Brian and Debbie Steele milk 250 cows on 76 hectares east of Morrinsville, in the heart of Waikato dairy country. Contract milker Carl Richmond makes up the third leg of a team and oversees the smooth running of things mechanical, by bringing experience from a previous life as a motorcycle mechanic.
Like many dairy farmers’ Brian liked cows more than machinery, but in 2011 took the advice of Norwood Farm Machinery Centre’s service man Murray Dickie who had nursed a tractor through 24 years until it came to the end of its life. Dickie suggested that the Steele’s look at Kubota, not least because they were simple, largely mechanical without any surplus electronics, and well suited as a dairy utility steed.
An ex-demo M9540 with LA1353 loader fitted the bill, and was followed by another identical unit in 2014, and coincided with the arrival of Richmond. Nowadays, the first arrival has clocked up 1800 hours, the second unit 600 hours, and both fit into a routine that sees one tractor dedicated to feeding duties, and the other to mowing, topping and fertiliser application.
Both Steele and Richmond talk of the powerful and grunty Kubota 4-cylinder engine, and the bevel gear front axle design which "allows it to spin on a dime” while the hydraulic shuttle comes in for praise for being extremely smooth, and "very controllable” for hooking up implements. Carl also sings the praises of the loader which has a low profile, and combines with the raked tractor hood for excellent visibility, and also paid particular attention to the novel hydraulic self-levelling valve, which keeps its position when required, but can be switched off when increased bucket angles are required.
In-season it’s not uncommon for the tractors to run up between three and four hours a day, with the record sitting at 16 hours, but Steele sums up the purchase of this brace of modern tractor technology with the simple comment "excellent value for money”.
Kubota is imported in New Zealand by C B Norwood Distributors Ltd.
From left: Brian Steele (owner) and
Carl Richmond (contract milker)