Des Beirne farms alongside his father Frank outside Newtown Forbes, Co Longford. Seven years ago the farm began a transition from sucklers to a dairy calf to beef enterprise having spotted an opportunity on the back of the growing dairy herd.

The progressive duo are past participants of the BETTER Farm Programme and Grassland Farmer of the year 2017 runner up prize winners.

While still in a growth phase, the number of bull calves carried through to finishing at 23 months has increased year on year.

This year, 325 dairy bred calves were brought into the cycle which Des feels is nearing capacity.

With over 500 head of stock in the yard at any one time, there is a considerable amount of tractor work to be done at all times of the year.

Over 2,500 hours of use, Des has had an average fuel consumption of 4.4l/hr.

Since 2000, the strategy on farm has always been to run a fresh four-cylinder tractor and front loader as opposed to an older tractor and telehandler.

Most years the front line tractor will clock up over 1,200 hours with an older New Holland TL80 used only for diet feeder duties and clocking up 500 hours.

In July 2022, Des took delivery of a new Fendt 516 Vario with the updated Fendt One cab, a tractor he had always longed to one day own.

Why Fendt?

“With no telehandler, we are fully dependant on a loader tractor. For us, it’s the most cost effective solution. Clocking up over 1,200 hours annually, our policy is to replace the tractor every six to seven years.

"Historically, it has been CNH brands. Given the hours spent sitting in the cab, I’ve tended to spec the more recent tractors well. The last tractor just didn’t prove lucky, to no fault of the dealer and so replacement was on the cards sooner than expected,” Des explained.

Des had always assumed that Fendt was off the cards purely down to price. However, a conversation with Butler Agri, his local contractor who run Fendt tractors along with a mix of other brands encouraged him to further enquire about the German built tractor range.

The loader is worked using the 3L joystick on the control arm.

This led to the pricing of a Fendt 516 Vario and front loader in 2021. But in the heel of the hunt Des decided to stick it out for a while longer with his existing tractor. In early 2022, and still encountering issues, he decided it was time for a change. However, new tractors had seen several price increases in the meantime as result of inflation coupled with increased component and manufacturing costs.

“Somehow Fendt pricing hadn’t increased relative to other brands I had looked at. Better again, the guys at Atkins in Birr had a build slot secured for a full spec 516 Vario Power Plus model. Spec for spec, the Fendt 516 ended up coming in marginally cheaper than the other brand equivalents. This reaffirmed my decision to go with Fendt.” Des stated.

Engine and transmission

The 516 sits as the top model within the four model, 125hp to 163hp 500 series. The series is equipped with the 4.04l Deutz TCD 4.1 four-cylinder engine which in the 516 churns out a rated 163hp and tops out at 171hp with boost.

Maximum torque is 699Nm and is available at 1,500rpm.

Although all the previous tractors on the farm were in the region of 145hp, Des decided to go for more power this time around for tasks such as mowing and spreading slurry with his Mastek 2,000 gallon tanker and dribble bar.

The main control lever fits well in hand and has multiple built in functions, some of which Des has not used yet.

Over its working life which is shy of two year and 2,500 hours, the tractor has averaged 5.5l/hr in terms of fuel consumption.

When we caught up with Des mowing the last of the 1st cut, the tractors was burning a respectable 8.6l/h.

Des is impressed by the fuel consumption, unsure if it’s the engines additional power leaving it working at ease or the efficiency of the Vario (CVT) transmission, or perhaps both.

As result, savings have been noticed when it comes to the fuel bill. AdBlue consumption has been minimal too he stated.

A tool box slides out through the steps.

Coupled to the Deutz powerplant is the proven ML90 CVT transmission. Through two ranges (field and road) speeds from 0.02km/h to 50km/h at 1,700rpm are possible. “Moving to a Vario was a complete learning curve.

"I had never driven one before my own. It took at least a week to become accustomed to the Fendt ecosystem and adapting to the style of driving. Now that I have switched to a Vario, I don’t think I could go back.

The 516 Vario is powered with a 4.04l Deutz four-cylinder engine, churning out a rated 163hp and 171hp with boost.

“Nine times out of 10 I drive in pedal mode which I find gives me the most precision. No clutching or trying to find the right gear in the yard leaves yard work just that much easier.”

“Granted most tractors will do 50km/h, the 516 will actually do 55.6km/h on the road which is a major step up from 40km/h.

"You might think it’s splitting hairs but given that some of our rented land is up to 10km away, the difference in 40km/h and 55.6km/h over a day at slurry is two extra loads, all while being more fuel efficient.”

