Dairy Australia’s latest Situation and Outlook report will be released tomorrow, during what’s shaping up as a period of recovery for the Australian dairy industry amidst a noisy corporate and policy environment.
It’s great to leave 2016 (mostly) behind, but allow me to take you back a little over a month. Dip the toe in, if you will.
As I’m sure you recall, I am a big fan of the season of giving. Apart from all the joy and goodwill, there is the vague pretext for giving oneself a little something too. A round baler here, a tractor there – wait, did I hear ‘tractor’? Yes indeed.
Whilst some may argue that a single 100 horsepower tractor is probably sufficient for a modest hobby farm, those people usually have no interest in tractors. I do, and when I see a cheap one, I sit up and take notice.
So when an old Ford 7700 popped up at a very reasonable price, I took the opportunity to pop over for a looksee. A beauty, she is not.
The cab is riddled with rust and broken or cracked glass, there are several litres of empty aluminium can capacity scattered about, and more arachnids than an episode of Spider House. Mechanically however, the machine looks sound – brakes work, gears shift, no steam train impressions from the exhaust, absence of water in oil, and so on.
I’ve never had any direct exposure to the old Ford tractors, so I also did my research. As it happens, having moved on from the ‘Jerk O Matic’ gearbox snafu back in the 60’s (a tractor that can shift itself into gear while you’re not in the seat is understandably concerning), they are quite well regarded.
The 7700 is part of a generation of tractors built at Basildon in the UK, which includes ‘utility’ and ‘row crop’ versions – the latter incorporating a flat operator platform, thus being much taller. Ridiculously taller. So tall it’s hard not to chuckle whenever one stands looking at it.
The Dual Power transmission has a high/low range ahead of eight gears and an additional, clutchless high/low shift with a foot pedal. They are considered to be tough, reliable tractors, though not great for loader work due to the chassis structure and scarcity of reverse speeds.
The engines are relatively small, with turbos where necessary (including on the 7700) to boost power and fill out the range. Combined with a short chassis and tight turning circle this makes them more suited to utility jobs, rather than prolonged heavy tillage and drawbar work. More European than American, if you will.
Easily accessible (being 2wd helps), and low on electronics, they’re very simple to maintain (even if they need to be split) and parts appear to be readily available. The only, teeny weeny problem appears to be the great propensity for the engines to induce cavitation of the cooling fluid, leading to corrosion of the block. Hmm.
Nonetheless, I’ve taken the plunge. Cheap horsepower, and a fixer-upper. A great Christmas gift and a project for 2017. Just have to dodge any New Year resolutions about rationalising machinery ownership…