Grainews Machinery Challenge: The most sophisticated and highly-optioned machine tested in the Grainews Machinery Challenge
Of the two telehandlers tested in the Grainews Machinery Challenge, the Merlo Multifarmer 40.9 stood out as the most capable and highly optioned. And with that honour, as you’d expect, it had the highest MSRP of any machine in the group, $241,800 as equipped with the grapple and over $60,000 of other included options.
The Merlo can lift a 4,000-kilogram load and extend its boom up to nine metres, although maximum load is diminished at full boom extension. No other machine in the group could match that. And Dynamic load control monitors lift capacity limits for safety to prevent tipping.
In practical terms, that means this machine could pick up a large round bale, extend the boom over a corral fence and place it in a pen feeder without actually having to open a gate. That could be a major time saver for some large cattle producers and feedlot operators.
The Merlo can also get those bales — or any other type of load — to a feedlot pen or wherever it’s needed fast, because it has both boom and cab suspension allowing for faster travel speeds over rough surfaces. But the boom suspension can be locked out to allow it to dig or for use in cleaning manure out of those corrals.
At the back end of the 40.9 are features that rival any utility-class ag tractor on the market at the moment. There’s a Category III three-point hitch with 7,000-kilogram lift capacity, a 540 and 1,000 r.p.m. PTO and four hydraulic SCVs. So the four-wheel drive 40.9 can replace that ag tractor in many field operations and completely put it to shame in the lifting and loading department.
Power comes from a side-mounted, turbocharged 156 horsepower (135 PTO) Deutz diesel mated to Merlo’s in-house hydrostatic transmission that will move the Multifarmer down the road at up to 40 km/h. A shuttle shift makes back-and-forth work easy. And a multi-function joystick controls the boom functions. The Merlo offers three steering options, front wheel, four-wheel and crab steer.
Judges had the opportunity to talk to a local farmer who has owned a Multifarmer for a few years, replacing an ag tractor and skid steer loader with it. He uses it in the field for haying operations and likes it so much he’s planning to upgrade to the model under test.
Every judge who operated this machine liked it — a lot. Farmers will find the cab control layout familiar. It has a standard shuttle shift liver on the left side of the steering column and a multi-function joystick mounted on a right-hand, padded armrest. One judge didn’t like the position of hydraulic remote switches, just rear of the joystick, which meant the padded armrest couldn’t extend all the way forward. Most judges, though, were pretty happy with it.
The cab door could be swung 180 degrees and pinned open so talking to coworkers outside or getting in and out repeatedly would be easier.
Boom and cab suspension made a noticeable difference both when carrying loads and when empty, allowing much faster travel over rough surfaces than any other of the test machines. And it felt very stable when lifting or extending loads.
The four-wheel steering option made the Merlo very manoeuvrable for its size. And the crab steer option could get you away from a wet spot in the field pretty quickly and easily.
Servicing this machine would be pretty nice, with all filters immediately accessible in the front of the engine compartment.
Inherent with telehandler design across all brands, vision to the right is restricted when the boom is raised, and because of the low-slung cab, round bales had to be lifted high to see under them when driving forward. That exaggerated the side vision restriction from the boom.
Drivers couldn’t see the rear hitch to back up and connect to an implement without a rear camera system. But Merlo offers one that shows its image on the standard 8.5-inch, in-cab monitor (and it’s included in the options list).
Although it was pretty nimble for its size, none of the judges could get the Merlo to turn through a nine-foot by nine-foot 90 degree turn meant to simulate turning in tight quarters like a barn alleyway, which was one of the standard tests judges used. All the other tested machines could do it.
Access to the cab didn’t seem all that comfortable, with both grab handles not exactly where you’d expect them. Steps rather than ladder-style footholds would have been much nicer and made cab access easier.