Making its first appearance at the Manitoba Ag Days event in Brandon in January was the MTZ-Kirovets K-744. And it had to rank as one of the most popular attractions on the show floor.
“They’ve been pretty busy,” commented a staff member at a neighbouring display when Grainews stopped by. We went there to meet Arie Prilik, vice president of MTZ Equipment Ltd., the North American distributor for MTZ/Kirovets tractors.
“The (Kirovets) tractor was sold in the past under the Belarus name,” he explains.
The forerunner to the K-744, the Russian-built 7100 (K-701), was added to the Belarus brand’s line of MFWD models here in the 1970s, but the current version of the four-wheel drive offers a considerable number of updates and improvements over that earlier machine, just like you’d expect on any tractor after all those years. And the modern K-744 offers considerably more horsepower than the old 7100.
“In the past about 1,300 of the big four-wheel drive tractors were sold (in Canada),” he continues. “A few hundred of them are still running, so if you have neighbours or relatives that are still running the old Belarus tractors, tell them to call us. We still provide factory original parts and service for any machine that was sold 30 years ago. That’s the beauty of mass production. The price is good and 20 years from now the farmer can feel confident that he can still get the parts after so many years.”
Prilik’s company took over distributorship in North America after the previous distributor ceased operations and discontinued importing tractors from Belarus. The new firm, MTZ Equipment Ltd., has reintroduced several models of the current Belarus-built line of tractors (under that factory’s alternative nameplate MTZ). In addition, MTZ added the Kirovets K-744 to its line here in 2016.
At Grainews we’ve talked about its reintroduction, but this is the first time we’ve taken an up-close look at just what the K-744 has to offer. Arguably, price is the most obvious advantage.
“The rule of thumb in the industry today is running at about $1,000 per horsepower,” says Prilik. “If you’re looking at a 500-horsepower machine, the competition will be charging about half a million dollars for them. We’re looking at about $289,000 Canadian. You can almost buy two for the price of those other machines.”
Price isn’t everything
But Prilik argues that purchase price is only the start of the cost advantage. The simplified engineering on the K-744 is designed to carry cost savings through to regular service and maintenance, although it still has to meet Tier 4 engine emission standards.
“The initial price is just part of the cost of ownership,” he says. “You’re adding the lower cost of parts; you’re adding the lower cost of maintenance and service. The reason for that is the factory is purposely trying to avoid the cost of computers and complicated electronics. That means you won’t have to bring a $150 per hour computer technician to work on this machine. Any township mechanic can service this machine at a much lower cost. Any farmer that has a good shop on their farm can do most of the basic service themselves. After you change oil or filters you don’t need a computer technician to reset it.”
For those producers who have traditionally been “second or third tier buyers”, those who build their own farm fleets with used equipment and become the second or third owners, doing on-farm maintenance is a familiar task. The K-744 seems well suited to them. And used equipment buyers often keep their equipment on the farm longer.
“If you can afford to keep the machine 10 or 15 years, and you don’t need to switch them every couple of years, that’s when you make the money,” Prilik adds.
Although the major brands have introduced warranties on some qualifying used machines, most used tractors aren’t covered that way. Prilik says the K-744 sells new at a little more than half the average price of a new major brand machine, and as a bonus it comes with a pretty significant warranty to boot.
“We can go up to seven years, 10,000 hours on those machines,” he says. “That includes the engine and it can also include the powertrain. (For Mercedes Engines) there are about 750 dealers across North America. The manufacturer is very confident in this engine to throw up to a 10,000-hour, seven-year warranty, which is actually unheard of in this industry.”
Power is routed through the Kirovets brand’s own 16-speed semi-powershift transmission that offers four on-the-go shifts in each of four ranges.
“There are several tire options,” Prilik says. “The most common is the 710/70 R 38. We’re also offering floaters, which are 1050s by Mitas. That will give you wider tires with reduced compaction on the soil.
“Another option we’re offering is bolt-on tracks. Other manufacturers are offering tracks, but they usually require a separate tractor that has much stronger final drives and a much bigger transmission. In our case, the tractor already has stronger final drives, using six-pinions (in the planetary final drive), not three. It can support tracks. We’re offering both 30- and 36-inch.”
Bolting on track modules will result in an overall speed reduction of about 20 per cent, which brings road speed down from about 37 km/h down to about 29 or 30.
Walking around the tractor at the Brandon show, Prilik points out that the K-744 offers more than just brute horsepower, it has a pretty long list of high-end features, some of which are included in the base price and would be options on competing brands. The model on display was outfitted with a Trimble auto-guidance system, including a rear camera display.
“The tractor has 74 g.p.m. (280 l/min.) (Bosch) hydraulics, and this is net,” says Prilik pointing out the rear SCVs. “Most manufacturers give you a gross number. We have a dedicated pump for the power steering and the transmission. So the 74 g.p.m. is available, full flow, for the implements. There are five hydraulic outlets (one of them is connected to the three-point hitch). (Each one can deliver) up to 37 g.p.m. (140 l/min) per outlet. That can support any implement you’d like to throw behind a 435-horsepower machine.”
More common in Europe where tractors often pull on-road trailers and must comply with EU braking regulations is an air brake system.
“The tractor comes with a full air system,” says Prilik. “The tractor brakes are air brakes. You can use it to connect to trailer air brakes. Another nice feature is we provide all the hoses, so you can inflate your tires from the tractor or you can blow (out) the radiator. You can even connect pneumatic tools.”
Also at the back is a Category 4 three-point hitch 1-¾-inch 1,000-r.p.m. PTO and heavy-duty drawbar.
“It’s an upgraded drawbar,” he notes. “We upgraded it to 11,000 pounds tongue weight, which means if you have one of those older grain carts with two axles and puts lots of weight on the front, this drawbar will take it.
“A three-point hitch is a $20,000 or $25,000 option with other manufacturers. We agreed with the manufacturer that it will be included in the basic configuration. It’s a Category 4. We also provide the different ball sizes so you can get it down to (Category) 3 as well.”
Up top, the cab interior feels reasonably comfortable—certainly many steps above what the original 7100 Kirovets offered back in 1979, when the Nebraska Tractor Test Lab measured interior sound levels above 90 decibels.
“It’s a fairly modern cab with all the creature conveniences a farmer is expecting on modern machinery,” Prilik comments.
Standing beside the K-744 at the show, Prilik sums things up this way:
“The biggest advantage here is the economics at the end of the day.”