A move to Continental VF TractorMaster tyres has given farmer and contractor Ian Tanswell the ability to reassess how he manages his workload on the Somerset/Dorset border. Operating out of Sherbourne, he farms in partnership with his father Chris and runs two John Deere 6250R tractors and a 6215R.
Working within a six-mile radius of his yard, Ian covers 1,600 acres of rented and contracted arable land. He is also able to utilise his machinery to work on some local dairy farms. It is mainly cultivation work, drilling, spraying, and fertiliser spreading.
“When we bought the two new 6250R tractors, they came specified with conventional radial tyres and I asked my dealer James Donnelly at DSD Tyres if there was a way I could extend the life of the tyres and work more efficiently. He suggested trying VF tyres on my tractor as a comparison and the outcome has brought significant operation benefits,” he explained.
The move to VF has enabled Mr Tanswell to halve his operating pressures, dropping from 24 psi to 12 for some fieldwork. The tyres can carry the same load as conventional radial tyres with 40% less pressure. Alternatively, he has the option to run at the same pressure as a conventional tyre and carry 40% more load.
“In the field, the VF tyres help to reduce soil compaction, whilst on the road, I am able to carry greater loads. It’s the best of both worlds and I have settled at an operating pressure of 15 psi for most work as this gives me greater flexibility,” he said.
The VF TractorMaster tyre was supplied to Mr Tanswell with ContiPressureCheck, a sensor in the tyres that feeds information to a cab-mounted display. “I have never used pressure sensors before, but it has been a real eye-opener to see how much the pressure can change as the tyres heat up. I can start the day at 15 psi and by lunchtime, the pressures will be up to 18 so if I am changing fields to softer soils, I know to let the tyres down a little to minimise soil compaction.”
The technology, which has been brought over from Continental’s truck tyres, is constantly updating with heat and pressure measurements to enable the operator to monitor the tyres in real-time. This has helped Mr Tanswell to improve his service by reducing ground pressure. “When drilling, I have noticed that I can spread the weight of the tractor more efficiently which reduces compaction at the point of drilling. This has led to better crop establishment and a more even crop for my customers.”
The ability to load carry at lower pressures has enabled him to bring forward some of the work he does for local dairy farmers. His Amazone fertiliser spreader has a 4.2-tonne capacity, which if operated on soft ground with conventional tyres would cause significant damage to the soil. However, with VF tyres he has found that the lower operating pressure has improved this and helped him get a head start. “I would never have gone on to a field to apply fertiliser in February, but this year the tyres meant I could. I have been able to spread on both arable and grassland earlier which has helped me and the farmers I work for.”
The 710/70 R42 rear tyres and 600/65 R30 front tyres give the tractor a wider footprint. This helps spread the weight, and the strength of the tyre sidewall means that Mr Tanswell has not experienced any cracking. “I have had the tyres on for nearly a full year and there are no signs of cracks or damage to the tyres. I would have run my standard tyres at higher pressures to alleviate the stress on the tyre and the potential for the sidewalls to crack, but this would cause greater compaction. With VF I can run at lower pressures confidently and, so far, they have shown little sign of wear.”
On soft ground, especially when ploughing, he suggests that the tyres also have greater floatation properties. “The lower ground pressure means I don’t see furrow shine anymore and the tyres sit nicely in the furrow wall. I have also considered using wheel weights to improve the grip. The increased weight per square inch of tyre would improve traction but is rare that I would need this because the treads on the tyres seem to grip very well.”
Mr Tanswell covers 1,200 acres using a six-metre Alpego power harrow with a coulter bar to carry a drill. The varied soils and undulating landscape make carrying the weight a challenge, especially at headlands. However, the VF tyres have made the tractor feel more stable by managing the weight more efficiently. “You can see the tyre flexing as the power harrow lifts at the headland. This prevents the tyre from digging in and helps me to make more accurate turns.”
The VF tyres have made such a difference that Mr Tanswell has invested in the technology on other machines. “Continental has a VF TractorMaster Hybrid tyre that comes in the right size for my trailed sprayer. I think by using these tyres I will be able to see the same benefits that I have with the tractor. It will also help me reduce compaction and get on to fields earlier to spray. The sprayer can hold 6200 litres which makes it the heaviest equipment I use so having the VFs will make all the difference,” he concluded.