Good design, training key to front-end loader operation

07/11/2010 @ 11:00pm

Sometimes called a bucket, a scoop or a lift, a front end loader on a tractor is one of the most popular items on the farm.  Almost as soon as tractors became affordable, farmers saw the benefit of a manure loader to clean barns and lots.  Loaders are available in a wide range of styles and designs.  Some are on a skid steer or dedicated tractor, often a utility model which may have a hydraulic lift, bucket tilt and perhaps a thumb or 4-in-1 bucket for greater versatility in handling materials.  Others are mounted on a field tractor for part of the year and taken off for field work.

Short line manufacturers that specialize in only a few types of equipment have been very succesful in the loader market.  One well known builder is Westendorf, which features loaders that fit over 500 models of tractors and which mount and dismount readily so the tractor is not tied up with the loader.  Westendorf, Woods, Rhino and other manufacturers offer a variety of attachments such as blades, fork lifts, gin poles, hay spears, squeeze clamps and jibs or cranes to match your equipment to any job.   Many feature quick connect couplings so that attachments can be changed or dismounted quickly and easily.  As farmers buy seed, chemicals and other items in bulk, it is important to have a machine on the farm that can handle the size and weight of the products.

Mounting hydraulically operated equipment on the loader boom increases it's flexibility as a farm tool.  Post hole augers, post drivers, mowers and diggers can be mounted on the skid steer or tractor loader frame, putting the work in easy vision of the operator.

Safety must always be a consideration when selecting and using a loader as they can put a lot of weight up high and create an unstable center of balance on your machine.  This is especially true when working on uneven ground or turning a short radius.   A machine with a cab or ROPS makes safety sense when using a loader.  Keep the load low, avoid sharp, high speed turns and never let people work under or around the loader when in operation.

Loaders can be built in about any configuration the farmer can imagine, so short line manufacturers or local machine shops may offer a solution if loaders sold by main line farm equipment companies don't do the job.  Good design and construction, training and safe operation are key to using this device productively.  It is a tremendous labor and time savor on nearly any farm.