Seeking a tractor with ample power and weight to operate its equipment, yet still tread lightly enough to protect turf and playing surfaces, Oxford-based ODS Parks opted for a Kubota M7132 supplied by George Browns.
That was almost three years ago, and with over 2,000 hours under its belt, the tractor has more than lived up to expectations.
"We looked for a tractor that offered enough stability to handle our hedge cutter at its 6m full reach," explains Jo Huntley, parks operational supervisor with ODS. "Though it also has to work on fine turf and other delicate sportsground surfaces without leaving a mark."
As the contracting division of Oxford City Council, ODS carries out a wide variety of grounds maintenance works, and contracting, in and around the city of Oxford. Within the team's remit is the responsibility for 90 parks, and a further 1,000-acres of countryside sites, plus cemeteries and urban grass verges, so the team needed reliability, comfort and practicality.
"We looked at several makes, specifications and warranty packages," explains Graham Dix, operator with ODS. "And the M7132 stood out with its 500-hour service intervals, and five-year/5,000-hour warranty. With a set of BKT turf tyres, we found the Kubota provided an ideal combination of stability and low ground pressure for our requirements."
Equipped with an LM2605 loader, Mr Dix says the tractor has to perform as an all-rounder, though ODS has no requirement for Premium spec or the stepless KVT transmission.
"I could be towing trailers, lifting and loading materials or using grounds maintenance kit such as a 5m-wide flail mower, turf slitter, reseeding equipment, fertiliser spreader, sprayer or hedge cutter," he says. "With 130hp boosting to 150hp, there's more than enough power to pull our 12-tonne trailers, and I have the flexibility to use economy PTO with powered equipment, which saves fuel."
Equally advantageous is a 50km/h road speed.
"With contract services taking us beyond Oxford City, having a 50km/h transmission is really useful - it reduces non-productive time when we're travelling between jobs," says Graham. "And the powershift gearbox's auto-shifting function reduces fatigue when crossing the City."
He adds that front axle suspension and cab suspension also makes long days more enjoyable, and the ability to quickly reposition the steering column using a foot-activated lever makes getting in and out of the cab more convenient.
"Plenty of air vents provide a decent flow of cool air around the cab, the visibility is good, and there's no shortage of room in the cab," he says.
"The tractor also has some really neat features, including a pto guard that unclips to provide better access when hitching up powered equipment; the rear lift capacity is superb; and the external linkage controls on the rear wing are smooth and progressive," he says.
However, he says that the loader's cycle times, plus the top link design and location of the spool couplings could be improved.
"The US-built loader has large rams, so it is very powerful, but lacks speed," he comments. "I'd also like to see spool couplings that are angled outwards, so it's easier to connect hydraulic hoses, and a more secure mounting for the top link would help when I'm not using the rear linkage."
"That said, I'm extremely pleased with the Kubota M7 tractor," he adds. "It does all that we need, and clocking up around 1,000 hours/year, its reliability and fuel efficiency has been very good."