Top Tractor 2016: Massey Ferguson 5609

Kiwi judge Jaiden Drought enjoyed every minute in the cab of the Massey Ferguson 5609 tractor, and says he was not surprised when the scoresheet declared it the winner of this year’s Trans-Tasman Top Tractor Shootout.

After many mathematical equations, the winning tractor by the slimmest of margins was the Massey Ferguson 5609, with only 0.01 points separating it from the second-placed Deutz Fahr 5105.4G.

You’ll see there was a fair bit of rationale behind our decision, rather than a random decision by a cowboy boot-wearing cow cocky from New Zealand and his much more sensible Australian offsider.

Only weeks before we cracked into testing the new Massey Ferguson, the company celebrated 70 years since the first little grey Ferguson TE20 rolled off the line in Coventry, UK.

It has built over 500,000 in a 10-year period. The significance? As we’ve seen with the invention of the PTO in the Case IH Farmall’s heritage, the thing that made the TE (Tractor England) 20 a global success was the unique ‘Ferguson System’ three-point linkage, which was controlled by the tractor’s hydraulics.

Rated at only 20hp, the TE20 outperformed many larger tractors as the linkage system allowed the tractor and implement to work as one, rather than the inefficient trailing-unit system.


From its brilliant sloping bonnet (which makes loader work a doddle), to its three rear spools, the Massey Ferguson 5609 packs a heap of features into a small space.

All these years later, Massey Ferguson is still bucking trends, as this was the only tractor in the line-up to have a three-cylinder engine. However the little AGCO Power 3.3-litre unit performed well, even though it sounded a little different to its four-cylinder rivals.

This engine has been specifically designed for agricultural work. Three fuel filters down to five micron, oil change intervals of 500 hours (engine) and 1000 hours (transmission), and a rear sight glass for transmission oil level, make both longevity and daily servicing a walk in the park.

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The electronically-controlled, common-rail fuel injection, combined with four valves per cylinder, all combined to give us a perky little tractor that was quick off the mark, held on well and lugged down under load. A 160-litre fuel tank will keep you going even if you have to get the candles out. Not sure if the Aussies work at night, but if they do, 12 lights around the tractor will keep them from driving into a billabong.

The Dyna 4 transmission has been around for over a decade now. It’s very user-friendly and functional, with a left-hand power control, a T-stick on the right-hand console and a factory loader joystick control.

A brake-to-neutral feature is something that a couple of the tractors in the shootout had – as soon as the brake is pressed, it simultaneously operates the clutch. This is very good for normal loader work, but I never really got to take full advantage as I was trying to set a personal best lap record. It also automatically defaults to the off position every time you turn the tractor off, so precious seconds at the start of the laps weren’t sacrificed.

One thing that was handy to allow smooth progress, was the de-clutch button on the back of the factory loader joystick. It also has gear changes and a shuttle button on it, which was great for both loading the hay and shifting the bark.

Speed matching is also fitted as standard. Although the Dyna-6 is maybe a more popular transmission, I really like the 16×16 Dyna-4; not too many gears to change, but enough to get the job done.

Another feature I never knew the machine had – but which Tom made full use of – was the anti-stall function. This places the transmission in N when the revs drop below a certain point and the tractor senses it might stall; a great feature for loader work.

A flow of 58-litres/min of oil is available for linkage and spools. While it is almost half the John Deere’s 110-litres/min, this never felt like you were waiting on the loader. To be fair to the little Massey, it also has a 32-litres/min steering pump to keep plenty in reserve for loader work.

The Massey was also the only tractor we tested fitted with three rear spools as standard. Two have a float feature and all have detent and constant flow.

PTO of 540/540E/1000 will prove ample for a tractor of this size and the work it will tackle. Electronic control in the cab is backed-up by a stop/start button on the rear fender, which is a handy feature. Auto PTO is standard; once activated, it will stop the PTO when the linkage arms are raised above a certain point and re-engage once they are re-lowered, in order to save the knuckles on the old PTO drive shaft.

Speaking of linkage, activating it wasn’t the most complicated of the bunch, although it came very close. Some of the other test machines offered a much more simple solution. However, with electronic linkage control, it does offer more adjustment.

