Machinery & Products

I don’t need a compact tracked loader, do you?

By John Droppert

With the new year well and truly upon us, the festivities and possible excess of the Christmas period are a fast-receding memory.

So too, are the bold ambitions associated with new year’s resolutions. Paying down debt, simplifying the operation, not buying farm machinery; all rapidly becoming distant white noise.

Of course, these things are necessary, in fact more so than ever in the current environment where a bad autumn break could spell disaster for so many.

But saving money by not doing things is only fun at the end of the year.

In the meantime, I don’t know about you, but I need something else to occupy my daydreaming time.

Some people are happy with a single Fiat feeding round bales and spend their time on the verandah looking at their empire, and good luck to them. They don’t need it of course, because they’re already richer than me.

I’m a very accomplished inventor of business cases for machines I can never buy. Necessity may come first as the mother of invention, but idle cerebral bandwidth must be a close second.

My latest hobby horse is freeing up storage space by dreaming up smaller machines that will do the same job. For example, a tracked skid steer (compact tracked loader), would be a versatile, fast farm loader without all the shed space that a telehandler or wheel loader takes up.

It turns out the first compact tracked loader was developed by Takeuchi in 1986, the brief being to increase flotation and traction, so the machines could work in a wider range of conditions than traditional skid steers, whose origins date back to the 1950s.

Tracks are also lighter on pasture than the wheels of a standard construction-bred skid steer, and the larger models have some truly impressive power outputs.

Notwithstanding the fact that rapid entry or egress from any skid steer looks nearly impossible without breaking your neck (think beating the heifers to the open gate), and that the shed space saved would soon be littered with a bewildering array of attachments (because they have a universal hitch, duh); these machines are an awesome idea for the farm.

So why don’t we all have them?

In rural America they’re as common as mailboxes, whereas Australian farms that use a skid steer or tracked loader as a primary machine seem as rare as chances I’ll get to own one.

Are telehandlers just better suited to our more open shed designs and outdoor parking (with no snow to worry about)? Or is it just that lifting 3 tonnes to 7 m appeals to our sense of value for money better than 2 tonnes to 3 m? Are we just too soft to climb over the loader booms 1 million times a day, preferring a sensible side door?

Whatever the answer, at a rough exchange rate of 3.5 Chinese wheel loaders to one compact tracked loader, it’s not more than a hypothetical question for my operation. But some more second-hand machines out there really wouldn’t hurt my chances.