Field Test: Heavy-Duty Utility Tractors

The new Massey Ferguson® 4700 Series of tractors is quite possibly the most rigorously tested tractor in AGCO history. Engineers and farmers put the series through its paces in some 36,000 hours of testing in oftentimes brutal conditions, in locales as far-flung as southern Zambia, Brazil, Turkey, China and the desert heat of Arizona.

By Richard Banks | Photos By Gareth Patterson and Alain Lefort

Now, the 4700 Series is hitting the North American market, and producers, landscapers and those who simply need a tractor on their farmsteads are offering rave reviews of the series. FarmLife caught up with two longtime tractor owners—Thornton Tweedy from Arkansas and Robert Cunningham of Quebec—to share their thoughts after each took an MF4708 tractor for a spin. (The MF4708 is one of four models in the series to be sold in North America.)

Here’s a sampling of what each said, as well as additional information about the series.

Thornton Tweedy, Arkansas

Thornton Tweedy

Thornton Tweedy

“The ground was so steep you couldn’t stand up on it,” says Thornton Tweedy about some of the railroad and power line right-of-ways he formerly cut and helped maintain. “You had to be careful, or you could roll a tractor, or worse. You had to know what you were doing and you had to have the right tractor.” For Tweedy, there was no better machine for such work than Massey Ferguson, when properly configured and equipped. “You have to keep safety in mind,” Tweedy says about the work, most of which was in Alabama’s rugged foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and “Massey [tractors] are the best thing built for right-of-ways. They hug the ground good, got stability and are compact. They got a lot of power in a little tractor. They’re ahead of all the rest.”

While Tweedy has since gotten out of the right-of-way maintenance business, his working in such extreme conditions has given him firsthand knowledge of what constitutes a dependable, powerful and stable tractor. He—or, more specifically, his former line of work—was known to be hard on tractors. Just ask his AGCO dealer, Blake Cox of Cox Implement.

That experience is one of the reasons Tweedy was asked to demo the MF4708. In addition, Tweedy also uses tractors from other brands, giving him a broader basis of comparison, and he still needs all those qualities mentioned above and then some in a tractor on the land in northeast Arkansas he now uses to raise cattle.

These days, Tweedy is building a herd of F1 Tigerstripe cattle. He’s up to about 140 head of the Hereford-Brahman cross, which he raises and sells to his brother, who finishes them. Tweedy plans, though, to grow to about 300 head and transition into a cow/calf operation.

For nearly eight months out of the year, Tweedy raises those cattle on about 250 acres of pasture, then during the winter feeds them hay, putting up some 1,200 bales a year. With plans to grow the herd, however, he’s acquired more land through rent and purchase, and has undertaken efforts to improve it.

Generally speaking, that’s all work Tweedy undertook when he borrowed the MF4708 for about two days recently. “I spent one afternoon putting up hay, and that tractor goes just as fast backward as it will forward. That’s nice if you’re loading hay or something. You’re not crawling when you’re backing up. It got the job done.”

“It’s got a comfortable ride too,” says Tweedy, “and it’s got power. I pulled a 10-foot rotary conditioner, no problem.”

Tweedy also used the MF4708 to finish a low-water bridge on some of his new land. He’d hired a bulldozer to do the work, but it and its operator had to leave before the job was finished. “So, I just used that Massey and it worked great. We were dumping riprap in the creek and gravel along the bank, using a loader.

“I tell you, that tractor had plenty of hydraulic power. There ain’t nothing slow about it. It also had plenty of power to the ground and traction on the bank and in the creek.” And like the tractors Tweedy once used maintaining right-of-ways, the MF4708, he says, “was stable. Whether it was carrying bales or that riprap, I had no problem steering or feeling unsteady.

“It’s operator-friendly,” continues Tweedy, “and easy to use. It’s a fine tractor.”

Robert Cunningham, Quebec

A fifth-generation farmer and former dairyman, Robert Cunningham has been a Massey Ferguson customer almost his entire life. He has, however, tried another brand.

Ronald O’Connor, Robert Cunningham, Guy Lamarche

Ronald O’Connor, Robert Cunningham, Guy Lamarche

“I’ve driven a 4-wheel drive Kubota that’s the same size” as the MF4708, says Cunningham. “It had a loader on it … and when you got a load of gravel in the bucket, the back end [was light]. So it was not exactly a [stable] thing to work with.” So, when Guy Lemarche, a salesman with his AGCO dealer, Les Équipements Colpron, offered Cunningham the chance to demo an MF4708, he went straight for the gravel pile on his farm. “I went and got a full bucket.  It was just like a little tank going over there. And then I backed up again, and perfect.

“There’s lots of weight on the back,” continues Cunningham, who now raises mainly cash crops on 250 acres in western Quebec. “There’s no feeling of the tractor being out of control or wanting to lift in the back. And steering worked perfectly, even with a load in the bucket.”

Cunningham then went on to list several other things he liked about the tractor: “I was quite surprised by the speed of the hydraulics. Far superior to anything else I’ve ever worked with on a utility tractor, even at idle. You don’t have to be running at a high rpm in order to do the things you wanna do. It also has enough power and lots of zip, and it’s easy to maneuver.”

Yet one of the more surprising aspects of the tractor, according to Cunningham, is “it’s very compact, but it weighs a lot. It rides like a bigger tractor, which is quite nice.” Such solid construction, coupled with the radial tires that come standard on every 4700 Series model, makes for a “very comfortable ride.

“I had a good place to try it out,” says Cunningham, about the ride of the MF4708. “It was in a hayfield with a few furrows and, son of a gun, we’re going across there … and I thought, ‘Oh my God, when I hit that far furrow I’m going to be 3 feet in the air.’ But that wasn’t the case. It, simply, rides quite well.”

Concludes Cunningham: “I think it’ll be a very handy tractor on any farm. It’ll certainly be good for chores on big farms, and for a small farmer, it might be all the tractor he needs.”

The new Massey Ferguson 4700 Series includes three tractors that are available now: the 4708 (80 HP), the 4709 (90 HP) and the 4710 (100 HP). A fourth tractor, the 70-HP 4707, will be available later in 2016. For more info, see masseyferguson.us.