Telehandlers v. tractors: What better for your farm

Telehandlers v. tractors: What’s better for your farm

Okay, so we know Granddad broke in the whole farm with just a Series I Land Rover and a Massey 135, but we also know times have changed.

The humble tractor has been a jack-of-all-trades for Kiwi farmers since becoming available in the 1920s, and they still have a big role to play. Modern farming is growing increasingly complex and with that comes the need to shift from generalist equipment like a tractor, to specialist equipment better suited to a particular job.

Specialised equipment not only boosts production efficiency, it also saves your tractor from mechanical stresses that can lead to breakdowns and expensive repairs – for example, mounting a loader on a tractor will significantly increase front tyre, axle and transmission wear because the tractor is being used for a job it wasn’t designed for.

Managing such breakdowns not only costs money, it costs time as well and can put farming operations on hold in the meantime. If there’s a back-up tractor it’s unlikely to be bigger and newer than the one that’s out of action so it’s not going to get the job done anyway.

This doesn’t mean tractors are an endangered species on New Zealand farms – they will always have their place – but it does mean alternatives are gaining in popularity. In this article, we’ll talk about the specialised alternative the telehandler and how its versatility makes for a great long-term investment on your farm. 

The argument for telehandlers 

The telehandler is a four-wheeled vehicle featuring a telescopic boom capable of being fitted with a wide range of attachments. These include various forks, buckets and grabs, and specialist equipment such as post-hole borers or straw blowers.

It’s easy to see what a versatile telehandler adds to a large corporate farm, but is it really an option for a smaller operation? Should you get one instead of a tractor or second tractor? Well, if you are serious about increasing production efficiency, the answer is yes.

Compared with a tractor and loader combination, telehandlers have been found to cut the time it takes to load a mixer wagon or feedout trailer by 20 to 30 minutes.

They lift more, reach farther and push harder than a tractor can. They do it more safely as well because this is exactly what they were designed for. This allows you to save your tractor for the jobs it’s best suited for, reducing overall wear and tear.

Versatility is a telehandler’s greatest strength. When fitted with a bucket or bucket grab, they can move loads to and from places unreachable by a tractor-mounted loader, or even a wheeled or backhoe loader. They can quickly load a mixer wagon or feedout trailer, then tow it to where it’s needed. They have the ability to reach directly into high-sided trailers or hoppers, whereas a wheeled loader would need a ramp or conveyor – that’s one machine doing the work of two.

With their big wheels, telehandlers cope well with negotiating farm tracks and yards. Many models also have stabilisers or outriggers that allow the machine to be used safely on uneven or sloping ground.

There’s no doubt it, adding a telehandler to your farming operation will be money well spent.

Their versatility means you will be able to do more jobs yourself, rather than having to call in an outside contractor. A telehandler’s capabilities will allow you to find new and better ways of getting the work done, thus increasing process and production efficiency.

When a tractor can only do so much, you can rely on a telehandler to do so much more.

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