How To Use A Front End Loader On A Farm?

Front end loaders can be used for lots of jobs around the farm such as moving and scooping soil, gravel, manure and other materials. You can use a front-end loader around the farm for grading, leveling and digging.

In this article, we discuss the jobs that you can do with a front end loader on the farm and give smart tips for safe operation. Read on to learn more on how to use a front end loader on a farm.

What Is A Front End Loader?

what is a front end loader

A front-end loader is essentially a tractor that has a square, wide bucket in the front that is attached with a set of arms.

Front end loaders may have tracks or wheels. This type of heavy machinery is often referred to as:

  • Shovel Loader
  • Wheel Loader
  • Bucket Loader
  • Front Loader

Loaders of different types may go by different names. For example if a loader only has a front bucket it will be called a front loader, but some more compact machines that can be used with a wide variety of tools and attachments (e.g. forklift arms, bale grapplers, clamshell buckets) are more frequently referred to by the other names.

They are typically equipped with a square bucket at the front which is used to scoop up loose materials (e.g. snow, dirt, gravel, wood chips, sand, etc.) and move them from place to place.

A front-end loader is better for moving loose materials about that it is for digging, but with the right technique you can dig using a front end loader.

While it can be a lot of fun to drive a backhoe, a front end loader is a much more useful piece of machinery around a small farm. You can add a front end loader attachment to your existing tractor, or you can purchase a front end loader tractor.

With this equipment, you can perform digging tasks, of heavy materials (both loose and solid items) and do some land grading.

Front end loader attachments typically cost about the same amount as other types of heavy hydraulic moving equipment. Depending upon the brand you choose and the features you need, you can expect starting prices at about $2500.

If you’re adding a front end loader attachment to your existing tractor, be sure that you get the right one. Only install one that is specifically designed for the tractor you have. A mismatch could really increase the possibility of accidents.

A front-end loader is a very versatile piece of machinery that can be extremely valuable in getting your farm work done quickly and efficiently.

Just be advised that a front end loader attachment will change the stability and center of gravity of your tractor, so it’s important that you familiarize yourself with the machinery, practice and study your owners’ manual for safe operation.

When you change the center of gravity of your tractor, you increase the possibility of tipping. Be sure to equip your loader with a rollover protection structure, and make sure that you have a seatbelt.

Tips On Using Your Front And Loader

Which Is Better: A Front End Loader, A Backhoe Or A Skid Steer?

Buying a front end loader is a big investment, so before you do, there are couple of questions you should answer:

  1. Do you really need a front end loader to perform the task at hand more efficiently and economically?
  2. Exactly what sort of front end loader and what attachments do you need?

You may determine that a front end loader is not the right equipment for the task at hand. In some instances, a backhoe or a skid steer may be a better choice.

Front End Loader Vs Backhoe

Backhoes are very popular items of heavy equipment, and you can find one on most construction and jobsites. It may surprise you to know, however, that front end loaders and backhoes actually have some very similar capabilities. Their differences lie mainly in the amount of time it takes to perform these functions and the way these functions are carried out.

Backhoes are typically mounted on the rear of a tractor. This machinery is especially intended for digging and is called a “backhoe” because digging is performed in a backward direction pulling materials toward the machine.

This excavating equipment uses a bucket positioned at the end of an articulated arm. Backhoes may be used for material handling, but because they are able to dig deeply, they are typically used for digging.

Even so, a backhoe can be used for other purposes when the bucket is replaced with a hydraulic power attachments such as:

  • Tilt Rotator
  • Grapple
  • Breaker
  • Auger

Although both backhoes and front end loaders are used for moving dirt and other materials, backhoe buckets are usually smaller than those of front end loaders. Additionally, a front end loader is a bit more nimble than a backhoe because these machines are typically articulated.

Front End Loader Vs Skid Steer

When it comes to compact wheel loaders and skid steer loaders, competition can be quite sharp. Most contractors prefer skid steer loaders, but compact wheel loaders have a great deal to offer.

When comparing skid loaders with wheel loaders, look at these 10 categories.

  1. Bucket capacity: In general, a compact wheel loader will have approximately 25% greater tipping load and bucket capacity than a skid steer of the same size.
  2. Purchase price: Compact wheel loaders are generally approximately 25% more costly than skid steer loaders; however, the size, brand, condition and age of the machine you purchase will have a great deal to do with the price you pay.
  3. Cost to operate: A compact wheel loader has a smaller engine than a skid steer of similar capabilities. For this reason, it uses less fuel. Additionally, front end loaders are typically a little bit easier on tires as well.
  4. Maximum speed: Front end loaders are typically quicker and more nimble than skid steers. A front end loader can easily travel 10 to 14 MPH. A skid steer typically travels between 7 and 10 MPH.
  5. Horsepower rating: Generally speaking, a skid steer has about twice the horsepower of a front end loader of the same size and weight.
  6. Ability to maneuver in tight settings: Skid steers have a very low cab height and are able to counter-rotate in their tracks. This gives them greater maneuverability in tight settings than front end loaders.
  7. Loading ability: Skid steers and front end loaders come out about even in loading ability because skid steers are typically able to lift higher than front end loaders, but front end loaders sit a bit higher overall and provide better visibility to the operator.
  8. Operator visibility: This category differs greatly from one machine to the other. With a skid steer, you have good visibility of the cutting edge of the bucket. With a front end loader, you have better side and rear visibility.
  9. Driver comfort: With a skid steer, you have to climb over the bucket to get in. With a front end loader, you can simply step in the door on the side. Once in the driver’s seat, both modern skid steers and modern front end loaders have fairly comfortable cabs.
  10. Available attachments: Skid steers are typically used with a wide variety of attachments; whereas, front end loaders are usually just used with buckets. Even so, with added hydraulics, attachments can be used with a front end loader.

