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Equipment Hub: Getting the most from your compact equipment

Jason Boerger for Progressive Dairyman Published on 11 June 2019

Agriculture is one of the most important professions you could choose, but it can be unfriendly at times. Commodity prices are often inconsistent, weather patterns are unstable, markets can be volatile, and labor is growing scarce. With so many factors outside of your control, it’s understandable to want predictability and productivity.

Something that can make an agriculture producer’s life a lot easier is compact equipment. And when your day is simpler, you can get back to your family sooner because more work is getting done in less time with fewer hands. Compact track loaders and skid-steer loaders, along with versatile attachments, can accomplish a wide variety of tasks in a fraction of the time of manual processes.

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And no matter what your focus is on, today’s advanced machines are durable, reliable and comfortable. They deliver the versatility to positively impact your operation’s efficiency and offset the business risk of an acquisition.

Consider these tips to help increase efficiency and improve the quality of life around the farm:

1. Recruit and retain operators by matching preferences

One of the leading challenges on farms today is labor – it’s increasingly harder to find and keep good help. Today’s compact equipment not only helps bridge the transition to the next family generation but can also fill the gap left by hired hands who are lured to jobs off the farm.

Cab comforts such as heat and air conditioning, increased visibility with larger windows and rearview cameras, suspension undercarriages and selectable controls that match their preferences are making machines an effective recruitment tool to attract operators who put in long days. Features like extra head room, leg room and adjustable seats improve ergonomics, and pressurized cabs that seal out grain dust and other airborne debris can help retain valuable operators.

The new generation of agriculture producers, ranchers and hired operators is more connected, with the entire world’s information available at their fingertips. Options like keyless entry and computer-like control panels that monitor and communicate critical diagnostics and operation data in multiple languages are a natural extension of the technologies many of them have grown up with.

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2. Select machines and attachments to accomplish more

Agriculture producers use compact equipment to complete a wide variety of daily chores and tasks on the farm. When loaders are paired with attachments such as augers, buckets, scrapers, hydraulic breakers, mowers, rotary cutters, grading blades, scarifiers, grapple buckets, pallet forks, bale spears and snow blowers, they can be the ideal complement to crop and cattle production fleets.

These versatile attachments can also further increase your income for performing specialty projects like constructing pole barns and doing concrete work.

Common chores and tasks for loaders in agriculture production include:

  • Feeding cattle
  • Manure cleanup and loading
  • Scraping feedlots and alleyways
  • Transporting and loading hay bales
  • Loading feed into trucks and wagons
  • Replacing bedding and sand in stalls
  • Moving supplies
  • Grading around structures
  • Demolishing small barns and sheds
  • Breaking up concrete
  • Building fences
  • Mowing and field edging
  • Removing trees and clearing brush
  • Removing snow and ice

One of the most important functions of any loader is lifting ability, which is crucial in any kind of agriculture production. A machine’s rated operating capacity – commonly known as ROC – can also determine if the machine is better suited to loading wagons with feed silage or doing more demanding jobs like transporting and stacking heavy hay bales. When considering a machine’s lifting ability, it’s good to understand the differences between these two types of lift arm configurations:

  • Radius lift path – The load is raised in an arc that provides maximum reach at truck bed height. Radius lift path machines excel at jobs with mid-range or lower working heights (dumping feed into a wagon, backfilling, loading and unloading flatbed trailers, leveling and grading materials).

  • Vertical lift path – These loaders give a higher lift capacity and more reach at full lift height than a radius lift path machine. The balance of height and reach makes vertical lift path loaders great for clearing high-sided trucks and hoppers, and loading mixers.

3. Extend your working season productivity with tracks and speed

Farm environments can be punishing on loaders, and you can’t afford downtime. The key to keeping controls on smaller repair costs is developing a sound routine maintenance schedule and taking advantage of machine technology to stay connected to your dealership. Agriculture producers say daily visual inspections of tracks or tires and fluid levels, as well as checking for loose hoses and fittings, are critical to a healthy machine.

Greasing pins and bushings at a manufacturer’s specified intervals can minimize wear on pivot points. That diligence should extend to attachments too, which need checks to determine damage or wear to auger flighting, teeth, cutting blades and edges.

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Because certain operations handle a significant amount of commodities such as feed, hay silage and bedding, cleaning the debris off of radiators and oil cooler screens can reduce the likelihood of air blockage issues. Machine telematics are also helping agriculture producers anticipate regular maintenance planning by making it possible for dealers to monitor customers’ machines, including location, operating hours, critical code alerts, service codes and theft monitoring.

Compact equipment helps agriculture producers work more efficiently so they have more time to perform other chores or spend with their families. And with the reliability and versatility of these machines, it can replace the need for labor that is so hard to get.

4. Establish daily maintenance habits and connect to your dealer

Everything you once knew about demand for loader types is changing fast. Market research shows the interest for compact track loaders is growing faster than for skid-steer loaders in the agriculture market. This is due in large part to rubber tracks that offer low ground pressure and significant increases in mobility on soft, muddy and unpaved conditions. A tracked machine can stay more productive longer into the season, and it can get you up and running on wet winter and early spring days when tires struggle for traction.

Faster travel speed also equals more productivity. For jobs requiring transport from multiple sites or work in large fields or feedlots, two-speed can expedite travel time over long distances.  end mark

Jason Boerger is a marketing manager with Bobcat Company.

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