Welsh gamekeeper swears by tough Kubota RTV utility vehicle
Sean Duffy, Gamekeeper Denbeighshire Gamekeeper Shaun Duffy manages a substantial shoot on an estate in Denbeighshire and having tested several different brands of utility vehicle has made a Kubota RTV-X900 his tool of choice.
The rugged, precipitous terrain of North Wales makes it the ideal location for a sporting estate, but it’s also a harsh proving ground for the vehicles used to run it.
Build quality and reliability are two of the main reasons he puts his faith in an RTV, but positive drive of the hydrostatic transmission is another stand-out feature:
“I’ve tried a few belt-type machines in the past, but when you fully load them and drive up a steep bank they can slip, this never happens with the VHT-X hydrostatic transmission in the RTV. We can pack it with 20 bags (about 500kg) of feed and in low range it will climb any of the slopes on the estate without losing drive – progress is fairly steady because it isn’t that powerful, but it always gets there.”
It also offers controlled transmission braking when driving down steep slopes under load, meaning there’s no need to rely on the brakes. In fact, a light dab of the throttle helps engage the transmission and give the ideal descending speed.
For general driving around the estate’s roads and tracks, the RTV spends most of its time in high range, without the four-wheel-drive system engaged. This helps prevent unnecessary transmission and tyre wear, as well as improving the turning circle.
But when it takes to tougher terrain its always driven in low-range with four-wheel-drive selected. According to Shaun, it’s rare for the RTV to get stuck and if it does start to get bogged down, there’s always the option of engaging the rear diff-lock. This can be used for short bursts, by pressing and releasing a pedal in the footwell, or locked in using a button next to the seat. “To be honest it’s that good off-road we rarely need to use it,” he says.
Power to the transmission comes from Kubota’s own 989cc three-cylinder diesel engine that develops 21.1hp. Other stand-out features are its plush independent suspension, hydraulic tipping load bed and 450kg unbraked/ 1,000kg braked towing capacity. “It doesn’t get used for towing all that often, but when it does it easily manages with the loads we put behind it,” he adds.
On average, Shaun’s RTV clocks up about 600 hours a season and it’s generally swapped for a new model after two years. At this point the machine still has a good resale value, which makes it financially viable to upgrade.
Looking after the machine and carrying out regular maintenance helps make sure it keeps running at its best and retains its value when trading in. As a result, he keeps on top of the servicing schedule and calls out his dealer, Hughes Brothers from Oswestry, to give it an overhaul every 200 hours.
“It’s a well-built machine, so it’s pretty reliable anyway, but Hughes Brothers do such a good job of keeping it in shape that we rarely have any problems with it.”
The current RTV-X900 will be due for replacement later this year and the plan is to replace it with the slightly more powerful X1110 that features a 1,123cc engine developing 24.2hp. “It will be handy to have a bit more power when we’re climbing some of our steepest hillsides,” he adds.
He’s also got his eye on a fully enclosed cabin rather than the simple ROPS frame and front windscreen on his current model. “It would be a serious luxury to keep the wind and rain out and to have a heater.”