The colour of a tractor fleet tends to get chosen either through dealer loyalty or on an ad-hoc basis, it is not often that the opportunity arises to swap out one brand for another in one fell swoop.

Yet, just such an occasion arose at Gurteen College, Co. Tipperary, when the contract for the supply of tractors was put out to tender last year.

And the winners are… TFM

Templetouhy Farm Machinery (TFM) were the winners of this latest round and the college now has six new John Deeres with which to run the farm and train the students in machinery operation and management.

Kenneth Flynn, the college’s farm manager, had a major input into the decision and is so far delighted with how the deal has worked out since it swung into effect at the start of this year.

L-R, Kenneth Flynn, farm manager, David Murray, Hire Fleet Manager for TFM
L-r: Kenneth Flynn, farm manager, David Murray, hire fleet manager for TFM

It was, he notes, a lengthy process with at least 10 dealers responding to the original tender document which then got whittled down to just three or four, with only a very few percentage points between the final prices.

The tie-breaker came with the question as to what the dealers could offer to help with the education of the students, it being a fairly open request for ideas, and it was TFM which came up trumps.

Dealerships do the deal

David Murray, hire fleet manager for TFM, dealt with the contract from the dealership’s side and he insists that although John Deere was kept informed of the potential sale, the manufacturer offered no financial inducements to seal the deal, it was left totally in the dealer’s hands to secure it.

Having said that, he also points out that John Deere strongly believes in education and training and this will manifest itself as time goes on; there have already been student visits to TFM’s Clonmel branch for instruction on harvesters.

John Deere students Gurteen College
Gurteen College students of the level 5 course in agriculture await their turn on the JD 6R155

It is this potential to extend teaching resources beyond the campus which attracted the college to TFM’s proposals, along with the flexible and supportive approach by David who spent time sitting down with Ken and the farm staff to fine-tune the choice and specification of the tractors.

Throughout the process it was kept in mind that the tractors had to serve two purposes, that of farm tool and as an educational resource.

Future-proofing at Gurteen College

Six new tractors on 1,000ac is a generous allowance and not particularly realistic on a commercial farm of this size, but the students need to learn about farm machinery, and for that, you need machines available to them.

Abbey Tanker at Gurteen College
All ready for variable rate application, the 6R155 with IVT is well matched to the latest 3,500 gallon Abbey tanker

Another factor which Jon Parry, principal of the college, considers vitally important is that students need to be made aware of not only of what is currently possible, but what is also likely to be possible over the next few years.

The future is impossible to predict, but he does believe that to ready students for the ever-changing face of farming, they need to be bang up to date with today’s technology.

Tractors chosen

Taking all this into consideration, the final selection consisted of the following tractors.

The smallest picked was a 6100M which was kept in fairly basic spec and serves as a primary teaching tool for tractor familiarisation. It is equipped with a loader and represents many of the tractors found on Irish stock farms.

Gurteen College TFM Tractors
Not all of the college’s 500 students come from farming backgrounds, so the 6100M keeps things simple for those not familiar with tractors

Next, there were two 6120Ms, everyday workhorses that can perform a large variety of tasks, one of these has a higher spec loader fitted, controlled by the joystick on the armrest.

A lone 6140M was chosen to power the diet feeder throughout the winter, although it will escape this duty in the summer when it will be used for other field tasks.

TFM mixer instruction
Confined to the mixer wagon for the winter, the 6140m will get to feel grass under its boots come the spring

Finally, there are a brace of 6R155s, one of which is fitted with John Deere’s IVT, constantly variable transmission, while the other has the standard Autoquad transmission, as do all the others.

At the time of Agriland’s visit, these two were busy with slurry tankers, the IVT fitted model being used to train students in the spreading of slurry with a trailing shoe equipped Abbey tanker.

Transmission choice

It might seem a little odd to specify a transmission dating from 1993 on what is otherwise a modern fleet of tractors, but David points out that it remains the most popular box by far on this size of tractor, and just so long as customers keep asking for it, then John Deere will keep making it.

All the tractors are auto-steer and GPS-ready and the top two have screens built in, while a third screen is used as a mobile unit to be mounted in any of the other tractors when required.

6R155 Screen IVT transmission
One of the 6R155s has a constantly variable transmission to enable students to gain experience on this type of drive

Digital technology is becoming an important part of the syllabus and so the tractors need to be able to demonstrate the various levels of digital options available.

As mentioned above, this is a facet that Jon is particularly keen to promote, as is TFM, which now has a team of four people helping farmers adopt the latest technology whether it be on-board features or office-based management systems.

Rolling updates for Gurteen College

Just six weeks into the contract, all is going well, the college is delighted to have an up-to-date fleet of well-equipped tractors on which to teach students, while TFM has six more John Deere tractors on its hire books, each of which, David predicts, will easily find a new home in the area, as well cared for ‘Gurteen tractors’ are keenly sought by local farmers.

College TFM machinery
In and amongst all the shiny new metal, and still in use, there remains this Fiat 80-90, which is something of an old favourite with college staff

Another feature of the three-year deal is that the tractors are to be replaced every January with new models.

This not only means that the latest machines will always be available for instruction, but it also allows for a tweaking of the fleet as the farm develops.

Gurteen College has the benefit of being run by an independent trust, this allows a flexibility that other colleges may lack.

The ability to make purchasing decisions by a small, dedicated team has worked in the college’s favour according to Ken, and he intends making the most of this advantage.