Westbury, Tasmania, March 2015 – When Dave and Andrea Riordan were about to buy their 170 acre farm in the Westbury area of northern Tasmania, they realised the soft ground conditions would be a challenge.
“We’re experienced in the rural scene, however this is the first time we have encountered such wet winter conditions. Not only is there high rainfall; the property also has several springs which make parts of the property quite boggy” Dave said.
“Wheeled tractors had already made a mess of some areas of the property, even preventing a quad bike from negotiating the deep ruts the tractor left behind.”
With the benefit of project management experience, Dave undertook a requirements analysis to find a solution.
“We needed equipment with the flexibility to load hay bales onto trucks; tow a trailer with tools and implements; run a slasher/mulcher; operate a PTO drive; pick up and move timber; load palletised firewood and supplies and carry out a myriad of other farming tasks – but without making an impact on the soft ground.”
“After seeing a Takeuchi TL8 tracked loader that had rippers fitted to the back, I realised that modification of some equipment attached to the ripper bar would make this machine ideal for what we needed.”
“A tow bar fitted to the ripper lets me tow the trailer loaded with implements to where needed and carried back to the shed at the end of the day. In addition, we wanted an air conditioned cab and a reversing camera: the latter already paying for itself by preventing damages from reversing into other equipment.
“Bale grabs and bale forks are used for loading hay and silage onto trucks. Using a combination of bale grabs and forks which can be connected very quickly, it’s easy to neatly and efficiently position two layers of bales on a truck. So far we are moved over 700 bales with this machine and in weather and ground conditions that would be impossible for a wheeled machine.”
“The benefits of spreading the ground pressure have been extraordinary. For example, a tractor with a front end loader carrying a 500 kg bale of hay will deliver around 690KPa (100psi) of ground pressure on the two front tires. The TL8 tracked loader has a ground pressure of just 30KPa (4.4psi) –a dramatic difference.
“This means we can operate in the wet. For example, we had an inch and a half of rain and I was able to carry heavy wet hay bales with the TL8 on ‘spongy’ ground with ease. With any other equipment I just wouldn’t have been able to work that day. We gained a whole day’s productivity and importantly didn’t damage the ground. This will be even more important during our wet winters”.
“If I was trying to do this job with a tractor, there’s no way I would be out in this weather. We also appreciate the comfort of the air-conditioned cabin and when slashing, as the slight over pressurisation ensures all the dust is kept out of the workspace.”
“The hydraulic hoses have been run through the rippers because I discovered a kit to fit to the back of the TL8 which basically turns the back of the machine into a three point linkage with a PTO drive. This is why a machine with high flow hydraulics was important for our property.”
“Even though the loader has been worked for just a few weeks, it has already logged well over 100 hours. It has great flexibility and all-weather capability. The TL8 has excellent manoeuvrability to get into tight corners and gives us superior lifting power over a tractor with front end loader.”
“We’re conscious of the physical restrictions that will come with age when we won’t be as agile to lift heavy loads, so everything on the property is being palletised for easy handling. For example, our firewood is being palletised so my wife can easily pick up a ton of firewood and drop it on the back veranda meaning we only ever have to handle our firewood once from cutting to burning. In fact, anything that is heavy is being put on pallets, using the TL8 to do all the handling.
We have a large slasher/brush cutter which has proven very productive and saved a lot of backbreaking work in slashing, cleaning up small timber and undergrowth. This means a 4 to 5 day manual job is achieved in a couple of hours. The slasher / brush cutter has much more capability mounted on the front of the TL8 compared to the rear of a tractor. I can operate the device vertically and trim windbreaks and other trees up to 5 metres off the ground. This has greatly reduced the labour involved in this task and the safety. Instead of balancing on ladders with a chainsaw I am listening to the radio in a ROPS protected air-conditioned cab.
In terms of cost comparison, the tractor I was looking at; a well-known brand 100Hp machine with an air-conditioned cab and front-end loader, without any attachments, would be worth around $115,000. My TL8 machine is less than this, including all the attachments and optioned to our specification. Dollar wise it was a ‘no-brainer’
“I wanted a machine that would be easy enough to encourage my wife to operate, as another driver increases our productivity. With the machine working hard drilling post holes, I can be on a shovel, laying concrete or operating a chainsaw on a log that’s being held by the machine. It makes sense if my wife is driving the loader and I can handle tasks that require greater physical strength.
“Changing attachments is a breeze for her, thanks to the TL8’s pressure release valve for changing hydraulic hoses and the push-button quick attachment control.
“Even though my analysis told me this is what I needed; because it’s a non-traditional approach to farm machinery, I was initially cautious about how it would work out. When no one else is using a similar solution in similar conditions, you always worry whether it’s the right approach. I have absolutely no regrets about spending the time to fully evaluate our needs. The performance of the Takeuchi tracked loader has far exceed exceeded my expectations”.
“Our flexibility with this tracked loader has dramatically improved our productivity. Experience has shown that acquiring the Takeuchi TL8 was certainly the right decision. The machine and its attachments have been a wonderful solution to all the handling issues we face on the property. “