WHEN you have two million square metres of grass to cut in less than a week, there’s a need to rely on a reliable mower brand.
In this instance, nine Iseki SF 333 and SF 370 out-front ride-on mowers fit the bill, according to busy contract mower business, Wanday Queensland, located at Bridgeman Downs. Based in Brisbane’s northside, and also with depots near Gympie, the company’s principal, Col Dawson, has to be at the top of his game to satisfy some large customers.
And they don’t come much larger than Brisbane City Council, Sunshine Coast Regional Council or Gold Coast City Council, who all require state-of-the-art equipment to ensure their road edges, parks and cemeteries are tidily clipped, week-in, week-out.
Luckily, a fleet of 25 tractors and ride-on mowers put Wanday Queensland in the box seat when it comes to meeting the needs of its important customer base – one that sees its demand vary from season to season. It also helps when you have 35 years experience under your hat which, as Col Dawson says, gives him an invaluable insight into the contract mowing business.
First up, the small engine mechanic by trade, says he has trialled a range of rival out-front mowers, believing he’s made the right decision to stick with the Iseki brand.
“I know virtually every (competitive) machine back to front but, at the end of the day I just can’t fault the Iseki,”Col Dawson said. “We’ve never had a major problem, never had a major rebuild, never had a major breakdown,” he added.
Previously, Wanday Queensland has had to cope with a host of technical problems associated with competitive brands, pointing to hydraulics, drive, engine and electrical failures.
“In those instances we have to stand down both men and machinery,” Col Dawson said. “And while I always keep a back-up (mower) for the Iseki’s, I have never had to deploy one,” he added.
While Col spends most of his time in a managerial role, he’s always on hand to lend a hand to his busy team if needs be. Interestingly, the two dozen-strong mower fleet, plus its associated workforce, can exceed 50 people, rising to 100 if the season is more demanding than usual.
The point to make here is that a large council might contract Col to make 20 cuts a year across its parks, requiring up to 14 cuts during the summer months, tailing off to about six during the winter.
“These councils say we just have to have up to date machinery, also the right machine to meet their criteria,” he said.
Col Dawson says the 37hp Iseki engines have more than enough ‘grunt’ for the job in hand and recalls how the Iseki’s 6ft wide cutting decks performed when pitted against a tractor equipped with a 16ft wide cutting platform.
“Travelling at up to 14kph, the Iseki outpaced it by cutting twice as fast as the tractor,” Col Dawson said. “So I use the tractors to do the bulk of a park, allowing the Isekis to clean up around trees, swing areas and park frontages,” he explained. “They are just so more versatile in tight areas.”
During a hot summer the Iseki out-fronts consume a miserly 25L to 30L of fuel during the course of a working day with their hydrostatic transmissions making the job that little bit easier.
While a home gardener probably clocks up 30 hours a year cutting a domestic lawn, Wanday Queensland’s Iseki fleet clocks up between 1000 hours, possibly 1300 hours a year, per machine, depending on the season.
They are normally sold after five years, commanding good trade-in prices to date. Col says his out-front Iseki’s are robust, too commenting he has “never broken one” to date, noting the strength of their full chassis and noteworthy 4WD and diff-lock features.
Service intervals are every 500 hours with, as has been alluded to earlier, very little down time.
“That’s why I like them (the Iseki’s) because I very rarely have one down,” he said.
As far as quality of cut is concerned, Col says it is “second to none,” emphasising the ease of the three-step adjustment process to alter the height of the triple blade arrangement.
According to Col, cricketers are impressed by the way the Iseki’s leave their hallowed turf prior to their weekly game.
He says by “throwing” the grass outwards, and making 15 or more circuits of the batting strip, the Iseki’s give the paddock “that perfect look” ahead of the next clash.
As to the future, Col Dawson says he’ll stick with “the one brand that does the job”, the Iseki that has served him so well over the years.
Underscoring how it would be “pretty hard to knock off” the brand from his inventory, he says he still looks forward to driving any of his Iseki fleet but only can climb aboard if an operator falls ill.
Sadly, for him, Wanday Queensland’s workforce are a pretty healthy mob.