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    1 2 CRUMP, Jason 25
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    14 4 PEDERSEN, Nicki 4
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    16 14 PROTASIEWICZ, Piotr 3


    1st CRUMP, Jason 20 25 25 25 95
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    3rd PEDERSEN, Nicki 25 14 16 4 59
    4th GOLLOB, Tomasz 18 9 18 7 52
    5th HAMPEL, Jaroslaw 4 16 8 18 46
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    7th ZAGAR, Matej 9 18 4 9 40
    8th RICKARDSSON, Tony 16 6 4 10 36
    9th ADAMS, Leigh 10 7 11 6 34
    10th NICHOLLS, Scott 9 9 5 8 31
    11th PEDERSEN, Bjarne 5 6 7 12 30
    12th LINDBÄCK, Antonio 9 2 6 8 25
    13th RICHARDSON, Lee 8 4 0 5 17
    14th IVERSEN, Niels-Kristian 2 6 4 5 17
    15th PROTASIEWICZ, Piotr 1 3 3 3 10
    16th LINDGREN, Fredrik - - 7 - 7
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    19th FERJAN, Matej 3 - - - 3

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    Sunday, July 18, 2004

    What colour is your farm?

    I have been snowed under by a request to know what colour this farm is; red, yellow or green. Note for persons not interested in machinery or agriculture: Piss off. You won't enjoy this post even a little bit. In fact it would probably bore your balls off...unless you are a woman. In which case it won't, but it may cause your ovaries to fall out. Or something. Come back later. I'll have something for you then. Maybe. In the meantime, an explanation; in Australia there are three main companies which supply tractors and ancillary machines. The red machines are Case branded, the yellow ones are Caterpillars and the green ones are John Deere.
    Until recently, in a display of brand-loyalty that I find baffling, most farms were either green (the most common), or red. About*  ten years ago Caterpillar, which had hitherto stuck to manufacturing earthmoving equipment, began to market Challengers, essentially tractors with rubber tracks in place of wheels/tyres. These were supposed to reduce the amount of compaction suffered by the soil over which the tractor passed and in certain conditions, they do. More on that later. Shortly after the Challengers appeared, John Deere released an equally revolutionary line of tractors, the 8000 series.
    These were the first tractors to feature computerised engine management systems, computerised transmission control, electronic hydraulic controls and the list goes on. While all this was going on, Case fell by the wayside somewhat, with no whizz-bangery to their name. They did a fair bit of catch-up work with the MX Series which replaced the venerable (and sadly missed - by me, anyway) Magnums.
    Before I tell you what colour this farm is, I'll give a little critique of each colour based on my experience, lightly seaoned by some piss-talk I've heard from blokes in pubs.
    Firstly, the Cats. Don't like 'em. They still (at least in 2000, the last model I've driven) don't have electronic hydraulic controls, which means they are not all that comfortable to operate compared to other tractors, although they are light years ahead of anything that preceded them. They are very thirsty when compared to tractors of similar horsepower ratings, they also have more engine problems than they should, usually in the injection system. The smaller (up to 300hp) rowcrop models use the same transmission as the Johnnys but the gearshift is set up differently, better, in some ways, worse in others. Better because you can, at the flick of a switch, alternate between a straight sequential shift to a skip mode, where the transmission will jump two or three gears at a time, which can be very handy. Worse, because while the gearshift on the Greenies is 1" long and can be operated with one finger, the yellow one is a standard sizes stick, meaning youcan't do anything else while you are changing gear. The current models - as well as the red and green - have a system in place where  you push a button as you near the end of a run and the transmission wiil select the correct reverse ratio (there are four of them) alter the engine revs to a set-point, then select the correct forward ratio to allow you to complete your turn. When you are lined up for your next run you hit the swich again and the engine and tranny return to the "working" positions.
