Pick up any automotive magazine and you’ll find several pages devoted to road test evaluations of new cars and trucks. The same goes for power sports magazines. ATV, snowmobiles and UTVs regularly see this kind of editorial evaluation by staff writers. But when it comes to farm machinery, you just don’t see those kinds of reports very often—at least here in Canada.
Certainly the reasons why are obvious. Ford, GM and FCA, along with all the automotive brands that originated elsewhere, crank out vehicles by the tens of thousands. There are lots of the same make and model available for marketing staff to lend out to writers. But farm equipment is clearly different. The values of high-capacity machines today are tens of times higher than the sticker price of a mini van, and brands just can lend a $700,000 combine to any old yokel, then there’s the cost of getting it where it needs to be. Never mind that serious testing of a combine is much more complicated that taking a Prius for a spin.
But we at Grainews have been working to do the kinds of farm equipment evaluations that are possible. We think it’s much more valuable to readers than just reporting on what manufacturers say about their products.
We’ve published several real-world evaluations of machines and pickup trucks over the past few years. But last year we amped that up by kicking off the first-ever Grainews Machinery Challenge, focusing on UTVs and creating a test course that reflects the kind of on-farm jobs they’d be put to, not what urban owners would do with them during a day at the lake.
Starting next week, we’re turning our attention to equipment farmers would use to handle everything from round bales to manure. But we’re not just looking at the typical range of loader tractors, we’re evaluating some alternatives, namely telehandlers and skid steers.
We all know what loader tractors are generally capable of, but a machine designed specifically for materials handling may better serve many Canadian farms. We’re hoping this year’s Challenge will help farmers decide if that’s the case for them.
We’re doing our testing on the grounds of the Ag in Motion farm show near Langham, Sask, again. Our publisher owns that show, so we get the run of the place to do our testing just before the gates open to the public on the 18th of this month.
I think last year we were considered hooligans by the show staff, because we were running the UTVs around the site as work was going on setting up the show. We were trying—sometimes unsuccessfully—not to get in everyone’s way. But the end result was we came away with some useful information for farmers to consider.
The slower speeds and nature of the equipment on test this year will probably find us working in some out-of-the-way corner to lift and load bales, gravel and whatever else we can lay our hands on. Show staff will probably like that a lot better!
We’ll have our tests machines on display at the Grainews booth again this year during the public show days, and judges will be on hand for most of that time to answer questions about the testing from anyone who cares to stop by and ask. So feel free to do that.
For those who won’t make it to the show, we’ll be publishing the results of our testing in the pages of Grainews later this summer, just like we did last year. Either way, show visitors and Grainews readers get to hear about the test reports. Hopefully, you find them not only informative, but also useful in you future equipment purchasing decisions.