Dimensions and capacities

The 516 has a compact wheelbase length of 2.56m, which leaves it seriously nimble regardless of the task.

However, Des did notice it wider than his previous tractors, adding to the overall stability which has been especially noticeable when lugging around the slurry tanker.

The tiled layout of the Fendt control terminal leaves it user friendly des believes.

Being the Power+ model, Des’s tractor is fitted with the optional 110l/min load sensing hydraulic pump. To help make use of such capacity, there are four spool valves in total.

Des praised both the hydraulic flow of the tractor and the simplicity of its back end layout.

“Some of the previous tractors have had larger hydraulic pumps but not near the same performance. The performance is impressive, especially with the loader.

In terms of lift capacity, the rear linkage is rated to lift just over 8t while the front linkage is rated for almost 3.5t.

Des believes thatt he 516 Vario is the best all round tractor on the market.

Meanwhile, the 4X/80 Cargo series front loader is rated to lift up to 2.6t, considerably more than his previous front loaders, adding to the ease at which the 516 navigates through all farm tasks, whether its loading bales, working the shear grab etc.

“The loader controls combined with the transmission I feel is the closest thing you’ll get to a dedicated loader. The curved front windscreen and 300° wiper are both big helps with visibility too,” Des said.


Des’s 516 was one of the earlier models delivered with latest Fendt One cab control layout. The modern setup sees a large digital display replace the conventional dash. Aside from its crisp clear layout, Des really likes the way in which display screens ie GPS/autosteer can be displayed on either the control arm terminal or on the dash display.

The 516 has a rear lift capacity of 8t.

The tractor is equipped with the Power+ Setting 2 control arm which includes the 3L joystick for all loader functions. Forward and reverse can be selected from the 3L joystick as well as the third service function.

Although Des has a good understanding of the main touchscreen terminal and its features, he says that he is still learning and picking things up as he goes along with the help of tutorials.

Des averaged 8.6l/hr mowing first cut with his 9ft Kverneland conditioner mower.

“What can be done and displayed on the terminal is unbelievable. The way in which profiles can be setup for different implements is great ie timers, oil flow rates etc. When I hook on the mower and select its profile it is setup exactly how I want it.

“The layout of the terminals screens is quite similar to a smart phone in the way it’s a tile based system. I never thought I had much use for GPS and autosteer but it’s one of those things that you realise the true benefit of when you start using it. It’s a super job.

Des Beirne, Newtownforbes, Co Longford.

“It even comes in handy when measuring out paddocks.”

Two of Des’s other likes of the cab is the layout of the main joystick/control lever and how it fits in hand and the cabs overall quietness and comfort.


“The level of detail and precision of the tractor in terms of build and functionality is just next level. It’s the ideal stockman’s tractor, its compact, it’s comfortable, its gutsy, its fuel efficient and the technology is top class. Everything about it is user friendly.

“If the tractor wasn’t already ordered when I done the deal, I’d probably not have spec’d it as well. I probably wouldn’t have went with front linkage or GPS and probably would have fitted narrower tyres. Next time, I’ll be making sure to select all these extras.The front linkage has come in seriously handy for some jobs. Even for working the log splitter and the ability to hook on or off the weight block is great. The loader too is very easily removed and fitted which means it’s done more often.”

It’s a premium brand at a premium price both to buy and service. But as always, you get what you pay for. If I’m going to be sitting in a cab for over 1,200 hours each year then I want a dependable machine that I enjoy operating and I’ve found that. The service from Atkins has been great. There was a small issue with a bad electrical connection in the steering column and in fairness, Atkins called and stuck at it until the problem was found and solved. Now used to the Fendt platform I don’t think I’d ever be for changing.” Des outlined.


  • Comfort.
  • Power.
  • Fuel efficiency.
  • Coded key.
  • Dislikes:

  • Poor Bluetooth handsfree system.
  • Seat can squeak at times.
  • The Spec

  • Engine: 4.04l Deutz TCD 4.1 four-cylinder engine.
  • Horsepower: 163hp (171hp with boost).
  • Transmission: Dual range CVT (ML90).
  • Hydraulics: 110l/min load sensing.
  • Lift capacity: 8t (rear), 3.5t (front).
  • Loader: Fendt Cargo 4X/80.
  • Loader lift capacity: 2.6t.
  • Unladen weight: 6,400kg (without loader).
  • Wheelbase: 2.56m.