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Mechanics Corner: How to pick a wheel loader for your dairy

Tim Hilton and Scott Bayless Published on 10 June 2013


The dairy environment for wheel loaders is extremely harsh and provides some unique challenges.



To ensure a long working life, there are some characteristics you should make sure the loader you choose possesses.

And like any machine purchase, there are also some recommended options that will best tailor your loader for its work.

Let’s start with requirements to combat both wet material build-up and airborne debris common on dairies. Without these features, it’s likely you won’t be happy with the productivity and uptime of your wheel loader.

Axle coolers and filtration are necessary in dairy applications due to moist organic material that sticks to the axle housings, bakes on and acts as insulation. This insulation increases heat build-up in the axle, and oil temperatures can reach dangerously high levels.

Axle coolers will limit the oil temperature from rising to damaging levels. High temperatures can cause premature axle failure in bearings, gears and brake systems due to degraded oil quality.


The filtration improves bearing and gear life by reducing the amount of abrasive material that circulates in the axle oil. Oil and filter changes should be made at the manufacturer’s recommended intervals.

A reversing fan that automatically or manually back-blows cooler cores is another must-have for the dairy environment. A reversing fan ensures the coolers (including the axle coolers) remain clear of debris build-up and operate at optimum efficiency to reduce overall system temperatures.

Lastly, an engine precleaner is a must in order to extend the life of the engine air cleaner and prohibit debris from being ingested in the engine. If debris is ingested into the engine, it can cause premature engine failures.

Not critical, but welcome features
A high-lift boom is one of the most frequently selected options in agricultural applications. Loaders used to fill feed wagons often need extra lift height to avoid damaging the unit.

In some cases, even a high-lift option isn’t enough, but there are a couple of options you can install to achieve the height you need.

The first is the push-out bucket. This type of bucket features a hydraulic ram that pushes material out of the bucket. Push-out buckets are also great for metering expensive feed into a feed wagon.


The second is the tip-out bucket. Tip-out buckets have a hydraulic cylinder that raises the rear of the bucket to dump – as opposed to the typical dump-down motion – to increase lift height.

If baling twine is prevalent at your dairy, consider axle guards to prevent axle wrapping. Wrapped twine can damage axle seals, leading to some very costly repairs.

Many loader manufacturers offer ride control. This option will not only smooth the ride for the operator but will also keep feed from spilling out of the bucket and extend center pin life. Feed is expensive, and ride control is a good way to keep it in the bucket.

Traction can be tough to come by in sloppy conditions. Options to consider for handling this challenge include auto diff-lock and spin control.

Auto diff-lock will help keep the loader working in low-traction conditions without any operator input, while spin control can help the operator fill the bucket in slick conditions. Spin control offers the additional benefit of reduced tire wear from excess spin.

On-board payload scales can be useful for measuring feed, weighing bales and loading trucks to the proper capacity.

Ongoing maintenance
Now you’ve got a loader set up perfectly for your dairy. How can you keep it running? Proper maintenance cannot be stressed enough in dairy applications. The axle seals should be visually checked for leaks daily.

If a leak – even weeping – is noticed, the seal should be replaced. Axles will not run without oil. Proper greasing of the axle input grease seal is also required.

This will purge debris from around the axle input seal and increase seal life. In addition, good maintenance includes periodic cleaning of the coolers and axles.

Choose your loader dealer wisely. Make sure your dealer understands the unique requirements of your application and can help walk you through factory options, as well as source aftermarket attachments, that will turn an ordinary loader into a dairy special. PD


Scott Bayless
Product Consultant
John Deere


Tim Hilton
Product Consultant
John Deere