The search for a suitable power unit to run a Heath Superchaser led Kent-based contractor Matthew Cake to his local Kubota dealer, Lister Wilder.
“Listers were able to put together a deal that was very attractive, and knowing how Kubota’s construction kit performs, the M7 was certainly worth a closer look,” says Matt Cake. “And so far, I’ve not been disappointed with either the tractor, or the dealer.”
Working away from home during harvest, Matt will move straw from approximately 7,000 acres – the equivalent of 18,000 big square bales measuring 120×120, to suit a variety of customer requirements.
“As soon as the straw is fit to bale, it’s down to me to get the fields cleared as quickly and efficiently as possible,” he says. “Time is of the essence – customers are keen to start cultivations for stale seedbeds and to get rape drilling underway. So I need speed, performance and reliability.”
The M7-173 Premium tows a Heath Superchaser Extra equipped with side gates, while a telescopic bale bumper sits on the front linkage. Each load comprises 12 big square bales, which are collected and hauled to stack sites.
“Bale stack locations vary, as does the haul length to and from field locations. So I wanted a tractor with a good combination of power and economy, generous hydraulic performance and a decent transmission,” he says. “I can get a full load on-board in under five minutes.”
He adds that while CVT gearboxes tend to be the transmission of choice for bale chasing, he reckons the Kubota powershift transmission in his M7-173 Premium is one of the best auto-shifting transmissions he’s driven.
“Auto-shifting mode is superb, and with brake to neutral, it behaves like a CVT,” says Chris. “When hauling a full load back to the stack, the transmission simply changes up and down on its own. I don’t have to do anything, just keep the throttle wide open and it runs up and down through the box. It’s very easy to drive.”
“Given that I’m 100hp down on last year’s tractor, the Kubota is an impressive performer,” he says. “It has surprised me a lot with what it can do, and how well it copes with the chaser. The four-cylinder engine is gutsy.”
“There are times when I think it could do with a few more horses, but those are the times when it really surprises me,” he adds. “It’s strong, and it doesn’t lose much power through the transmission.”
The Heath Superchaser runs with its own joystick control, powered by the tractor’s hydraulic system. A telescopic bale bumper helps to shunt bales into the correct orientation for loading, allowing Matt to control the bale fork to build a tight load, with bale count, load count and field-by-field recording entered manually on the 12in K-Monitor.
“The armrest and screen are superb,” he says. “Easy and comfortable to use, and with a fully customisable split-screen display, I can easily prioritise what I’d like to see and use.”
“For this task, I set the transmission functionality as the main image, with smaller sections using an on-screen calculator and field recording. It’s easy to add 12 bales to the tally each time I leave the field.”
“It’s equally as easy to change between power modes to suit field and road work.”
Mr Cake says he’d like to see subtle changes made to improve the in-cab layout.
“I’d prefer the rear wiper switch towards the back of the cab, while lights and radio would be better in the roof space,” he says. “But what is superb is the LED light pack – that is a must-have for anyone who works long into the night, and is equally beneficial when I’m hedge cutting.”