CHRISTMAS came early this year for the Hardie family at Narrogin.
Their boys could be forgiven for thinking all their Christmases had come at once when their parents Barry and Dorothy gave the nod for new equipment purchases.
On the list were a John Deere 9650 combine harvester, the first header they had bought new; a John Deere 8420, the first new tractor on the farm since 1968 and a new John Deere 3400 telehandler.
Obviously the new machines have dramatically lifted productivity levels and probably, more importantly, given everybody a new lease of life on work shifts.
According to Barry, it was time to upgrade plant so he handed the task to his sons Clayton, Lewis and Brenton, who would be the main users.
The STS 9650 is a conventional straw walker machine and was specifically chosen because of the amount of hay produced on the property.
³We cut at can height so we need a good capacity machine to handle the straw which is dropped out the back for baling,² Barry said.
³That¹s the reason we went for a conventional header because it doesn¹t mash up the straw like a rotary.
³But when we¹re going through canola we can bring the chopper into operation to cut and spread.²
The 8420 represents a move into a new age workhorse that has power, speed and comfort.
The 175kW (235hp PTO) model comes standard with independent link suspension (ILS), a 41km/h transmission and an optional active seat suspension which the Hardies signed on.
With the 8420 already having clocked up more than 500 hours, the Hardie brothers were well placed to describe its performance.
Spreading, spraying, seeding and baling are onerous jobs at the best of times and could leave you somewhat exhausted at the end of the day.
But with average working speeds above 30km/h over a range of conditions, the boys had no complaints with the combination of ILS and active seat.
And there was plenty of power available, linked to an automatic powershift transmission to handle seed and spraying rigs and a five-tonne capacity spreader.
³It will be at least a 700-hour a year tractor for us,² Barry said.
The surprise packet has been the 3400 John Deere telehandler.
Equipped with a four cylinder, 4.5L John Deere PowerTech engine rated at 75kW (100hp), the 3400 can reach more than 7m (23ft) with a lift capacity of 3.3 tonnes.
The engine is located in the rear (a boon to the operator) to act as a counterweight and the boom pivot is in front of the rear axle.
Three steering modes and a high steering angle of 43 degrees provide best-in-class maneuverability.
The machines have permanent 4WD and high road speeds of up to 36km/h.
³Its speed was a big consideration because of the travelling we do between two farms,² Barry said.
³It¹s a general purpose vehicle and we¹re always using it.
³Before we bought the 3400 we hired a telehandler and when we get to situations where we have peak loads, we¹ll probably hire again to have two working.
³At the moment the 3400 is mainly a field worker but it we go higher with our hay stacks we can obviously use it a lot more for stacking.²
A John Deere front end loader also is used for stacking bales.
The transmission in the 3400 consists of a large torque converter, working in conjunction with a remote-mounted, four-speed, synchronized transmission.
It also features an oil-to-air cooler to maintain optimum working temperatures, whatever the conditions.
Hydraulics feature a load-sensing system with a constant-flow pump that delivers 28 gallons per minute at 3400psi.
The joystick is mounted directly onto the main hydraulic valve, providing precise control for raising and lowering, and filling and dumping.
A rocker switch, conveniently located on the top of the joystick, operates the extend-retract function.
Two yellow buttons control boom auxiliary functions, such as grabbing with a manure fork or using attachments with multiple functions.