The all-terrain vehicle market has come a long way since Honda’s Big Red three-wheeler started showing up on Canadian farms in the 1970s.
There are now many distributors and offerings of ATVs, as well as countless options and attachments that have changed dramatically how work is done on many farms.
The most common use of ATVs is to help farmers get into areas they would have to either walk into or risk sinking their pickup.
ATVs have for decades saved farmers countless footsteps and helped them become much more efficient. They are an essential tool for cattle operators to the point where it’s hard to imagine checking fences or pushing cattle without them.
For growers, it would be difficult to keep an eye on their crops without an ATV because their light footprint enables easy crop scouting without harming crops or leaving ruts.
Now, the development of utility task vehicles (UTV) with heavier frames, cargo boxes that dump, increased payload and power is also changing how some farmers operate.
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The Western Producer asked farmers how they use UTVs on their farm, and some respondents said their UTV is by far the most useful tool on their farm. They are often the first thing fired up in the morning and the last thing shut down at the end of the day.
Denton Brummund of Eston, Sask., uses his UTV to perform tasks that used to be done with 25 to 35 horsepower utility tractors. He said the main advantage a UTV has over a small tractor is speed, allowing him to get out to his fields a lot faster.
He adapted a 20-foot-wide set of diamond harrows to use with his UTV by mounting a 12-volt winch to pick up the harrow bar. He uses this UTV-drawn harrow to manage areas that are too wet to get his large seeding ring into.
“I have an old three-point hitch spreader I mounted on the back of the UTV, a Gator is what I have. I converted it to an electric motor, it runs off the battery on the Gator. It spreads seeds so I can go seed sloughs and harrow with it at the same time,” Brummund said.
He also made a land roller out of a 1,000 pound propane tank that he uses around his yard and in sloughs that are planted to lentils.
ATVs have been used for farm work on Brummund’s farm for 30 years, and even though a UTV has been brought into the farm equipment lineup, ATVs continue to have a place.
Brummund sprays with a quad-mounted sprayer around his fields to create a nice clean field edge, and he also installed a hitch on another quad that he pulls behind his trucks when he is taking farm machinery out to his field, which is a huge help because he farms basically by himself.
Farming is a major market for the UTV, so much so that when Can-Am recently updated its Defender, it had a research and development team travel to farms around the world to see how UTVs were being used.
The company then designed the Defender to meet the needs of farmers, said Andrew Howard, speaking on behalf of Can-Am.
“That’s why you see things like, it’s’ easy to get in and out of the machines, how the interior storage is set up, a tilt steering wheel, adjustable seat, a 1,000 lb. cargo box and cutouts for five gallon buckets,” Howard said.
The Defender is equipped with a CVT belt and is geared and designed for work with three power options: 38, 50 and 72 h.p. engines, the largest of which is capable of 61 foot lb. of torque.
“They have a two inch receiver on the back so they can pull up to 2,000 lb. if need be and has 1,500 lb. overall payload for stuff you can put in it,” Howard said.
“If you’re in low gear this thing is designed to pull and work.”
Within the agriculture sector, many companies have built their business largely upon ATV and UTV platforms.
Mitchell Blyth, who works for Crop Care Consulting, an independent crop consulting company from Manitoba that uses ATVs and UTVs to deliver its service, said they are totally dependent on these vehicles.
“The amount we’d have to charge a farmer to scout a field if we did it by hand, because of the fewer acres we could cover, he couldn’t justify it,” Blyth said.
Blyth said a quad the company bought in the spring that was used for crop scouting this year already has 2,500 kilometres on it, and it will likely get another 2,000 km on it soil sampling this fall.
Crop Care Consulting also adapted a UTV to enhance its capabilities by equipping it with a SoilOptix sensor that measures the passive gamma radiation from the topsoil, an RTK GPS unit and two Toughbook laptop computers that enable the company to map over 350 points of data per acre.
Many farmers use UTVs as personal carriers, mobile tool boxes and to feed cattle and plow snow.
However, there are also UTVs on the market that are taking a serious run at the tasks normally performed by utility tractors, such as Bobcat’s 3650 UTV that comes with a 24 h.p. diesel engine, hydrostatic drive and a power take-off attachment.
Chris Girodat of Bobcat said the company has sold lots of 3650s to farmers who use them for snow removal.
“You can plow, you can put on a snow blower, you can put on a V-blade, whatever you need, but it also has a box on the back, so you can carry your materials around,” he said.
Attachments such as mowers and tillers can also be powered by the 3650’s p.t.o.
The 3650 comes with a two inch receiver that can be used to pull trailers or implement, and has an option for a box with a powered dump. Even though it is set up for serious work, it is also a comfortable and convenient personal carrier for around the farm.
Bobcat’s Toolcat keeps a toe in the UTV category, even though it also definitely moves beyond it.
It’s a hybrid between a pick-up truck, loader, utility tractor and UTV, and there is nothing else like it in the marketplace.
“It has a loader frame, so you can put a good majority of our loader attachment on the loader interface on the front, but then you also have a three point hitch on the back as well,” Girodat said.
There are two models of the Toolcat that are powered by a 61 h.p. diesel engine. One model has a box with a 2,000 lb. capacity, and the other comes with a three-point hitch attachment on the back.
Toolcats equipped with a 25 h.p. hydraulically powered p.t.o. motor, which operates at 540 r.p.m., can operate hydraulic Category 1 implements.
Implements commonly powered by the p.t.o. are sprayers, seeders, post hole augers, finishing mowers, tillers and chippers.
Where the Toolcat really gets a step up on its competition is how it can use the many implements that Bobcat produces with the loader on the front of the machine.
“Angle broom, buckets, pallet fork, different grapples, augers: Bobcat has a big portfolio. Whatever the customer is looking for, we probably have an attachment for that,” Girodat said.
List on the Toolcat begins at US$50,000 while list on Bobcat’s 3650 starts at around $20,000.
ATVs and UTVs are a well-established and even necessary tool for many farms, and as their capabilities increase, other tools, such as utility tractors and the old yard truck, may begin to collect dust on their hoods and have grass grow up around their wheels.