Cover story: CLAAS Xerion 4200 and Garant Kotte tanker

By: Dan Reymer, Photography by: Dan Reymer

IMG 7502 Pipe set-up allows the tanker to suck both truck and trailer at the same time IMG 7502
IMG 7519 Dribble bar neatly tucks away for transport IMG 7519
IMG 7528 Pump unit with sand trap neatly tucked into the side of the tanker IMG 7528
IMG 7585 Freshly reconditioned Strautmann mixer wagon ready for the farm IMG 7585
IMG 7589 Storth pump and SlurryKat stirrer in the workshop waiting on their new trailer IMG 7589

The combination of a 30,000-litre Garant Kotte coupled with a CLAAS Xerion 4200 allows for impressive results

Rolling contour isn’t an issue for the big unit

Joining a fleet of other various sized tankers in a well-established operation, we spend some time with the new Garant machine to see how it slots into Precision Slurry’s set-up so well, along with some customised builds designed to suit the demands of this operation.

A classy fleet

The Claas Xerion is a big machine on its own merits, let alone with the Garant tanker behind it. Boasting 30 cube of capacity, it’s understandable why such a tractor (powered by a Mercedes-Benz 10.7-litre engine) is needed to handle this tanker. The tanker also weighs roughly 15 tonnes empty, so once coupled with the 18-tonne Xerion, the combo isn’t the lightest kid on the block.

When these machines were spec’d, operations manager Robert Crafar opted for 800 wide tyres all around to help lower the ground pressure. Reducing the impact on the soil gives better crop health along with better soil structure.

Robert Crafar with the Xerion and Garant

The CTI (central tyre inflation) system was fitted from the factory and further helps minimise damage to crops. Robert also said that as the Xerion has rigid axles, the tyres at a low pressure take up a lot of the rough ground aiding the cab suspension to keep the ride smooth. Being able to get the weight and all 462hp to the ground through low tyre pressures leaves any hills un-scathed. An extra 250 per litre minute pump was spec’d to provide the hydraulic power for the Garant, as there’s no PTO input.

The Xerion was chosen as the tractor of choice for the weight, both for its 462hp engine, as well as CLAAS being one of the only manufacturers to produce a tractor with a fifth wheel able to take a gooseneck trailer.

Investing in the gooseneck tanker was something of a risk for Precision Slurry, as the Garant unit represented the first of its kind in New Zealand. A firm belief in the fact that with well-researched risk comes reward, the reason for choosing the gooseneck was to try reducing the overall length of the unit, along with placing a good amount of weight directly onto the tractor.

Taking a whole unit load at a time keeps efficiency high

Robert had ‘early concerns’ about the guards on the tractor fouling the tanker in extreme cases but to this day, not a mark has been added. The electronic steering reduces the need for any extra physical connections to the tractor and gives the unit great manoeuvrability for its size, and given the gooseneck, visibility down the sides is excellent.

The size of the tanker was needed to keep up efficiency in emptying larger tankers, which cart waste product from factories/processing plants in the area. Within 10 minutes, hoses are connected, tankers sucked dry, hoses disconnected, and the slurry tanker is en route to another paddock to empty in.

If situations suit, the fill arm located on the top of the tanker can be used. This minimises physical work for the operator, as it’s all controlled from the seat. Being able to extend nine meters out and up to four meters below ground level, sucking out of ponds or pods increases efficiency and versatility.

15m boom is perfect for the rolling country

The bonus of not being a vacuum tanker is that the reliance on pressure displacement is less, supplying a more direct and efficient form of pumping. The pump and tank drain found at the lower front of the tank give easier emptying on hillsides as you can go down a hill and empty the tanker out as opposed to trying to tow all the weight uphill. The only downfall of this is the pump is a long way from the discharge and spreading bars, which, in turn, gives a slight delay from opening the valve to the product coming out.

While the 15-metre dribble bar isn’t the largest available, based on experience with their 18-metre one, Robert says it’s surprising how many times the 18 just won’t fit between troughs, trees, and fences. Plus, the bonus of better contouring on the extremely undulating terrain of the Reporoa area.

The whole bar is suspended by pipes and wire rope allows the bar to ride up ridges and drop into hollows with ease, causing no damage to the main structure. The reasons for heading down the Garant Kotte path are simple: tried, tested, proven, and backed up by guys who know their stuff.

