Executive director of the Global Dairy Platform, Donald Moore, recently told an Australian audience that the biggest future threat to the world dairy industry could be synthetic milk.
I know you’ve been hanging out for an update on the Ford 7700, purchased before Christmas on something between a whim and a brain fade.
UNVIELED on August 30 at the Farm Progress Show in the United States, the New Holland NHDrive concept autonomous tractor is a driverless machine which can perform a wide range of farming tasks day and night.
For those of you who may have unkindly thought it, my recent ‘compact tractor’ column was not a cry for help. In some ways however, this piece is.
All of us have significant firsts in our lives, and it’s fair to say that you remember those firsts with an extra slice of nostalgia. You can probably guess where this is headed.
The first tractor I drove was a Case IH 5250, one of the legendary original 5000 series Maxxum tractors that debuted in 1989.
The Maxxum series was a first for the newly formed Case IH too. These tractors were developed amidst the storm of mergers and acquisitions that characterised the 1980’s agricultural machinery sector.
Since 1972, David Brown of the UK had been a subsidiary of the US oil giant and industrial conglomerate Tenneco Corporation, and operated as a division of Tenneco-owned J.I. Case.
David Brown engineers at Meltham, Yorkshire, appear to have had a testy relationship with US-based Case from at least the late 1970s, no doubt helped along by ‘interference from the US’ in the development of the trouble-prone 90 series, and the dropping of the David Brown brand in 1983.
The ultimate blow for the Meltham-based David Brown workforce emerged in 1985, when Tenneco took control of the International Harvester (IH) company, combining it with Case to create ‘Case IH’.
Meltham engineers had been planning a new tractor range for Case under project ‘P100’, and running prototypes of the machine were reportedly produced before the merger.
As part of the subsequent rationalisation however, P100 was moved to the IH plant in Neuss, West Germany, and tractor production at Meltham ended a few years later.
The production model Maxxums were built at Neuss, with German-built Cummins engines, French cabs, and transmissions from the IH plant in Saint-Dizier, France.
The series ranged from 90-125hp and were built around a 5.9 litre six cylinder Cummins engine (developed jointly with Case) that in itself has developed a fearsome reputation for power and reliability.
The smaller 5120 and 5220 models utilised a four cylinder, 3.9 litre version of the same engine – effectively just two thirds of the bigger block. They were advanced for their time, employing electronics in the dash and three-point linkage – but came before the era of suspended axles, CVT transmissions and electronic hydraulics.
They were easy to drive, compact and solid machines, albeit rough in the paddock and a proverbial pain to perform work on due to the restricted access dimensions.
The air conditioner was particularly unsuited to Australian conditions, and many an afternoon mowing silage was spent on the verge of heat stroke. But they were reliable and powerful, and with a powershift transmission and electronic forward-reverse shuttle were suited to an enormous range of farm tasks, from loader duties to field work.
There’s a decent amount of nostalgia about in the old David Brown clubs and forums, and no small amount for the Maxxums that came out of P100.
It’s easy to forgive the David Brown aficionados for any bitterness they might feel for a promising British development project being hijacked by the Americans and given to the French and Germans to complete.
If the second-hand market for the 5000 series Maxxums 25 years later is anything to go by though, everyone involved should remain proud of the end product.
Happily, much of the world is moving away from the concept of discrimination based on the colour of one’s skin.
I have to say it didn't occur to me that this column would become an obituary so soon, but the timing somehow seems appropriate. The reason is simple: one of the last of the few examples in Australia of this month's feature is likely to be replaced soon. It has fallen victim to age, hard work, and the need to have ever more productive machines at the front line of contracting and farming.