Kubota M8540 tractor

By: Terry Stevenson, Photography by: Terry Stevenson

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We take the Kubota M8540 tractor for a test drive and discovers why Waikato dairy farmer Colin Phillips is so chuffed with its performance

Kubota M8540 tractor
Kubota M8540 tractor

Phillips owns a 70-hectare dairy farm on low rolling country near Pirongia, running 238 Friesian and cross-bred cows through a 28-aside Herringbone shed. For the past seven seasons, farm manager Cameron Steel has taken care of all the day-to-day running of the farm, leaving Phillips time to look after his tree nursery operation. Although he still does the milking two or three times each week.

Phillips also propagates and sells about 15 varieties of native tree seedlings to nursery markets around New Zealand.

After 25 years service from a small Ford 2WD tractor, the time came to buy a larger one.

A decision Phillips will never regret, as he has discovered the Kubota is capable of doing any job on the farm, including levelling the farm races with the wide bucket.

An additional task the new Kubota M8540 carries out is towing the seed unit.

"We wanted something that was big enough to handle bales, our big topping mower, which the Ford struggled with, and we needed a tractor big enough for picking up logs and sticks with a grab. If we’d gone any smaller we would have been kicking ourselves! These silage bales seem to be getting bigger every year and a smaller tractor would have struggled," Phillips says.

"Luckily, with the high payout we got last year we were able to go out and just buy it."

Fitted as standard is the Kubota LA1353 front end loader, which includes a handy self-levelling device, used mostly when stacking bales. This is just one of the tasks assigned to the Kubota, as the 60-odd silage bales made on-site last season were all brought in by the tractor. Although the loader bucket tends to get most use feeding out the palm kernel.

The driver has a fairly tall step to reach up to the flat platformed operator’s area. Once you get there the control layout is pretty typical of a ROPS tractor. Initially I thought it odd that the handbrake was on the right, up by the gear stick, when most are located to the left of the driver seat. That was until I used it and found it was really simple to operate and was in a very practical place.

One item that caught my attention was the comfortable seat as I drove over the in-paddock ruts! Another was the fire extinguisher mounted alongside the driver for fast and easy access. Both Phillips and Steel say this was in case of a fire from birds nesting under the bonnet, which they hadn’t had much problem with on the Kubota.

All the same, this was the first fire extinguisher I recall seeing on any tractor in the field.

The 4WD was the feature Steel liked best about this 2250mm wheelbase tractor. But perhaps the greatest asset on the M8540 is an incredibly tight turning circle! It’s considerably better than most other tractors I’ve been on, even with 4WD engaged. It’s so sharp that I became concerned about undue ripping up of the paddocks as I went about my test.

The 18-speed wet clutch transmission was fairly hard to use. Not helped by a total of six gears off the stick, which tended to cram each gear slot quite close to the next, thereby limiting the amount of space between each gear. A couple of times I placed the stick into fifth gear instead of third, and vice versa. Not helping any was that each gear was a bit more difficult to engage, which I haven’t encountered in other Kubotas.

The Phillips’ don’t use the creeper ratio much, half because it is quite difficult to go from one range into the other. The other half I suspect is because the engine is tractable enough not to need any super-low gears.

Powering the M8540 is a turbocharged four-cylinder motor rated at 85hp, boasting Kubotas ‘Centre-direct’ direct fuel injection system. The Tier II engine would freely rev right up to its 2600 redline and had a reasonable amount of power for that level of tractor. With a bit of throttle and clutch I could make a hill start in third, or take off easily in second, with a topper on the back.

Stopping wasn’t an issue either as the hydraulic wet disc brakes were definitely up to the job, so I wouldn’t worry about using this 2450kg tractor on a steep hill property.

Up the front are a pair of standard halogen lights, which should illuminate most night jobs, while a pair of 64 litre per minute capacity hydraulic outlets adorn the working end of the tractor with a maximum lift capacity of 3200kg on the three point linkage. Kubota claims 75hp is available on the PTO shaft.

Farm manager Cameron Steel says they chose the Kubota because they wanted a simple tractor, nothing extravagant, and partly because of the price. The neighbour also owns a Kubota and before they made the decision to buy it, both Steel and Phillips were aware of the reliability the neighbour had enjoyed.

Overall the Kubota M8540 must be worth a look for anyone considering a medium sized tractor with proven reliability.


See Kubota tractors for sale on farmtrader.co.nz here.

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