The county show season is upon us again and one of the earlier events is the Kingdom County Fair held in Tralee, Co. Kerry last weekend.

The show is now settling into its new venue and this year saw a large number of entrants in the stock showing and equestrian events.

Machinery at the Kingdom County Fair
There was a good selection of machinery for visitors to browse at the Kingdom County Fair

In addition to these staples, there was a healthy array of machinery trade stands and vintage machinery for visitors to view with at least six local dealers showing up.

All the dealers acknowledged the poor spring for sales but also pointed out that customers were now emerging from the recent winter and starting to talk about buying machinery again.

Valtra tractor at Kerry
O’Conner tractors is enjoying success with the Valtra brand and points to its good resale value as a major benefit of ownership

There was also an air of acceptance about the situation. The present decline in orders has come after several good years so it was only to be expected.

Although there is a degree of uncertainty, the general sentiment is that farming will still carry on regardless.

Kramar loaders
Small telescopic handlers are generating an increasing amount of interest according to JD dealer Geary’s Garage of Co. Limerick

Don Holland of Massey Ferguson dealers, Kerry Tactors Ltd., Tralee, is one who is taking it in his stride, pointing out that finding young people to come into the trade was as a big a problem for businesses as the poor season.

Deutz Fahr tractor
W.W. Doherty & Sons is now in the hands of the third generation and will shortly be celebrating 100 years in business

Another Co. Kerry company present was KME Agri of Listowel which had its latest macerator on display.

This is a vertical mounted unit rather than the horizontal ‘pan’ type normally associated with the company.

Both types are still available and it is often a matter of a customer’s personal preference rather than outright performance which makes them choose one over the other according to Sean Durkin, sales engineer for the company.

KME Agri's latest macerator
The latest macerator from KME Agri follows the company’s mantra of making them easily accessible for maintenance

One small point of interest was that the mowers shown attached to tractors were of the lighter conventional type rather than heavier conditioning models.

This is likely due to dealers wanting to give an impression of lower machinery costs rather than reflect a trend away from conditioning grass; price is certainly a sensitive issue this season.


Vintage and classic

Fans of vintage machinery were not disappointed with a good mix of tractors on display. A notable brace of restored David Browns were parked up together, both nicely restored and obviously well loved by the owner.

David Brown tractors
The bold white livery of later David Brown tractors makes them stand out from the crowd

At 52hp, the 990 appeared in 1961 and sat between the Ford 2000 and 4000 which arrived the following year, yet neither lasted as long as the 990 which was eventually retired in 1980.

The story of the 990 encapsulates the story of David Brown. There was nothing wrong with the company’s engineering prowess and ability, it simply got left behind in the surge towards greater horsepower and refinement; a shame, as it made excellent machines in the post-war boom of tractor production.

Tractor evolution

Massey Ferguson itself was well represented in Kerry with another pair of well tended tractors taking pride of place in the form of a MF399 in yellow and a MF135 in the standard livery.

Massey Ferguson tractors
These two Massey Fergusons stand 25 years apart and illustrate just how quickly tractors were changing in the later years of last century

Dating from the late 1980s, the 399 stands on the cusp of the dawn of electronic era and represents the state of tractor design up to the point of chips with everything.

Meanwhile, the MF135 is as good an example of where tractors were just 25 years earlier, the degree of development over those two and a half decades is really quite remarkable.

Steam power in Kerry

Weighing in at over 9t, capable of pulling 50t on the flat, powering a thresher and pulling a plough when it could get on to fields, the Ransomes, Simms and Jefferies traction engine did it all with a mighty 7.5hp.

Traction engine in field
Enthusiasts claim that steam engines are alive with each having its own character

Above all else, this suggests that there might be a flaw in how we measure power output, yet there is no secret in that it is all about torque rather than just power.

The thermal efficiency of these engines is also questionable, rarely rising above 5%, but they could pull massive loads without gearing thanks to a steam engine’s impressive torque characteristics.

Traction engine at Kerry
All the engine essentials are on show, including an injection pump for keeping the boiler topped up

They were also extremely quiet, just a hiss and huff with the occasional clank when underway, they have a romance which few other machines can emulate.

This particular machine from 1906 is owned by James Conway and is based in Kerry, just a few miles from the show site itself.

Off roading

The new Ineos Grenadier off-road utility vehicle is usually compared the Solihull built Land Rover Defender and indeed the resemblance is striking.

Mercedes G Wagen
The Mercedes G Wagen competed with the Land Rover Defender for many years and the lineage from both can be seen in the Ineos Grenadier

However, Ineos would argue that its design owes just as much to the Mercedes G Wagen with the same Austrian company that builds it for Mercedes, Magna Steyr, being responsible for creating the Grenadier.

At Tralee there just happened to be a 1991 G Wagen present and yes, when looked at closely, there are striking similarities between it and the Grenadier, so perhaps critics should be a little less harsh on Ineos with regard to the styling.

Series three Land Rover
Where it all started. In the UK, the leaf sprung Land Rovers were as ubiquitous to agriculture as the Japanese pick-up is to modern Irish farming

As a further comparison, there was also Series III Land Rover which was still in working order but showing signs of a long life and possibly a respray.

Modern 4X4s are very different and actually offer comfort and reliability, although the old Landies were usually easy to fix.

Interestingly though, the solid beam axle format as found on these has not gone out of favour with today’s manufacturers.