Skid steer loaders are powerful, compact machines that are especially suited to moving dirt. You see these handy machines hard at work on landscaping projects, job sites and other nonagricultural pursuits, but they are also extremely useful at your local feed store for moving pallets of feed and bales of hay with ease, and they have many uses on the farm. Read on to learn more about a skid steer on a farm.
What You'll Learn Today
Where Did The Skid Steer Originate?
When skid steer loaders were first developed by Melroe Company of Gwinner, North Dakota in 1960, they were known as the M-400. This innovation was a great improvement over the three wheeled loaders that had been traditionally used for turkey barn cleaning.
The M-400 had greater stability and traction and was more easily maneuverable than that device. This is because a skid steer loader steers using independent clutching of the left and right drives. This means that the vehicle is able to spin on a dime.
The next iteration of the M-400 came in 1962 and was called the M-440. This was the first skid loader designed by Melroe to bear the “Bobcat” logo. Today, this logo is so strongly associated with skid loaders that they are commonly called “bobcats” regardless of the actual name of the manufacturer.
Today many different manufacturers offer versions of the skid loader. Among them are:
- New Holland
- John Deere
Of these, John Deere and Bobcat have been the most aggressive in developing small, compact skid loaders that are affordable and useful to small-scale farmers.
What Farm Jobs Can Be Done With A Skid Steer?
Although small compact tractors are still their first choice, today small-scale farmers are finding that having a skid loader means quick work and increased productivity.
When you own one, you can breeze through all sorts of jobs quickly and easily. The savings in time and money more than make up for the initial investment.
Of course, one farm job that is greatly simplified by use of a skid steer is cleaning out poultry barns and other livestock housing, since the first skid loader was developed for just such a use on a turkey farm. Since that time, livestock farmers of all sorts have found just how handy this powerful, compact machine can be.
You can purchase a dedicated loader which is designed for use in moving dirt, landscaping, grading corrals, cleaning barns and keeping your farm lanes clean and maintained; however, you can use this machine for a great deal more, and you can use your skid steer to make extra money.
You Just Need To Add A Few Attachments
- With the right attachments, your skid loader can be put into service sweeping, pushing and blowing snow.
- You can add a rotary broom attachment that lets you sweep dirt off of paved areas. This is also useful for sweeping straw and leaves off of open areas or away from lanes inside the barn.
- Add precision grading attachments to use your skid loader for leveling and grading your yard, roads and more.
- Add an S-tine cultivator to make good use of your skid loader in your garden, field and nursery beds.
- There are solid stand seeder and over seeder attachments that you can mount on the front of the machine for planting.
- For mowing, you can purchase a variety of hydraulically powered rough country or finish mowing attachments.
- If you need to rip out a hedgerow or build a fence, just attach tree shears and/or brush cutters to clear out the vegetation.
- Use your skid steer for tree transplanting by adding a backhoe or tree spade attachment to dig up trees, move them to a new setting and replant them.
- To dig the holes for the trees, you’ll need an earth auger attachment. You can also use this to dig fence post holes and to establish a foundation for your pole barn.
- You’ll need a concrete mixer attachment to pour the footings.
- When you need to handle a variety of materials, you can turn to your skid steer loader. It is by far the best tool to have on hand for moving square or round bales of hay. Just use a bail fork or bail steer attachment.
- Add a grapple attachment to move several small square bales at once. This is also an excellent attachment to use when moving fence posts in piles.
- You can add forklift forks to move stacks of lumber or pallets. You can even move a shed with a skid steer using forklift attachments.
- When it comes time to muck out your barn, add the manure bucket attachment.
It’s easy to see that with a wide variety of attachments available for a skid steer loader, the small, powerful utility machine is an absolute necessity on any small farm. A high flow skid steer with high flow attachments can increase job efficiency by as much as 75%.
What Can’t A Skid Steer Do?
Of course, there are a few things that you should not use a skid steer loader for. Among them are pulling a baler or a chisel plow across a field or meadow.
This small but mighty vehicle is not quite strong enough to do that. For this kind of task, you’ll have to have a tractor that’s able to tow ground engaging, heavy implements, as well as powering them from the back.
You should also keep in mind that a skid loader does not have very high ground clearance, especially when you compare it with a tractor. If you are cultivating row crops or windrowing hay, you’ll have a hard time.
It’s possible to perform these tasks, but it’s not really efficient to use a skid steer for this. Furthermore, because skid loaders do not have axle oscillation, you may find navigation on rough terrain uneven and potentially dangerous.
Difference Between A Compact Track Loader And A Skid Steer Loader
Compact track loaders are based on skid steer loader design. This is why compact track loaders look a great deal like skid steer loaders. In fact, many of the same attachments that can be used with a skid loader can be used for a track loader.
The difference is that track loaders move on a track undercarriage, but skid steer loaders move on wheels. You definitely don’t want to get your skid steer bogged down because a non-moving skid steer (weighing 6000 pounds or more) can be quite difficult to shift!
You steer compact track loaders in the same way as skid loaders, but tracks provide quite a bit less ground pressure, more suspension and better mobility over rough ground. Tracks are less damaging to the ground.
Furthermore, tracks are better able to handle deep snow and mud. This is why track loaders are a bit pricier than skid steers.
If you have a need for greater traction, more flotation and the ability to navigate lots of snow or mud, you’re better off investing in a track loader. If you’re going to be working on pavement or firm, flat ground, you’ll be fine with a skid steer.
A Skid Steer Is A Sound Investment
In the final analysis, a skid steer is an excellent, versatile and affordable piece of equipment to add to your small farm setting (even though you can rent it as well).
While some tasks can be accomplished by adding attachments to your tractor, a skid steer loader is a superior choice for many types of work on the farm.
It can be used for hauling and moving things and much more. Its compact size makes an ideal choice for a wide variety of necessary jobs around a small farm. If you haven’t operated it before, here are our guides on how to drive it, or how to load it on a trailer.