How long can a tractor live?

Some Ukrainian farmers are turning 
to the Czech Republic for machinery

A Zetor Forterra tractor in action.

Almost all modern agricultural machines have their advantages. I prefer machinery with a long life. For example, my parents, who live in Ukraine, drive a Volvo made in 1987, with no problems. Most modern cars are made for four to five years of operation.

A similar situation exists in the world of tractors and combines. In Ukraine, it’s common to see 20 to 25-year-old American tractors and German harvesters still working perfectly. I’m not sure that modern models have the same longevity.

But, oddly enough, I have confidence in Zetor tractors, which are produced in the Czech Republic. I write this not as an advertisement, but as a reflection of farmers’ comments. I talked with about two dozen owners of tractors Zetor in Ukraine and did not hear a single negative comment. For me, this is the best indication of quality machinery.

Today in the Zetor model range there are tractors from 67 to 163 hp. The most popular models of Czech tractors are Zetor Forterra (up to 147 hp), Zetor Proxima (up to 117 hp) and Zetor Cristal (up to 163 hp).

There first Zetor tractors were sold in Ukraine six or seven years ago. Now there are already more than 50 Zetor tractors running in the country. I spoke with farmer Vladimir Roy, one of the first owners of the Czech tractor Zetor Forterra, several times. I was surprised to find out that he paid about the same for the Czech tractor as he would have paid for a more internationally known brand. He said he wanted to test it out. Today, Roy’s tractor has worked more than 4,000 hours, with no major repairs or problems. Roy says, “this tractor has no competitors,” and adds that Zetor is called “the best second-hand tractor in Europe.”

The speed range of Zetor Forterra is 30/30. This allows farmers to select the most economical mode when performing different jobs. photo: Supplied

All of the components of Zetor tractors are manufactured at the plant in the Czech Republic. Tests are carried out in several stages — each new engine must work on the stand for several hours.

Operating conditions

Unfortunately, the operating conditions for tractors in Ukraine are far from ideal. With cash being scarce, farmers are often forced to refuel tractors with cheaper, substandard fuels. With heavy use and little cash, oil and filters are not always replaced on time. Tractors are driven over rough, dusty roads, and the average load on a tractor is 2,000 hours per year. Under these conditions, reliability is important.

“Where electronic technologies are used in tractors of other manufacturers, mechanical solutions are used in the Zetor design. Yes, there is modern electronics, but the design is made so that due to its whims, the work of the tractor does not stop,” explains Ukrainian tractor expert on Sergei Legostaev.

Igor Pavlyuk is a freelance farm writer in Ukraine.

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