    I also have a problem with track tractors in general. Not the one usually cited by blokes in pubs, which is the 'directness' of the steering, which has resulted in some pretty wobbly rows of cotton being planted. This is overcome by teaching fuckwits how to drive properly. Nor is it the sometimes huge windrows of dirt they can leave when turning around at the head-ditch. Showing a bit of restraint when turning reduces this effect and you're going to scarify it before you put in rota-bucks so what does it matter, anyway? The problem I have is compaction. On level ground track tractors will reduce compaction by a fair bit because of the greater contact patch the weight is spread over, although this effect must be reduced when pulling a tractor-mounted implement. This all goes out the window when you get into a furrow situation because the track is square in section and the furrow isn't. All the weight is carried on the outside of the tracks, right in the root-zone of the plant. When you think that the track is also not as compliant as a tyre you start to see what I mean. Having said that, the most enjoyable tractor I have ever driven was a Cat - a 95E. It wasn't the nifty computer that allowed you to see information on everything from intake air temperature and fuel compsumption (81.5 litres/hour was my personal best) to percentage of time spent idling and the energy value of the fuel being used. Nor was it the variable horsepower set - up (340hp in 1st gear, 375hp in 2nd and 3rd, with 410hp for the rest). No... it was the big fat stereo with the four 60 watt speakers directly above your head and the separate (cough)watt sub-woofer behind the seat. Rockin'.
    Red tractors have gone to shit in recent years IMHO. Actually, I just put that IMHO thing in because that's what all the cool kids on the popular blogs are doing. The old Magnums were legendary, stong, reliable, comfortable (for their time) and very nearly fuckwit-proof. I haven't had any contact with the Reds  for a few years now, but they have a lot of catching up to do from when they first released the MX's in 1999. I was working west of Moree when they came out and we (meaning "them" - the mob I was working for) bought a few of them. They had the same sort of transmission controls as the Cats and Johnnys, but for some reason they decide to put the forward and reverse control on a stick on the opposite side of the steering column so that you needed to use two hands to change gears at the end of a run. Dickheads. We also had trouble with the three-point linkage going up and down at times of its own choosing, as well as plenty of trouble with the fuel system.
    Which brings me to the Greenies. In 1998 I started in the cotton industry. I hadn't driven a tractor in about fifteen years. When I started I was lent a videotape to look at. It was the instruction tape that accompanied John Deere tractars. It started off with the seat. Twenty minutes later they were still talking about the seat. I got scared and turned it off.
    On the right side of the seat is a thing called 'the control-arm'. This looks, at first glance, to be an arm-rest; which it is, but so much more. With one hand, on an 8000- series tractor, you can - if you are dextrous and feel the need - change gear/direction, operate the three point linkage and the controls for three separate hydraulic circuits and turn the P.T.O. on or off - at the same time! This still amazes me nearly seven years later. What the exec's from the other companies felt I don't know, but it wasn't a good time to ask for a raise if you happened to be a tractor designer. Also on the arm-rest are the controls for a fourth hydraulic remote, the depth control for the linkage, the maximum height control for the linkage lift, the drop-speed control for the linkage as well as the draft control (this controls the way a linkage-mounted implement reacts to changes in the 'hardness' of the ground, as well as dips and bumps.) And a glovebox.
    Coupled with almost bullet-proof reliability, this is A Good Thing.
    I haven't driven the new 8020- series Johnnies, but with front suspension and a few other goodies, I think they'd be the duck's guts. For now, the 8000- series are the tractors by which all others are judged, by me anyway. I love 'em. When I get big, I'm going to marry one.
    By the way, this place is a bit mongrel bred - green tractors and pickers and yellow grader, dozer, excavator and backhoe. Even the irrigation pump motors are a mixture, green, yellow and black (Cummins).
    *In keeping with ATI policy, absolutely no research or fact-checking has been carried out for this - or any other - post.


    Blogger Morgan said...

    You're right. My ovaries did fall out.

    But I won't say you didn't warn me.

    7/19/2004 12:24:00 pm  
    Blogger Jonas said...

    What an authoritive, informative and entertaining post.

    And 81.5 litres/hour? That sounds like my first car, an 82 Commodore wagon.

    7/19/2004 06:01:00 pm  
    Blogger Dirk said...

    Morgan, Oh no!! Now how are we going to have wholesome children?!?

    Jonas, We used to dream of '82 Commodores as we chugged around in our XT Falcons and HT Holdens, they had heaters that worked, a/c, some of them even had four speaker stereos. At least we would have dreamt of them if they had been released yet.

