Farmgard Contractor 600 blade
Mark Fouhy found the Farmgard Contractor 600 blade easily converted rough-riding farm tracks into smooth-as-silk accessways.
In the pioneering days our farming forefathers used horse drawn implements to help carve out farms from the bush. Later came bulldozers and dredges, which drained the swamps, cleared the trees and stumps, and shaped the land into more productive pastures.
Nowadays, thanks to our forefathers, most of the development work on farms has been done. However, with less staff and bigger farmers to run, its important modern-day farmers have good accessway and maintain their vital farm tracks.
Rather than forking out for a Caterpillar D2 - and given that most farmers have an 80-100hp tractor on hand for feeding out and the like - the addition of a back-blade is an affordable, convenient and effective way of up-keeping your tracks with minimal fuss.
For the past month I've had the use of a Farmgard fully hydraulic (three rams) Contractor 600 blade to knock the worst of our cattle rutted tracks back in line after a very wet winter. And it has proven to be a very handy addition to our operation.
Farmgard has been making back-blades for 30-odd years. Their range includes the 1.2m, 70kg mini to suit tractors up to 30hp, right through to the 2.7m, 820kg bulldozer for tractors up to 150hp.
The Farmgard model I tested is the 2.7m Contractor 600. The number in the name tells you how heavy the grader blade is.
The blade on the Contractor 600 is box-sectioned, rather than just thick steel formed into a curve. Farmgard uses the curve technique to make its smaller blades, but changes to a box section structure on the bigger blades, starting with the 450 Industrial 2.1m.
A manganese steel cutting edge is used on all Farmgard blades, with extra bolts on the ends to minimise breakages. The main beam of the blade is thick tapered steel, set up with the hydraulic hoses down the right hand side. All three of the hydraulic cylinders and hoses are mounted well out of the way to avoid dirt building up or the potential for them to catch on any ground obstacles.
The rear ram is nearest to the material you are shifting, but is mounted far enough behind the blade that any spill over material will fall down in between the two. The rams are connected to the blade with large solid pins. With lynch-pins in the bottom, they fit securely without any slope or play. The turntable and tilting pivot-pins have hardened, replaceable, heavy duty brushes in them. The turntable on the Farmgard 450 can also be re-tensioned.
Like all bulldozing equipment, Farmgard blades require greasing every day to keep things free and moving and to keep grease in and dirt out. There are just five important grease nipples that require a couple of minutes attention before you get underway.
Having mostly operated what I call "poor men's" grader blades (all manual adjustment blades) the fully hydraulic Farmgard Contractor 600 was pretty awesome to use.
I mounted the blade supplied by Giltrap Agrizone in Otorohanga to the back of a Case JXU 105 tractor. I found getting the blade on a little bit of a nuisance; you have to be 100 percent square on, as there is no movement (unless you cheat like I did and put in the right-hand three point linkage arm, so you have independent up/down adjustment, then the top link followed by the hydraulic hoses so you are able to move the blade to get the last pin in).
With this particular blade you'll need three double-acting rear service valves. I think it's possible to get a third hydraulic service kit which will allow you to double your rear-remote service with the use of a six port diverter.
I've used this blade on a Case 125hp Maxxum, but prefer the JXU as I find the hydraulic adjustment (raising and lowering) is not quite as fiddly. Adjustment of each of the hydraulic ram functions is easy and can be done on the move. There is almost no stopping or needing to leave the tractor seat; it's a great time saver, although to ensure a quality finish you'll still be required to have eyes in the back of your head.
The Farmgard 450 and 560 models offer interchangeable rear and offset rams. Or to save a few dollars (around $600) you could spec your blade with just two rams. The tilt and rear-ram pivot are what you'll be adjusting most of the time, but being able to slew the offset of the blade means you can scrape that last bit of soil off the edge of the path while the tractor is still on the track.
If you're using the blade for water tables, deep vee drains or to bury alkathene as I was, its design allows you to keep the tractor wheel out of the drain you are trying to form.
Farmgard claims 85 percent of the weight of the blade is on the cutting edge, which seems pretty accurate. In the soil conditions I was testing in - just starting to dry out, but not dusty - I had no problem with the blade biting in, and getting a full blade of soil. You can completely swivel the blade 360 degrees either way without catching on any of the hoses or frame. It was a two minute job, only requiring the removal of the back ram pins to change the position. The blade rotates smoothly, so you don't require three strong men to turn it. This can be helpful for pushing up heaps (or fires) and makes the blade bite in harder.
As with front-end loaders, if you leave a heap of soil in front of where you are blading, the blade will dig/lift as the wheels drive onto/over this; something to be aware of. If you scrape and spread this isn't too much of a problem though.
My Contractor 600 test blade is nine feet wide (2.7m) and like all things, size is important. The wider the blade; the fewer passes you have to make to scrape the rubbish filling the water table. The same applies if you're scraping up a feed pad or something similar. Grading tracks is where the hydraulic adjustment comes in handy. It allows you to put in a water table, but leave a crown on the track so the water drains off the sides, rather than sitting on top making large puddles.
The orange blade I tested comes with a 12 month warranty. If you opt for a yellow blade - at a little extra cost - you get a lifetime warranty. A bit of time and practice is required to get the best out of a grader blade, but a novice will pick it up pretty quickly and soon be making a good job of most tracks.
The Farmgard Contractor 600 is not a bulldozer or a digger. If you want a fence line down the steepest ridge on the farm or drains opened up through a bog, I'd still suggest you call an expert with the right machine for the job. But if you want to keep your tracks up to scratch, and keep the water tables where they should be, then you might find a blade in the Farmgard range that will suit your requirements. On our farm, the most damaged track after winter was so rough it could almost shake your fillings' loose, but after a sweep with the Farmgard Contractor 600 it's like a smooth highway in comparison.
The option of a 12 month or lifetime warranty depending on the model you get (orange or yellow), along with the 30 year history of manufacturing grader blades, is a pretty good indication of the faith Farmgard puts in its products. I'm certainly pleased with the work the Contractor 600 blade has done so far, although I still have a lot more work to do.
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