Pick The Right Front End Loader For Your Task

If you’ve determined the need for a front end loader, you’ll need to evaluate the power and weight bearing capacity of the machines you are considering.

When evaluating front end loaders, you need to evaluate both engine horsepower and power takeoff. Engine horsepower drives the vehicle itself. Attachments such as post hole diggers, roto-tillers, shredders and the like are powered by takeoff power. It’s very important to match the horsepower and the takeoff power to the job at hand.

In addition to horsepower, before purchasing, leasing or renting you must evaluate front end loader weight and 3 point hitch capacity. If you purchase a machine that has a light frame and a great deal of horsepower, you may end up not having the stability and traction you need to complete tasks around your farm.

Be sure that the front end loader’s 3 point hitch capacity is right for implements you may already have and is adjustable for implements you may purchase in the future. The 3 point hitch at the rear of the front end loader enables you to pull a wide variety of implements, such as:

  • Round Bale Movers
  • Land Levelers
  • Rear Blades
  • Box Blades
  • Mowers
  • Aerators
  • Seeders
  • Tillers

A light weight machine (lower than 3000 pounds) that has 2 wheel drive is unlikely to have good traction. If you need a tractor to work with a front end loader attachment, the weight-bearing will be transferred from the rear axle to its front axle. If the machine is too light, it will become quite unstable and will have very little traction. This is unsafe.

Additionally, this type of lightweight front end loader is not adequate to even light tasks in adverse weather conditions. For example, if you need to carry a load through snow or mud, you really need a machine that weighs in at least 4000 pounds and has four-wheel-drive.

Why Your Tractor Needs To Have A Front Loader

Weigh All Options to Make the Right Choice

There is no single answer to the question, “Which is better, a backhoe, skid steer or front end loader?” The machine that is better for you will depend upon why you need the machine and how you will use it. For this reason, you shouldn’t allow any single point of comparison to make your mind up for you.

For example, saving money on tire and fuel costs with a front end loader will not really be helpful to you if having a machine that easily operates a wide variety of attachments is what you really need. Analyze your entire situation before making your final decision.

Safety First With All Heavy Equipment

With a front end loader, you can perform a wide variety of gardening and farm tasks with great ease. Before you jump in with both feet, you should take some time to familiarize yourself with the owners’ manual and practice a bit in a safe and open area.

Tackling a difficult task when you are unfamiliar with your machinery can result in serious accidents and injury.

Keep these safety tips in mind!

1. When traveling about with your front end loader, be sure to keep the bucket low to reduce tipping hazards. When you do have the bucket raised, always be on the lookout for overhead hazards.

2. Make sure that you understand what your front-end loader is intended to do, and never use it for unintended purposes. For example, you should not use your front end loader to:

  • Knock down buildings or other structures
  • Tow other machinery
  • Remove fence posts

3. Always be safe around your front end loader. Never walk under the raised bucket or allow anyone else to. Whenever you need to raise and lower the loader arms, do so steadily and slowly and always watch out for people and objects that may be in the way.

4. Whenever you load your front end loader bucket, be sure to do so evenly. This will help prevent spillage and tipping. Make sure you don’t exceed the load limit recommended in your owners manual.

5. Whenever you’re driving your front end loader on a hill or carrying a load, be sure to keep the bucket low.

6. If you hit a bump or a hole while moving quickly, you may tip over or unintentionally dump your load. Always drive slowly and carefully, especially when covering rough terrain.

7. Avoid carrying large, unsecured loads (e.g. round bales of hay). Doing so can be quite hazardous to your machinery and to you. A loose round bale of hay can roll back, damage your machine and crush you.

8. Whenever you’re going downhill with a load, be sure to do so in reverse. Take care to allow plenty of room for maneuvering with the extended bucket.

9. Anytime you’re carrying a load, be sure to travel slowly and carry the load low. This helps you to stay stable and enables you to see any obstacles and hazards ahead; however, make sure the load is high enough that the bucket does not scrape the ground.

10. Be extremely careful when turning with a load. Turning may cause the load to slide or shift.

11. It may be necessary to add weight to the back of your tractor to counterbalance the load you’re carrying in front. Double check your owners’ manual to determine exactly how you need to do this.

12. If you have a tricycle-type tractor, you should not use a front end loader attachment. Doing so could cause you to tip over sideways. In all events, your tractor wheels should be widely spaced for the best stability.

13. Always be alert, vigilant and observant when operating a front end loader. You must look out for obstacles and hazards above, below and around. Loose ground, big rocks, holes, overhead wires, people, animals, fences and all manner of things could cause accidents and mayhem.

14. If you’re working in a barn or building, you must pay close attention to the size and location of doorways, ceiling beams and other obstacles you will not encounter outdoors. Furthermore, you’ll need to make sure that you have good ventilation so that you are not overcome by carbon monoxide fumes.

15. Whenever you are backfilling, you must take great care because the combined weight of your fill materials and your machinery may cause the collapse of new construction.

16. If you’re working on a slope or along a high bank, be very careful to stay away from the edge. If it becomes necessary to undercut a high bank, be aware that cave-ins and falling rocks can be a real hazard in this situation.

17. At the end of the day, be sure to leave your front end loader safely. Lower the bucket all the way to the ground to be sure that it is not accidentally lowered in your absence.

18. Block the wheels to avoid accidental rolling. Remember to block the wheels anytime you’re working on or around your parked loader.

19. Be sure to perform regular routine maintenance on your machinery. Follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

If you are potentially interested in the job of a front load operator, here are some observations in terms of licence requirements and remuneration. If you need to transport your loader, here is our guide on how to do it.

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