Correct tyre choice and maintenance helps large farming business to run smoothly

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Choosing the right tyres initially and ensuring that they operate at the correct pressures for the application, load and speed is a priority for P. G. Rix Farms Ltd in Essex in England, where production is focussed primarily on onions and potatoes.

Farming land throughout the Stour Valley, over an eight-mile radius from Bures in the west to Dedham in the east, day-to-day operations involve significant travel on public roads, primarily connected with crop irrigation and transporting produce from outlying locations to the company’s base at Lodge Farm, Great Horkesley, near Colchester.

Durability, reliability, low rolling resistance and competitive cost are the key priorities when choosing tyres, states Neil Benson, Farms Manager, who joined the business in 1994.

“We farm over a large area, so our workhorse tractors spend 80 per cent of their life on the road.

“Ensuring that tyres perform well, operate reliably and last the distance are crucial for timely, efficient operation of the entire business, not just the farming side but also for Stourgarden, the Rix family’s produce processing and packaging business. Trelleborg has been helping us to achieve for more than a decade.”

G. Rix Farms’ tractor fleet includes 15 tractors in the 150hp range, which do most of the everyday work. Currently, these are John Deere 6150R and 6930 models that operate either on standard 480/70 R28 front and 520/85 R38 rear tyres for field and road work or 380-85 R34 front, 380/90 R50 rear row crop tyres, Neil explains.

“Initially, we specified Trelleborg to replace another brand of tyre which were factory-fitted but gave us significant problems because of side wall failure and uneven wear. This meant that they did not last as expected.

“When they came up for replacement we discussed the options with our tyre distributor, Treadfirst, and on their recommendation switched to Trelleborg, which has always been at the forefront of tyre developments.

“Right from the start we were impressed. Trelleborg were competitively priced and the back-up service was excellent. Neil Sharman, the company’s Technical and Support Manager, helped to set them up correctly, which included weighing an example of each main tractor model we had at the time, the John Deere 6210R and John Deere 6910 on 540/65-R30 front and 620/70-R42 rear tyres.”

Shortly afterwards, Neil Sharman supplied the business with laminated cards showing the correct tyre pressures for specific operating weights and speeds, Neil Benson recalls.

“That was very helpful and just what we wanted because it enabled operators to fine-tune tyre pressures to specific tasks, which optimised the footprint.

“Immediately, this resulted in much-improved traction and performance, both in the field and on the road, with significantly better ride comfort, safety and ultimately longer tyre life across all the tractors.

“That excellent support has been there ever since and is one of the reasons why we continue to favour the brand.”

All of P. G. Rix Farms’ tractors are purchased outright with a five-year maintenance contract. They average 1,000 hours per year and spend the early part of the season on row-crop tyres for planting and irrigation work.

In July, the row-crops are changed for standard tyres and the tractors then spend most of their time pulling 18-tonnne tandem-axle Bailey trailers, some running on Trelleborg 560/60-R22.5 tyres, hauling 22,000 tonnes of onions and 6000 tonnes of potatoes to the processing and packing plant at Lodge Farm.

The site is home to P G Rix Farms’ offices, workshops and agricultural machine stores, together with a 7000-tonne ambient control bulk onion store, 17,000-tonnes of controlled-environment onion storage, 4300-tonnes of controlled-environment potato storage, a 450-tonne seed potato store and a 2500-tonne grain store.

It is also home to Stourgarden, a company which the Rix family formed in 1996 to supply onions to multiple retail trade. New premises were built on the site of a former pig unit and incorporate all critical aspects of food handling.

Together, Stourgarden Ltd and P.G.Rix Farms Ltd represent the only UK business to combine three fundamental elements of the onion supply chain – growing, packing and processing.

HARD ON TYRES

The fact that most of the operations’ tractors spend most of their time on the road is very hard on tyres, Neil Benson says.

“Operators are responsible for ensuring that they maintain them at the correct pressure and to make it as easy as possible we have installed compressors on each farm, and even some tractors have them.”

Tyres last around 3,000 hours, or three years and tractors are changed every six years, he says.

“The bulk of our work takes place between March and mid-December. The season starts with planting potatoes and onions during March and April, and lifting of both crops starts in July, while main crop potatoes finish at end of October and the last of the sugar beet come out of the ground just before Christmas.”

G. Rix Farms use a range of Trelleborg tractor tyres, including the TM600, which delivers impressive traction and self-cleaning, combined with high load capacity, low soil compaction and excellent wear resistance.

Increasingly, the company is moving to the TM700, which is well known for its excellent traction, self-cleaning, handling, ride comfort, long life and economy.

The Trelleborg TM100 tyres are ideal for row crop work and deliver a comfortable drive. The quality and specification of the design and materials which are used guarantee high load capacity and exceptional resistance to tyre fatigue.

The high lug angle ensures traction in all soil conditions, while the geometry of the lugs and mud breakers provide superior self-cleaning characteristics. The round shoulders of the TM100 allow working between rows of crops without damaging the plants.

“Trelleborg are our first choice for tyres because they have given excellent service over the years, the support we have received has been outstanding and the products continue to develop. Many of our tractors are now fitted with the TM700, which provides excellent traction, a more comfortable ride on the road and longer tyre life,” Neil concludes.

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