Large tyres with CTI keep soil impact low

After having the slightly smaller 24,000-litre since 2017 and given that this was well used with no issues and proved itself a versatile tanker, Precision Slurry decided another would slot in well. While the Garant tanker is available in both galvanised and painted, the painted option is necessary, as whey deteriorates the galvanisation. Robert was impressed with Kaisier New Zealand, who bought the tanker into the country.

"They know their stuff, which certainly helps when dealing with machinery," he says.

The business of slurry

Precision Slurry started business in 2013, when Glen and Paula’s sharemilking job required them to spread their own farm effluent. With no gear owned by the farm, plus minimal contractors around, the seed was planted around buying their own gear.

Precision Slurry’s older Garant tanker

Initially, two Cook and Galloway vacuum tankers were purchased and along with some neighbouring work, the business was able to purchase a better tractor and grow to what Precision Slurry is today.

Glen and wife Paula are dairy farmers, milking 800 cows on 241 hectares at Reporoa, south of Rotorua. Glen grew up in Reporoa and knows the area like the back of his hand. In the eight years since he, Robert, and Paula decided to take their tongue-in-cheek reputation as ‘shit stirrers’ to the next level, the business has flourished.

While both brothers and Paula are keenly involved in the business, Robert has taken on the role of operations manager.

The original Cook and Galloway tanker that started the business

"We could see the need for a quality dairy effluent application specialist that could stir and spread effluent from ponds, bladders, and other effluent facilities around the Central Plateau region," says Glen.

The business uses state-of-the-art equipment and machinery to manage their customers’ effluent, all the while working within effluent management plans and advising best practices based on their many years of experience.

"We take yesterday’s grass and put it back onto the paddocks," Glen says. "Traditionally, effluent has been an underutilised asset on a lot of dairy farms. It’s essentially tonnes of free fertiliser and when stirred and applied well, the benefits and cost savings are huge.

"And, having grown up on a dairy farm, we have experience of what works and what doesn’t. That knowledge and our engineering skills really help us when we need to solve a problem for someone."

The latest addition to the fleet ready for its first day’s work

As befits an engineer’s business, Precision Slurry’s machinery cache is impressive: four Fendt 900 series tractors and a Claas Xerion tractor. But it’s the effluent tankers in particular that impress: a 27 cubic metre Veenhuis slurry tanker, and the 30 cubic metre Kotte Garant pump application tanker. They also use seven-metre and 12-metre Storth Mega Mix stirrers and a SlurryKat propellor stirrer.

Today, the business covers the Central North Island, Bay of Plenty, and South Waikato. The Reporoa location suits well, with options such as whey from a nearby dairy factory and more recently digestate from the Ecogas plant to manage, along with serving the needs of local farmers.

Precision Slurry also works with a contractor with an umbilical to cover all aspects of slurry spreading, pumping, and transporting.

A custom-designed Alpine Buildings shed is now the heart of the operation, where the team base from and where ideas come to life. As Glen and Robert are keen engineers, they designed the shed to have a pair of three bays to be able to work on different projects when required, while still being able to perform maintenance and adjustments on the hard-wearing effluent machinery.

Glen Crafar and the recently built shed, which houses equipment and doubles as a workshop

Robert has made a few slurry operation hacks that work well in practise, from small touches such as rear mudguards on the Claas Xerion to help keep the tanker clean, to a vertically extending linkage, which gets any stirrer into an above-ground pond. Impressively made from a forklift frame with link arms, two right-angle gearboxes, and a lot of hydraulic lines, it carries the drive from the tractor’s PTO and up a couple of meters where the stirrer and pumps can do their job. These innovations ensure Precision Slurry can supply the best service possible and help maximise efficiency levels.

A full Trimble guidance and autosteer unit are fitted into the Claas Xerion to give perfect placement of spread products. A Tabula (Tracmap) unit is also fitted, warranting proof of placement for the ever-increasing environmental requirements.

The Claas Xerion coupled to the Garant tanker is an impressive sight and not a common one, as it’s the only combo of its kind here in New Zealand. Precision Slurry has a focus on efficiency in all aspects, minimising down or wait time. The Garant-Kotte tanker is an integral part of this, and Robert has developed many refinements in his operation to complement it. Being able to efficiently cover lots of ground while doing a precision job has proved vital to the business and its continued growth.

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