    7/19/2004 06:20:00 pm  
    Blogger FXH said...

    Jeez how things have changed since I was a rural yob. In my day the grey Fergie and a red David Brown were cutting edge. I remember an old steel wheeled tractor and a single cylinder Bulldog which ran backwards if it started on the wrong fireing. Hell I even remember how to harness up a draught horse to a sled.

    7/19/2004 09:21:00 pm  
    Blogger Dirk said...

    My Dad sold tractors and stuff for a few years before he retired and had a love/hate relationship with grey Fergies - he hated them because they were extremely limited in what they could be used for (no hydraulics etc.), but loved them because he could flog them off at enormous profits to hobby farmers who bought them because you need a tractor to be farmer. Usually he could (at a later date) sell them a SAME or Kubota that had hydraulics, synchro gearbox with a ridiculous number of gears and a useful quantity of horsepower at about two - thirds the price of the Fergie - and had a decent warranty to boot.
    I know a bloke with a collection of Lanz Bulldogs, they were everywhere once (I believe Larry Perkins has acouple, too.)

    7/20/2004 04:40:00 am  
    Blogger Morgan said...

    I said that they fell out, not that they were broken. I am creepily fertile, according to my Dr. So I don't forsee the ovaries being removed from my body being a fertility problem. Jesus, I'm an ocean and 500 miles away--you could sneeze and still get me pregnant, were we both in the right frame of mind, according to my doctor. So don't worry, love, I believe wholesome children are still an option.

    7/20/2004 01:51:00 pm  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Back in 2000, mate of mine was a fitter in Moree with Catepillar, yellow babies. Admittedly he didn't have to operate them but loved servicing them. This entailed either driving all day or taking a plane to the properties, armed with just a laptop ! He would hook it up and perform a diagnostic, following the prompts for automatic service adjustment.

    Generally, farmers these days lease the Challengers, which head office in Illinois, US, monitors via satellite tellemitry. When the machine is approaching a service a program shuts down the machine automatically, so the cocky can't fuck it. The lease billing is also done remotely, as they have full access to performance hours. Amazing.

    Me mate didn't much like it when they threw a track though. Or imagine jacking the bastard up, to change a diff. with a one tonne cover plate !
    Great post mate. Cheers, Jafa.

    7/20/2004 11:51:00 pm  
    Blogger Dirk said...

    In 1999 - 2000 I was working on a yellow farm. All servicing was done by Cat under a contract with a really catchy name (don't remember what it was called). They were going to trade a few in on some new stuff and rep's were coming around every couple of days to put a price on the trades. The Cat rep wrote down the price on the 75C because it had been so poorly maintained. Didn't see your mate, though. We never had any software related problems, only dodgy injectors, fuel pumps etc. I did see a John Deere bloke come around once, while visiting a neighbour. The JD bloke had a laptop. He got in the cab of a big, articulated tractor ( don't remember the model) plugged in his lap-top, gave the tractor another 25 horsepower and got out again. Of course, when you think that for less than the price of your new phone, you can buy a chip and software for a laptop that will allow you to do exactly the same thing to a Commodore, it tends to be a little less amazing - after all, for a qyarter of a mill, minimum, you'd want a few bells and whistles.
    The first contact I ever had with a Challenger was putting a new tensioner wheel in one of the tracks. Piece 'o' piss - the tension comes from a cylinder of gas (nitrogen, I think) which has a hydraulic fitting on it to hook up to the tractor's remotes. Start the tractor, pull the lever, tension relieved. Cue the smutty double entendres.

    7/21/2004 06:22:00 pm  
    Blogger paul said...

    I act for John deere- they move a shitload of product. Even make ride-on mowers now.

    7/23/2004 09:19:00 am  
    Blogger Dirk said...

    just at a guess, I would say that JD would put out about 50% of tractors sold in the 200 - 300hp range. They don't do as well in the larger or smaller sizes. Don't know why that is in the bigguns but there is just too much competition in the tiddlers.
    P.S. I have a JD ride -on. Its about 10,000 hours old and is really a generic mower that JD put badges on.

    7/23/2004 03:36:00 pm  

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