The pick of the features would be Active Transport Control (ATC), which is essentially a shock absorber for the linkage. This is excellent for heavy implements and makes road travel a much more comfortable affair.

In terms of the hardware itself, the Cat. 2 linkage will lift 4.3 tonnes at the ball ends. External lift/lower controls on both the right and left hand fenders makes hitching implements possible with considerably less swearing.

In the cab

It felt good climbing up the Massey Ferguson 5609’s stairs to the large, chunky doors, and starting to mould the seat for a hard day’s work ahead. The sleek and slim dashboard and the sloping bonnet prove visibility is no barrier. Aside from the actual driving, the quality of the cab was a standout feature for me.

This cab can be found on the 5600, 6600 and 7600 series tractors too, but this uniformity across the line-up often means the smaller tractors get the biggest advantage because almost all 150hp+ tractors have nice cabs.

It wasn’t just the finish that was great, but it was the little things I liked too; big mirrors (something I think is really important) and the comfortable seat counted for a lot.

Price-based tractors often skimp on this sort of stuff wherever they can, but if you value your spine, invest in a good seat because you won’t go back.

The six-pillar cab provides a narrower rear window, but this allows for the curved side windows, which give unobstructed views both left and right. This is great when utilising larger rear implements.

Adjustment of the steering position allows both tilting and extending, which, as a tall person, is something I find makes life a lot more comfortable. The right-hand b-pillar is where the working lights, 4WD, diff and rear linkage settings sit. They’re all push-button and, again, add a premium feel to the cab.

The dot-matrix system in the dash – where adjustment can be made to transmission start gears, 10 different shuttle aggression settings, brake-to-neutral and much more – is something that sets the Massey Ferguson apart. In fairness, this does take a little time to get acquainted with, but the option is there to adjust, rather than not having the option at all.

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On the Job

Just about all Massey Ferguson tractors of this size are ordered as ‘loader ready’ and come with a range of factory-fitted features. The 956X loader allows for full integration with pre-installed pipes to the spool valves. Again, the finish of the machine was hard to fault.

Driving the machine during our test, the visibility across the bonnet and the comfort in the cab were both standouts for me.

The joystick for the loader, with the integrated transmission gear changes, shuttle, de-clutch button as well as third and fourth function, really allowed me to just use my right hand to control the tractor and my left to do the steering. This is important when personal best times are on the line, but I’m sure around the farm owners will also find these features very handy.

The turning circle on the Massey Ferguson was disappointing at 9.0m. To be honest though, it didn’t feel like you were turning a barge through the tight course (although I may or may not have been using generous doses of side brake).

This, I suspect, is due to the machine not having the full pre-delivery treatment. As the only tractor spec’d with dynamic front fenders, combined with the factory fitted loader sub-frames, this thing should have been able to turn on a dime.

The verdict

Value for money is such a subjective argument. Is it the cheapest? Is it the dearest with the most spec? In this instance, the Massey is neither of those. But with the 30-point scoring process added to the driving time, and divided by the price, it came out to be the best value for money in our eyes.

This was a robust system where Tom and I really only filled in the scoresheet, raced around the track and threw country-related insults at each other.

The scoresheet decided the Massey was the winner and, given the way it performed during the testing, there wasn’t any complaining out of us – which is surprising given there was an Aussie in the judging panel.


  • Excellent build quality and finish
  • Large wing mirrors
  • High quality tyres and guards
  • Loader integrated joystick was very user-friendly
  • Tom made full use of the anti-stall feature
  • Brake-to-N function
  • Very comfortable seat and cab environment
  • Excellent visibility via the sloping bonnet
  • Large number of work lights
  • Three-speed PTO
  • Button cluster on right B pillar was very convenient
  • 4.3-tonne rear lift will prove ample
  • Only tractor to be standard with three spools (two with float)
  • Auto Battery Isolator once key is turned off
  • Full dish rear rims will reduce paint flaking and cracking
  • Rear sight glass for transmission oil


  • Dust caps on the rear spools would be much better with the sprung caps
  • Dot-matrix in-cab information is hard to navigate around
  • Toolbox is in an unpractical location
  • Rear linkage activation is a little tricky
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