Cover Story: Allen Custom Drills T-D 5000

By: Brent Lilley, Photography by: Brent Lilley


Allen Custom Drills T-D 5000 Allen Custom Drills T-D 5000 Allen Custom Drills T-D 5000
Allen Custom Drills T-D 5000 Stocks Ag unit for applying small seed and slug bait Allen Custom Drills T-D 5000
Allen Custom Drills T-D 5000 1200-litre fert hopper Allen Custom Drills T-D 5000
Allen Custom Drills T-D 5000 Solid and robust design Allen Custom Drills T-D 5000
Allen Custom Drills T-D 5000 Easy accessibility for calibration Allen Custom Drills T-D 5000
Allen Custom Drills T-D 5000 25mm Coil tines with T-Boot tips Allen Custom Drills T-D 5000

Farm Trader checks out the TD5000 from New Zealand company Allen Custom Drills

When it comes to seed drills, the choice between tines and discs comes down to how and where the drill is going to be used.

The great thing about New Zealand company Allen Custom Drills is that they can customise and build a drill to suit individual requirements, with an impressive range of both disc drills and tine drills.

While we have featured several Allen Custom Drills over the years, a recent trip south offered the opportunity to see what the company’s T-D 5000 tine drill has to offer. To see it working, I headed to the Taieri plains (south of Dunedin) to catch up with Justin Flett, the owner of Flett Contracting Limited.

Offering a full range of contracting services across the Taieri plains and the surrounding areas, when it came to purchasing a new drill tine, openers were chosen over discs to keep running costs lower and for the ability to handle slightly damper conditions.

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The machine was purchased last year and has already done more than 500 hectares in its first season. Driver Daniel Carruthers has operated it since new and has been impressed at how easy it is to set up and operate. Results to date have also been impressive.

The day I visited, there were a couple of jobs lined up, firstly drilling grass at 30kg/ha into sprayed out existing pasture, then putting in winter feed oats at 90kg/ha, much deeper than the grass. It was an excellent opportunity to see how the machine handled two different jobs and particularly what was involved in altering the depth of the machine.

Construction

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As with all machines from Allen Custom Drills that I’ve seen in the past, the T-D 5000 is incredibly robust and well built. The main chassis and frame is built from heavy-duty nine-millimetre wall box section and the finish is up to the usual high-quality standard you expect to find on these machines.

To achieve a five-metre sowing width, the drill has a rigid centre section with folding wings on either side. This gives a transport width of three metres when folded, making it road legal and easy to manoeuvre through gateways.

The wings fold with hydraulic rams, which have accumulators in the circuit. This allows the wings to float, following the ground contour while still maintaining down pressure.

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The depth of the centre section is controlled by the transport wheels and adjusted with a single hydraulic ram that also lifts the whole machine out of the ground. Shims on the ram and a turnbuckle adjuster are used to set the depth, giving a large range and fine adjustment.

Guide wheels on the outside of each wing ensure a consistent sowing depth as they move with the ground contour. The depth is easily set with screw jack style adjusters on each guide wheel.

One minor improvement would be a scale on each adjuster to make it easier to get the wings level or return them to a previous setting. I’m told this is now a standard feature across the range on all Allen models.

Seed placement

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Across the front of the machine, a row of opening discs cut open a slot to ensure the following tines penetrate the ground in all conditions. Mounted with rubber blocks, this allows them to move upwards over rocks and other objects. The wavy design also helps create tilth for the seed to be planted and ensures good seed-soil contact.

On this five-metre machine, there are 40 heavy-duty coil spring tines spread out over five rows. This gives great trash clearance to prevent blockages. It also gives a row spacing of 125mm, which is particularly good when drilling grass and small seeds.

A cast steel seed boot on the end of each tine features double shoots for sowing two products at the same time – seed and fertiliser for example – as well as a hardened replaceable point to minimise downtime and running costs. At the rear are two rows of tine harrows set at opposing angles.

These tines sweep any loose soil to one side and then back to the other, covering the seed and leaving a smooth flat finish. The bar that carries the tines is mounted to the drill with a parallel linkage so the harrows always follow flat to the ground.

An adjustable spring can be used to vary the down pressure to suit the conditions. There is also a rear drawbar so a roller can be easily towed for those wanting more soil consolidation behind the drill.

Hopper and metering

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A slim double hopper runs down the centre of the machine, leaving plenty of room on either side for the wings to fold up. The front seed hopper is 1000 litres and the rear is 1200 litres – ideally sized to easily take a 1000kg or 2x500kg bags of fertiliser. This can be loaded with the hydraulic crane on the side, saving time for the operator.

Both bins have a low seed level sensor to alert the operator when it is running out. The sensors height is adjustable on a slide inside the bin, so it can be low in the bin for small seeds and higher for larger seeds. Cameras in each bin make it extra simple for the operator to keep an eye on exactly what’s going on, without the need to stop and check.

An easily removable grate in each bin prevents large foreign objects getting into the metering, and a roll top cover keeps dust and moisture out. A Stocks Ag unit is fitted to apply small seeds or slug bait.

At the bottom of each bin is an accord metering system. This is great to see, as it is a well-proven and reliable simple metering system, electronically controlled, and includes a radar to measure ground speed.

The hydraulically driven fan is set up front out of the dust and carries the seed through to the openers. A heat exchanger, although not included on this machine, can be fitted to keep warm dry air flowing. The distribution heads are located outside the bins, with the idea that this makes cleaning out the bins easier and provides a more direct path to the seed boot.

Control and calibration

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In the cab, an RDS Artemis controller with a seven-inch colour touchscreen is simple and easy to use. Some of the main operations displayed on the screen include ground speed, fan speed, area totals, and sowing rates, as well as buttons to prime the seed and bump the sowing rate up and down.

This box has the ability to control and display up to four separate metering units, which is ideal with seed, fertiliser, small seeds, and slug bait. A huge benefit is that it can easily control other manufacturers units such as the Stocks Ag hopper fitted and saves cluttering up the cab with control boxes.

As mentioned, the metering units are electronically controlled, so as you would expect on a modern drill, calibration is incredibly simple. It is simply a matter of hitting calibrate on the control box, catching the seed, weighing it, and then entering this weight in. The operator confirmed this and also pointed out how simple it is to get under the metering unit to collect seed or to clean bins out at the end of a job.

Verdict

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In some ways, the Allen T-D 5000 is predictable – but in a good way. Like the other Allen drills I’ve seen, it is built incredibly tough. The heavy-duty chassis and frame has a serious amount of steel in it and an exceptionally tidy finish. The design has been well thought out to make it as easy as possible to operate. This is largely thanks to the Accord metering, electronic drive, and RDS controller.

It’s great to see Allen Custom Drills, a New Zealand-owned and operated company, offering such a diverse range of drills and their ability to build and customise drills to meet the requirements of customers.

Allen Custom Drills T-D 5000 Specifications

Runs 40
Metering Accord metering/Electronic control
Transport width 3000mm
Row spacing 125mm
Sowing width  5000mm
Hopper capacity  1000L seed/1200L fertiliser

Pluses

  • Robust, heavy-duty frame
  • Contour following wings with down pressure 
  • Simple low maintenance coil spring tine openers 
  • Proven reliable Accord metering with electronic control
  • Easy-to-use RDS Artemis control box
  • Hydraulic crane for loading

Minuses

  • No scale on the depth adjusters (but now standard on all models) 

Video: Allen Custom Drills T-D 5000

Allen -video

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE ALLEN CUSTOM DRILLS IN ACTION

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