order a new large tractor, I could do without the rear linkage and save the money for it. We took the lift struts and lower links off right after delivery and won't put them back on until the tractor goes back. I think that it is also not a problem to sell a tractor of this size on the second-hand market without a linkage, as it will then go towards large-scale operations in heavy tillage, where only a lower linkage is needed. That's why I think it's a good solution that you can now deselect the rear linkage on the big Fendt tractors." As for diesel consumption, LU Marcel Döring is satisfied with the new tractor: "We can confirm that the new 942 consumes less than the 939. And that's despite the fact that the new one has 25 hp more. I suspect that it is due to the overall tuning of the machine and the new MAN engine, which works at a lower rpm. We will evaluate more precise data on this in the winter," he notes and concludes: "If the tractor does its work reliably over the planned 5,000 h, then the overall package fits our requirements very well.

Driver Benjamin Schäfer praises the automated all-wheel drive of the 942 Vario, which ensures greater safety and protection of the turf, especially on slopes.

Comfort for long working days

Benjamin Schäfer has been working for the Döring contracting company since 2012 and is the regular driver of the Fendt 942 Vario. "I drive the tractor 80% of the time. Half of the operating time - over the course of the year - is spent spreading liquid manure, a quarter is spent harvesting green fodder with the loader wagon, and the last quarter is spent transporting the maize harvest," he explains. He likes many of the solutions on the new machine better than its predecessor: "I spend most of my working time on the tractor. That's why this workplace should be as comfortable as possible so that I can get off and relax after a long day's work. Fendt has succeeded very well in this with the new 900. The low-speed concept means that it is quieter in the cab compared to the previous series. The old one was also comfortable to drive. But the new one is a class above," says Benjamin Schäfer.

For him, who often has to move the tractor-trailer combination in cropped terrain, the new driveline is also a big step forward: "I no longer have to change the driving ranges when the tractor is at a standstill. The all-wheel drive controls itself automatically, which means that the drive torques are shifted between the axles depending on the slip, without me having to do anything as the driver. This increases safety enormously, especially on slopes, and we protect the turf because the wheels erode less." Operating the tractor is easy for him: "Everything is within easy reach or can be adjusted very well to my body size. The air conditioning in the cab is also designed for hot days, as we had again this summer. One detail I like is the smartphone integration in the control terminal and the new hands-free system with the many microphones in the cabin headliner. No matter which direction I'm speaking in - my counterpart on the other end of the line can understand me very well."

Source: LU Special November 2020 edition