A compact John Deere makes for a tidier paddock. 
Story by Bruce McMahon

The striking green and yellow colours of John Deere are found on all manner of work sites across Australia today, from back paddocks to golf courses. The iconic North American concern was founded in the 1800s by blacksmith and plough-maker John Deere. It took to the tractor business in 1912 and today it has a host of products, from 560-horsepower tractors to utility vehicles, and grain harvesters to ride-on mowers.

Among these is a range of compact-utility tractors, slotted into four ‘families’ and offering power outputs from 16.5kW to 49.2kW. This is the place to find machines for small-lot farmers, landscapers and hobbyists. A John Deere 3036E is the entry level family tractor, with 36kW and four-wheel-drive. Kitted out with Deere’s D160 front-end loader, plus a Queensland-made 1.5-metre Superior slasher down back, the 3036E becomes a serious little workhorse.

While style may not mean much to the heifers on the other side of the creek, this Deere is a tidy-looking device with exhaust tucked below the three-cylinder diesel engine and a smooth bonnet line. Much of the tractor’s green body, including rear guards, is moulded plastic which, aside from being rust-proof, makes for easy wipe-downs.

Up into that bright yellow seat – adjustable for an operator’s weight and height – and fasten the seatbelt. In front there are hazard light switches, indicator switches, horn button, ignition switch, throttle lever and an instrument panel dominated by a big tachometer surrounded by a series of eight warning lights, plus hour meter. The light here to show the power takeoff (PTO) is engaged is handy, for it is a quiet drive shaft and slasher, but the panel could do with a light to indicate when 4WD is engaged.

The 3036E Deere’s 4WD system comes into play with a pull-up lever below the seat. The brake pedal on the left, with a short stab on the pedal, also engages a differential lock when needed, so it may be a trifle difficult to bog this outfit. 

Two floor pedals on the right-hand side of the steering column are for the tractor’s hydrostatic transmission – one to move forward, the other for reverse. Fire up the John Deere, select high or low ratio with a left-hand lever, throttle up, release the handbrake, apply pressure to the forward pedal and move off. This transmission is well-suited to work where there’s constant toing and froing, because it is a quick, easy process to change direction.

The 3036E’s transmission is a boon for crawling slowly down steep slopes. It’s also simple to master. This leaves the operator to concentrate on work, such as engaging the rear PTO with a pull switch on the right-hand guard without stopping – provided the tractor’s engine is sitting at 2500rpm and maximum power for the slasher.

The combination of the John Deere’s three-point linkage, PTO and this Superior LS1500 slasher’s 65 horsepower gearbox makes work across the flats a breeze. It is a relatively subtle operation and, with slasher height set through the adjustable tail wheel and the linkage’s control lever, the paddock is cut clean and even. 

That wheel may become an issue in tighter spots for it takes the loader-tractor-slasher rig out to 6.4 metres long. And the rubber slot alongside the tractor seat for the linkage height is a bit too flexible, yet once set that wouldn’t be a day-to-day concern.

The ease of operating this John Deere is highlighted again when using the factory’s front-end loader and bucket, which will lift just over 500 kilograms to 2m. The joystick moves effortlessly in four directions for lifting, dropping, loading and emptying the bucket. That hydrostatic, two-pedal transmission means smooth transitions from loading up to swinging around to drop the load.

The John Deere 3036E is a compact utility tractor for a mountain of tasks. Decent horsepower, 4WD and good ergonomics make this a valuable workhorse for smaller blocks.

This story excerpt is from Issue #111

Outback Magazine: Feb/March 2017