PRESS RELEASE   February 25, 2021

GPS precision pays off

Mike Ramsay of MC Country Services with his John Deere 4066R AutoTrac compact tractor.

Using pioneering technology first introduced by John Deere on its agricultural tractors and other self-propelled equipment in 2001, the company’s versatile compact tractor range can now be equipped with a StarFire satellite receiver and AutoTrac Universal automatic steering system.

This is designed to help operators achieve higher levels of accuracy and input cost savings when working with implements such as amenity turf sprayers, spreaders and drills.

Mike Ramsay of MC Country Services Ltd, who is based in Rushden in Northamptonshire, bought one of the first John Deere AutoTrac compact tractors in the UK from his local dealer Farol Ltd after seeing a top of the range 66hp 4066R at the IOG Saltex show in 2018.

Mike offers a wide variety of professional grass, paddock, pasture and sports field maintenance plus fencing services for local councils, utilities, private estates, agricultural and equine properties and smallholdings across Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Cambridgeshire.

He specialises in reseeding, spraying, mowing and topping, fertilising, harrowing, soil aeration and hedgecutting, and up until his visit to Saltex in 2018 had been running a fleet of three compact tractors – one 35hp and two 50hp – on turf tyres to take the range of implements needed to perform each task (see list below).

“I was looking specifically to buy a new tractor, as I really wanted an extra one with more horsepower to join the fleet, particularly for flail mowing and hedgecutting,” says Mike. “I looked at all of the main tractor makes, but to be honest I left John Deere till last as I automatically assumed it would be too expensive – however, I was proved wrong there!

“With my IT background I was also looking at the latest GPS technology to help me do the jobs more efficiently and productively, and with more accuracy, as my existing system and software weren’t suitable for what I needed to do. I wanted to save both time and wastage of inputs through overlapping or misses, particularly with the sprayer, spreader and drill attachments.

“The software I had been using up until then wasn’t really working well enough for my needs, so I wanted to see what else was available. Eventually I got to the John Deere stand and saw the 4066R tractor, but I was more interested in the AutoTrac steering display that was featured alongside. I ended up chatting to Farol’s director James Moore on the stand, and from that moment on I was sold on the tractor.

“I didn’t really want a brand new machine, but they had a 4066R with just 400 hours on the clock that seemed to fit the bill. After further discussions with Farol’s TurfSight specialist Jon Edwards, I went for the full GPS system with AutoTrac automatic hands-free steering, a GreenStar 4640 display, SF6000 satellite receiver and SF3 signal plus JDLink telematics. The tractor was delivered straight after the show, and after setting up it was used for a full season from April to October. I’ve also since bought a matching John Deere 440R front loader.

“Using JDLink I can get reports sent to my phone and/or PC straight after any job, just the same as with John Deere’s bigger agricultural tractors. For example, when I’m spraying, the system records wind speed, temperature, tank mix contents, application rates, you name it. Customers love it – I can send them the details straight away. The system’s connectivity is fantastic for record keeping, accountability and traceability.

“Hand on heart, there’s nothing that I don’t like about this tractor – apart from anything else, it presents a very professional image to customers. I was initially concerned that the cab might be a bit on the small side, but when you’re in there it’s a perfectly comfortable operator environment. I’ve also had carbon filters fitted for spraying, which work well.

“Once the tractor has been set up for a particular job, you just set a constant speed and away you go – the only time you touch the steering wheel is when you need to turn around, but then the system finds the next parallel pass and away you go again. The biggest difference the technology has made work-wise has probably been with topping and mowing, it’s dramatically cut down the time spent doing these jobs.

“For example, on one job I had cutting the grass areas at Silverstone, I did exactly the same fields as I had done the year before but took only two hours instead of three. Hitch Assist is a fantastic system as well, I use it all the time – the implements are heavy, and this reduces the time taken to hitch them up by about 50 per cent.

“The tractor’s GreenStar 4640 touchscreen display controls all the main precision turf operations, including data capture and documentation, AutoTrac hands-free steering and sprayer Section Control. I also use the John Deere MyOperations app via JDLink, which is brilliant for monitoring and managing field work.

“The system is also extremely accurate, particularly when spraying. I know the exact amount of chemical I need to use, and now use less of it as well as less water, and there are no overlaps, so I can guarantee the results. Automatic Section Control for the spray boom is great too, and means you need never spray the same ground twice.

“I admit I’m old school, I like to do a really good job and it’s frustrating when you see striping from overlaps and missed strips from previous spraying jobs, for example. Now I’m confident that’s not going to happen, and it makes the job more stress free. Not only that, I’ve often spent 12 hours in the tractor and not even noticed how long I’ve spent working.

“Basically I’m very happy to sit in the John Deere all day, I just love using it for every job, and it’s amazing how much time you can save doing them. I wouldn’t have a tractor without AutoTrac now, not for the work I do.”

Implement list:

  • 2m Guttler Greenmaster drill
  • 6m/400-litre capacity Team sprayer
  • 2m Agrimaster flail mower
  • 2m Major Cyclone mower
  • 2m Browns grassland aerator
  • Kuhn fertiliser spreader set at 12m
  • Ryetec SL420 side-arm flail hedgecutter