Case IH Puma 125

By: Terry Stevenson

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Top cat with ease of use and practicality

Case IH Puma 125
Case IH Puma 125

As soon as I set eyes on it I knew there was something different about the new Case IH Puma 125, something special. It didn’t take long to find out what it was because the latest offering from Case IH is not an evolution, it is a revolution!

As with most tractors, it’s all about the transmission, and I think the Puma has leapfrogged a lot of manufacturers in terms of ease of use and practicality. Case IH also now manufactures a variable speed transmission model, but the Puma 125 is so simple to change gear, Case IH really doesn’t need it.

The heart of the Puma is the Multicontroller – a simple, fixed armrest-mounted joystick that has six buttons on top. After placing the usual steering stem-positioned shuttle into forward, all you do to change up or down is press the plus or minus button on the Multicontroller, use the accelerator, and you’re halfway down the race already!

There are 18 gears in the 40kmh box, plus a top ratio for road use.

But the surprising part is that you can change all the way through the box from first to top just by pressing the button – it’s like having a split shift all the way through. There are no range changes at all and the best thing is that each change goes through very smoothly. The test tractor was fitted with a creeper gear range option, doubling the ratios.

When you’re out on the road, press the Auto button and the Puma will change through the gears automatically. In this mode you can even chop it down (or up) a gear or two if you want to adjust your speed slightly. Press Auto again and you’re back into manual mode.

Want to reverse? The Puma will speed match the forward gear you’re in to figure out the best reverse gear or you can programme in your favourite ratio. You don’t even have to move the shuttle any more – just press the forward/reverse button on the Multicontroller and it’s all happening for you in the opposite direction.

A small digital screen is fitted just forward of the Multicontroller to tell you what gear you are in. Driving that incredible transmission is a legendary Cummins 8.2 litre six-cylinder diesel engine. Running four valves per cylinder with common rail injection and an intercooled turbo, the 127hp powerplant is rated to produce a maximum of 620Nm of torque at 1600rpm when the going gets tough.

All that torque is used to power the predominantly Case IH tractors used on 28 vegetable growing farms owned by Wai Shing Ltd, mostly in and around the Patumahoe/South Auckland area. Wai Shing Ltd employs 45 full-time staff, ramping up to around 200 during the peak season, working approx 1000ha of croppable land.

The company is run by three brothers who each manage separate parts of the business. Clinton Ng-Waishing takes care of the extensive packhouse operation. Wellingford Ng-Waishing looks after the contract growers and the export side, established over 30 years ago by their father, Ronald. Vegetables are sent to the likes of Japan, the UK and Fiji. The person I met, Franklin (Frank) Ng-Waishing, handles the all-important growing side of the business and the domestic market.

Frank said his forebearers first came to New Zealand to join the Otago gold rush, before moving to Marshlands, near Christchurch. They next sailed to the North Island, settling near Pukekohe, where they now have a number of respected brands under their belt. They even have a dedicated organic growing farm underway. Grown in highly fertile land, vegetables include cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, silverbeet, carrots, onions, squash, pumpkin and potatoes.

Cropping brings its own issues. After growing then harvesting, there is no guaranteed market – therefore income – and the weather has a great bearing on bottom line profit.

Almost all of the Wai Shing Ltd tractors are red Case IH machines. Frank was so confident in the new Puma 125 that he ordered his first Puma (they now have three) off a picture on the Case IH internet site! Talking with Frank, he hasn’t regretted that decision either, saying it is the best tractor Case IH has made so far. He says their tractors clock up about 1200 hours per year.

"They are strong, reliable, we get good service, and they have a lot of power for what they are!"

The Puma 125 is presently used for applying side-dressed base fertiliser for squash and pumpkin at the front, and planting and spraying on the back at the same time. During harvest season it will tow their massive 28-tonne loaded trailers around the farms. Later, it will be used with a 3.5m power harrow.

The spring-suspension cab is a little on the smaller side compared to other similar powered tractors and appears more cramped in some areas, probably because there is no dash as we know it on the Puma. This leaves the front much less cluttered, with sensible air vents in front of the driver, just where you need them. All of the digital and analogue speed and temperature readouts, fuel gauge, etc are on a tall vertical panel fitted to the slightly wider than normal right-hand pillar, which sticks out a bit into the cab. This is what makes the cab appear cramped. Unwanted noise is kept outside thanks to good noise proofing.

The rear vision mirrors are of a good size and there is even a reasonable sized mirror inside the cab too, mounted just below a corner of the pop-up roof light. The operation controls are well laid out, although the linkage draft controls are further away than most – possibly a good thing to prevent drivers playing with them? Anyway, the two-way swivel seat mostly takes care of that. I did like the hidden control unit to adjust computer parameters, found under a small hinged lid on the armrest, and the keypad is near-flat so won’t collect the dust.

The 125hp to 210hp Puma range is made in Austria, while the long wheelbase Magnum models are imported from the US. Case IH tractors made at the traditional UK Basildon plant are no longer imported into New Zealand.

Mark Ellett is Roger Gill Motors’ agriculture sales manager, and has considerable experience driving harvesters through the mid-US. He says the Puma has several advantages.

"It doesn’t matter who you put in there, the first things they say are about the good visibility and the performance and power it has for its size. Wai Shing Ltd also has a Puma 155, and the operator of that says there isn’t a lot between them! They have a lot of power packed in a small tractor."

The Funk transmission has advanced a lot from the earlier power shift versions, with little delay during gear changes.

"If you compare it against the old power shift in the MXM, the smoothness in the transitioning in the gear changes is amazing. The people buying these are across the board, from the larger dairy farmers and contractors through to commercial growers," Ellett remarks.

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