What does John Sibbald, who runs the Compass Ranch near Cochrane, Alta., think of a UTV for use on a cattle operation? “As far as I’m concerned, they’re twice the machine a quad is,” he says without hesitation. And he should know, the Compass Ranch has three UTVs. And there are no longer any quads to be found. The UTV is now the vehicle of choice there.
Not too long ago, Sibbald recently purchased a Kubota RTV1100 from Calgary Tractor, a Kubota dealer just outside that city. The RTV1100 was added to the fleet of two RTV900s that were already seeing regular use on the ranch. All three models are diesel powered.
With the purchase of the 1100, Sibbald and the crew on the ranch now have a pressurized cab to get some protection from the elements; and he recommends that option for any rural producer. At first, Sibbald didn’t know if the standard air conditioning feature would be necessary, but it has come in handy. “We use it,” he says.
Having a heated cab on the 1100 allows anyone checking cattle in cold weather, particularly during calving season, to spend more time with herd in relative comfort and take extra time checking for signs of trouble. “We put about 250 hours on it just for calving,” he says. And despite the fact all the ranch’s UTVs are diesel powered, they still start exceptionally well in very cold weather. “It will start at 35 below without being plugged in,” he says.
But that is only a small part of what UTVs are used for on the ranch. “We pull post pounders with them. They’re easy to get into corners with,” Sibbald says. And they have ample power and traction to do the job, even pulling up and down the Alberta foothills where the Compass Ranch sits. Plus, they do it much more cheaply than a pick up would. They are considerably more fuel efficient.
The UTVs on the Compass Ranch seem to see equal amounts of work despite the season. Last winter, Sibbald put them to work taking feed out to a group of purebred bulls. “You can get 16 five-gallon pails of grain in the back,” he says. That wouldn’t be even remotely possible on an ATV.
During haying season, the UTVs do duty running back and forth between the tractor in the field and the yard, whenever necessary. Pick ups on the ranch are now accumulating a lot fewer miles with the Kubotas taking over many of the tasks that the trucks would have been used for in the past, despite the fact they move a little slower than a truck can. “They’re not fast. They’re workhorses,” Sibbald says.
Over a four of five year period, Sibbald estimates the UTVs accumulate about 1,800 hours of use. And despite the fact they are frequently used for carrying and pulling, they have stood up well to the demanding jobs. “I don’t think I put $400 into them (in repairs), other than change the oil,” he says.
The Compass Ranch has been in operation since 1875. Back then, horses would have supplied the muscle for chores. But these days, the workhorse of choice is the UTV, and Sibbald has no problem recommending these little vehicles to others who need to get farm work done.
Scott Garvey specializes in writing about tractors and farm machinery technology for publications in Canada and Great Britain. He’s also a former affiliate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). He farms near Moosomin, Sask.