Ern and Monica Pethick of McAuley, Manitoba, were looking for something out of the ordinary when they purchased their first Fendt 714 Vario tractor about four years ago. A back injury suffered many years ago meant bouncing around in a tractor could be pretty uncomfortable for Ern, so the suspension systems on Fendt-brand tractors that offered a smoother ride really appealed to him.
“Allister, our son, said ‘why don’t you buy a Fendt?’” remembers Ern. “You have a suspended front axle and a suspended cab.”
The Fendt brand
The Pethick family was aware of what the Fendt brand had to offer. Until 1999 they farmed in the Cornwall area of southern England. There, a local custom contractor they knew used Fendt tractors exclusively, and a family friend had a Fendt dealership.
“We didn’t really want to buy a new one,” says Ern. So after shopping around, they bought a 2001, 714 Vario. Ern immediately noticed the difference in ride quality compared to the more common tractor model they traded in on it. “Compared to a normal tractor, it was out of this world,” he adds. “It was just like riding in a half-ton truck. That was the reason we bought a Fendt, really.”
Four years and over 2,000 operating hours later, the family decided to upgrade to a new 714 Vario. It arrived on the farm near the beginning of August. Now with about 150 hours on its clock, Ern and his family are equally impressed with their newest 145 horsepower machine. But it was a more expensive purchase than a popular model from another brand would have been, which is to be expected given the list of standard equipment and options most Fendt tractors come with.
“I’d say (it cost) 15 to 20 per cent more,” says Ern. But it may retain some of that extra value when it comes time to trade up again. “The other one we swapped back, we got nearly what we paid for it. They hold their value really well.”
The new 714 Vario is being put to a variety of mixed farming chores, ranging from loader work, to powering a round baler and field sprayer. According to the Variotronic tractor management system, average fuel consumption so far stands at 2.7 gallons per hour. Assuming a diesel fuel price of $1 per litre, that’s a modest operating cost of $10.26 per hour.
“Cost-wise, per hour that one is cheaper to run than most other things we’ve ever had,” says Ern. “Fuel-wise this new one is out of this world (good) on fuel.” He believes the low operating costs and expected trade-in value will mean the new Fendt’s overall cost to the farm will be comparable with any other model — and he’ll have the advantages offered by the tractor’s added features.
“I think when all is said, if you kept it on a five-year term, you’d come out as good or ahead,” he says. “It’s just that initial outlay,” adds Monica in agreement.
Buying the farm’s first, used 714 Vario and sourcing parts for it has required more than just driving to a dealership in the nearest town. Ern used the internet to find the tractor. It was purchased from an Alberta dealer, the same one that has since supplied their new tractor.
The family has also continued to source parts and maintenance items from the same dealer. “We just ring (them). They put it on the bus and it’s here the next day,” he says.
But the first 714 Vario required hardly any service, needing only a cab fan bearing and a fuel pump shortly before it left the farm. One of Ern’s sons is a heavy-duty mechanic, and after the dealership faxed a service manual schematic, he was able to install the replacement pump.
In his experience, though, Ern hasn’t been able to source Fendt filters from his nearest AGCO dealers. “That’s the only thing,” he says. “You’ve got to go to the Fendt dealers for filters. The other AGCO dealers, like Massey Ferguson dealers, can’t source those parts. I’ve taken filter numbers to (the local MF dealer) and they tried but couldn’t get them.”
The Pethicks keep their own stock of filters and have copies of the necessary service manuals. “We have the actual workshop manual on the computer,” says Monica. “And it will tell you the (trouble) codes.” Whenever a trouble code appeared on the first tractor’s monitor, they could look it up at home and know what’s required to clear it. But those instances have been few and far between.
And while both Fendts have been comfortable tractors to operate, the family finds the new Variotronic system complex to learn. A criticism others have offered about it. However, once they get onto it, Ern expects the system will provide a lot of benefits even their first Fendt didn’t offer. The high level of ISOBUS compliance offered by the Variotronic system should provide easier and more efficient control for implements like the family’s Vermeer-brand round baler.
After putting 2,000 hours on their previous 714 Vario and getting used to their brand new one, the family is more than satisfied with both tractors so far. It was a nice bonus afor Ern that the new 714 Vario, the first brand-new tractor he’s ever purchased, arrived on his 60th birthday.
Happy birthday, Ern. †