Rotating cabin puts a new spin on tractors

Mark Swift

A large scale farming operation in Central West NSW has taken delivery of one of the first CLAAS XERION 4500 tractors equipped with a variable cabin in Australia. Source: AFDJ eNews

Boasting permanent 4×4 drive, all-wheel steering and continuously variable transmission, the 483 hp tractor is one of the most advanced tractors available.

However, it is the machine’s unique rotating cabin that has heads turning.

With the cab mounted in its forward-facing position, XERION can be used as a conventional tractor for cultivation, sowing and spraying.

In less than 30 seconds, the cab can be rotated 180 degrees and locked in its rear-facing position above the back axle, transforming the tractor into a self-propelled mower, swather, mulcher or silage roller.

Kebby & Watson, a fifth-generation family-owned company that operates a number of properties in the Tichborne, Gunningbland and Eugowra districts, took delivery of its first CLAAS tractor, a XERION 3800 (379 hp), in 2012.

Jim and Janelle Watson with their son and daughter-in-law, Bruce and Karina Watson, and daughter and son-in-law, Katrina and Mark Swift, manage the business.

Mark, who manages the company’s machinery operations, began ‘eyeballing’ the XERION 3800 soon after its commercial release in Europe in 2007.

“We immediately saw its potential for use in controlled traffic and continuous cropping systems,” he said.

“At the time, we were looking at buying another front wheel assist tractor and a windrower. Alternatively, we could buy a XERION and have a custom made windrowing front for a similar amount.

“It’s never made sense to us to have so much capital tied up in a high horsepower tractor that you can only use for six weeks of the year, so we went for the XERION. Its versatility and manoeuvrability means you can use it for just about everything – sowing, spraying and windrowing.”

Mark contacted Parkes-based farm machinery dealership, McPherson Parts & Service, Service Sales Representative, Dave Thompson.

“Mark was quite serious, so we travelled to Melbourne and had a look at one of the very first XERION tractors imported into Australia,” said Mr Thompson.

“It took 12 months to figure out exactly what we wanted and what we could actually get, but once we placed the order, it all happened pretty quickly.

“A big part of this was seeing whether Midwest would come to the party in building a 12 metre Quad-Deck front so that it produced a windrow on either side of the tractor, in the timeframe required.”

The 3800 was immediately put to use in Kebby & Watson’s continuous winter-summer cropping program, which sees about 3400 ha planted to wheat, barley, triticale, canola, lupins, faba beans, lentils, sorghum and mung beans each year.

Impressed with its performance and reliability over three years of continuous use, Kebby & Watson elected to upgrade the 3800 to a new 4500 in March this year.

“The manufacturing quality of these tractors is fantastic,” Mark said. “In three years, we replaced two alternators and fixed a leak in the air conditioner, which I don’t think you can complain about.”

Compared with the 3800, the new model has an extra 104 hp, is three tonnes heavier has heavier axles and 710/70 R42 Michelin Machxbib tyres mounted on three metre wheel spacings.

Mark also specified the tractor with eight, high capacity remote hydraulic circuits – two front and six rear. The unit is believed to be the only machine of its type operating in broadacre conditions in Australia.

Unlike most tractors, XERION features a full chassis frame, with the engine and transmission mounted as non-load bearing modules.