Farm Ireland

Monday 23 April 2018

Machinery: Access for all areas

No limits: Quad bikes have many pluses but need to be driven with extreme care
No limits: Quad bikes have many pluses but need to be driven with extreme care
Derek Casey

Derek Casey

Ground might have hardened up recently, but one of the challenges of springtime is dealing with land that is just not enough to support heavy machinery. This is especially true after a winter that brought higher than average rainfall.

On the one hand, farmers need to get onto the land to get important jobs like slurry spreading and fertilising done in time for the growing season. But the dilemma is that you can do more harm than good by going in with big machinery and poor tyre selection that damages the sward for the longer term and impacts grass yield for years to come.

For many farmers, the humble quad bike provides an invaluable temporary solution during times when the land just isn't capable of supporting tractors. In recent years as ATV sales increased substantially, so too did the number of companies specialising in making ATV implements.

The range of attachments available to go with the ATV is now part of what makes it such a valuable tool.

They are popular across a range of enterprises and can perform many heavy duty operations such as spraying, towing, spreading, mowing and yard scraping to name but a few.

A more fundamental use of the ATV is transport. Time, as they say, is money and travelling time saved is certainly valuable in a busy schedule.

It has been shown that there is approximately a 75pc reduction in herding time, with this figure rising for longer parlour to field distances.

And with the average age of farmers in Ireland steadily increasing, the ATV helps to ease the burden of walking long distances on older farmers so that they can save their energy for more important jobs than herding.

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In terms of running costs, most ATV owners will tell you they are generally a very economical tool to run - €15-€20 per week will generally suffice on an average farm where the ATV is run for about an hour a day. These are impressive figures, particularly when you look at a tractor's running costs for a similar length of time.

What's the price of an ATV these days? At the moment there are three or four key players in the ATV market. In general you can expect to pay around €4,500 (including VAT) for an entry model rated at 250cc.

At the upper end of the scale, you wouldn't be getting much change from €12,000 for a 700cc utility vehicle. Some of the bigger ATVs have impressive towing capacities of over half a tonne. A large array of manufacturers sell on the Irish market, including Honda, Kawasaki, John Deere, Kubota and Polaris.


10 tips for quad bike safety

ATVs and quad bikes have featured in a significant number of farm accidents in recent years. A lot of the accidents come about due to the ATV overturning and the resulting injuries can be catastrophic.

Former IFA president John Dillon has spoken in recent months about his own serious accident on an ATV bike some years ago.

With around 10,000 ATVs on Irish farms, the best advice is to respect them and be conscious of the potential for trouble.

Awareness of the following factors will improve ATV safety on your farm.

1 Risks

Non-fatal accidents are not well reported but the underlying causes of ATV accidents are usually one or more of the following:

- Lack of structured training and/or experience

- Excessive speed

- Carrying a passenger or an unbalanced load

- Tipping on a bank, ditch, rut or bump

- A steep slope combined with other factors, e.g. ground or load conditions

- Towing excessive loads with unbraked equipment.

2 Training

ATVs should only ridden by users over the age of 16 and who have received appropriate training in their safe use, including the use of any towed equipment or attachments.

3 Protective clothing

More than half of all ATV riders have been thrown off at some time. There is no roll bar, so your only protection is what you wear. Head protection is vital. At present a motorcycle helmet is recommended. Wear clothing that is strong and covers your arms and legs. Gloves are useful for protection and to keep hands warm in cold weather for good control of the ATV. Wear wellingtons which are strong and have good grips.

4 Passengers

Never carry a passenger on an ATV. The long seat design is for operators to shift their body weight backwards and forwards for different slope conditions, not for carrying passengers. You should not carry a passenger in a trailer, as any movement will make the machine unstable.

5 Maintenance

Tyre pressures should be checked daily - just a one-psi difference in pressure can cause vehicle-control problems. Check that the brakes give a safe, straight stop, and that the throttle operates smoothly in all steering positions.

6 Safe driving methods

When cornering, weight should be transferred to the inside of the turn. When riding across a slope, keep your weight on the uphill side of the ATV. When going downhill, slide your weight backwards and select a low gear, reducing the need to use the brakes. When going uphill, move your weight forwards and maintain a steady speed. Avoid sudden increases in speed as this is a common cause of rearward overturning accidents.

7 Route Planning

Stick to planned routes where possible. Walk new routes if necessary to check for hidden obstructions. You should also make allowances for seasonal changes.

8 Loads

Ensure all riders know the manufacturers' recommended towing capacity and drawbar loading limit. Your ability to control the ATV by your body movements will be considerably reduced when carrying a load or towing a trailer.

9 Using sprayers

You are more likely to be exposed to spray drift on an ATV than on a tractor, so a tractor should be used whenever possible. Where an ATV is used, the sprayer should have a low centre of gravity and internal baffles to reduce liquid surge.

10 Road use

If your ATV is suitable for driving on the public road, it will be deemed to be a non-agricultural tractor and subject to road tax. It will also have to comply with the requirements of a non-agricultural tractor, for features such as rollover protection, tractor mudguards, horn, braking and lighting.

Indo Farming