Farming is more than a profession – it is a love. To devote all your effort, time and attention to farming doesn’t happen without having a deep love for agriculture. And one of the most enjoyable experiences is seeing the fruits of your labour.

“Farming is a passion,” says Dirk Potgieter. “It is a love you have for the land. It is a passion to work the land, plant your crops, see your yield and, of course, also see your handiwork throughout the year.”

Dirk farms between Vereeniging and Villiers on the farm where his great grandfather started farming four generations ago, in 1935. Today, the farm is known as DR Potgieter and Son, and they plant maize and soya beans on dry land every year.

“The biggest challenges we experience in this area are droughts. The roots of the maize and soya beans have to go down deeper to collect the moisture,” he explains. “There also was a layer of compaction, better known as a plough sole, which formed from all the years of ploughing.” This compaction layer prevents crop roots from penetrating the soil and using moisture trapped underneath the crust.

Dirk Potgieter, farmer, and Jaap Strauss, Sales Representative of Valtrac, at one of the four 7-tooth AST/MATIC 450 rippers of DR Potgieter and Son farming.

Valtrac’s Tatu AST/MATIC 450 is the answer to soil compaction

After Dirk’s father became aware of the problem in 2007, the search began for a tool that could break the hard plough layer and leave an even seed bed.

“This AST/MATIC 450 was the first implement we came across that forms a fine and even seed bed,” explains Dirk. “Our final decision was based on the ripper’s penetration ability, the action of its tines, as well as the strength of the frame. This is one of the strongest rippers currently on the market – you won’t find these frames cracking or breaking easily.”

When Dirk later took over the farm from his father, he continued to use the AST/MATIC 450 rippers. “We have had nothing but wonderful service from them,” he adds. The farm currently uses eight of these rippers: Four 7-tooth units, three 13-tooth units and one 21-tooth ripper.

The 13-tooth ripper requires a tractor of about 150 kW, the 7-tooth about 110 to 120 kW and the large 21-tooth 430 to 440 kW. The working depth of these rippers are approximately 450 cm, but they can work deeper. “We push them to about 470, 480 cm,” Dirk confesses.

One of the Potgieters’ 13-tooth Tatu AST/MATIC 450 rippers that provided faithful service on the farm for twelve years.

“Their operation is fantastic! The tooth shape means that it does not form clods. It is not like the conventional bent tooth; it has an angular shape. Naturally, we can also work much later in the season compared to farmers who break a lot of clods.

“We just love to loosen the soil. Whether it may be sand or hard soil, loosening to a depth of 480 cm helps root penetration. We try to work deep, consistently.”

Dirk uses the ripper in the fields after the cattle have grazed there and eaten most of the crop residue. “We send a disc harrow through the fields to chop any remaining material first. Then we use the rippers as soon as the soil moisture allows, to break any compaction that has formed throughout the season or during harvesting time.”

Many features distinguish Tatu’s AST/MATIC 450

The AST/MATIC 450’s tines are not curved like those of competitors. No, they have corners that effectively break up clods.

For Dirk, what stands out about the AST/MATIC 450 is the shape of the tooth, strong frame and the availability of spare parts. “Even if the implements do not break easily, it gives peace of mind to know that spare parts are freely available and easily obtainable,” he says.

The Tatu rippers require minimal maintenance. “Of course, general annual maintenance should be done, such as replacing worn shafts and maybe replacing teeth that are crooked or worn out, but the frame lasts. If you take care of your implements, they will take care of you,” says Dirk.

A feature that is a big plus on the Tatu ripper is that each bearing runs in an oil bath and therefore has a long life. “It makes things so much easier for us because we do not have to replace bearings regularly,” says Dirk. “This 13-tooth AST/MATIC 450 is now twelve years old, and we have never replaced a bearing on it.” This feature is unique to Tatu’s products.

“It is a heavy-duty bearing that runs in oil,” explains Jaap Strauss, Valtrac Sales Representative for the Eastern Free State. The bearings are sealed on both sides so that no dust gets inside. “The farmer has a three-year warranty on these bearings, but as Dirk mentioned, some of his rippers have been working for twelve years and they haven’t needed to replace them yet. If you maintain them and they don’t leak oil, they can last a very long time.”

The advantage for the farmer is that they do not need to be lubricated or replaced as often as other bearings.

Parts are freely available and supported by friendly Valtrac service

Thanks to Valtrac, which imports and distributes the Tatu implements, spare parts are always available. “Apart from the durability of the ripper, I also receive friendly service from Valtrac,” Dirk says. “They want to help you. It’s not just a company, it is people-people who are really interested in your farming. You want to do business with them,” he emphasises.

“The service support from Valtrac is fantastic. They are always friendly and willing to help. If they do not have something immediately available, they make a plan for you. You can feel that you as the farmer is important to them. They also understand that these rippers work at a critical time before planting time if the moisture allows, so they make plans to accommodate you during that time.”

Dirk’s nearest dealer is Parys, but Jaap is the Sales Representative in this area. “These products are imported from Brazil. The Tatu rippers’ whole concept is different from the other rippers available today. It is durable and made of strong material to ensure longevity,” Jaap testifies.

Knee-deep in the clods: where these angular teeth of the AST/MATIC go through, no clods are left behind.

“We trust the performance of these tools. The unique tooth shape, cutters in front of each tooth and then the heavy roller at the back gives us very good soil tillage. We do not simply draw lines in the field,” he explains. “That is why Valtrac decided to import and distribute them.”

Valtrac’s service and support is very important for the company, says Jaap: “We pride ourselves on providing the best service and distributing the best equipment.” To make this possible, Valtrac ensures that they remain at the forefront of agricultural technology by attending the major annual agricultural shows around the world. “Our top management will look at all the latest equipment and try to bring the best to South African farmers,” says Jaap.

Dirk smiles: “I definitely recommend Valtrac as a company to farmers. Their love for farming runs as strong as mine, they provide the best implements and tractors at reasonable prices and spare parts are always available. Their staff do not only fill positions, but they are also people who are knowledgeable and really can and want to help you.”

Find out more about the range of Tatu implements that Valtrac distributes, such as these AST/MATIC rippers. Visit their website at, or call (+27)86-182-5872.

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