In the last few years, many mixed or livestock-only producers have found an economical source of used tractors in the 100 to 150 horsepower range dating from the 1980s or 1990s. Converting them to front-end loader use has been a relatively low-cost way to add to the farm fleet. But many of those older, long-frame tractors that were at home in fields aren’t very nimble when it comes to moving through corrals while hauling round bales.
Now that most of them have accumulated some very high hours, many farmers are looking for replacements. And there is a lot to choose from. The major tractor manufacturers have recently expanded their offerings with additional models in the 100-horsepower range to capture some of that market. But anyone who needs a machine just to handle loader duties and haying operations may want to rethink their definition of a tractor.
The practise of using telehandlers on farms has been going strong in Europe for years; it may be time for North American farmers to take a second look at them, too, especially those models that are also capable of performing jobs that usually require a tractor. The Multifarmer line from Italian manufacturer Merlo can do exactly that.
“For European farmers a telehandler has always been a major piece of equipment for their yards,” says Andrew Mazer, who runs a mixed potato and grain farm near Brandon, Man. He is also a salesman at Mazer Equipment, a Merlo dealer. “In North America, we’ve always used loader tractors instead. The problem is they’re not really built for that (heavy lifting).”
Mazer replaced a wheel loader on his own farm with one of Merlo’s Multifarmer models. “We switched to a telehandler because of its capabilities,” he adds. “It has so many all-around uses.”
There are four models in the Multifarmer line with lifting capacities ranging from 2,700 to 3,000 kg. And they can lift those weights up to nine metres high. They are also equipped with category II, rear three-point hitches that can handle up to 4,300 kg and 540 or 1,000 r.p.m. rear PTOs. With 102 or 115 horsepower diesel engines, they can easily handle a mower conditioner or round baler along with a variety of other implements.
The Merlo Multifarmers all have four-wheel drive for maximum traction, and they offer three different steering modes, normal front-wheel, crab or rear-wheel opposing, for maximum maneuverability. With an overall height as low as 2.2 metres and a width of only 2.04, a telehandler can easily fit into most low-clearance buildings. Dealing with low doorways is major problem when using older, converted field tractors that stand pretty tall.
Aside from the higher lifting range, these machines offer a forward reach of more than five metres on some models, which makes loading trucks or getting into building corners much easier. Of course, lifting capacity is reduced as the reach is extended.
The Merlos use four-cylinder, turbocharged Deutz diesel engines connected to two speed, electronically-controlled hydrostatic transmissions with continuously-variable speed adjustments. They are capable of travelling up to 40 km/h. On top of that, they have a 21 tonne high-speed towing capacity rating. To stop all that weight, they use a four-wheel, hydraulic disc brake arrangement.
NOT JUST FOR LIVESTOCK
Mazer has no regrets about opting for a multifunction telehandler on his farm. “You’re actually getting two machines out of one,” he says. And he sees many uses for them on farms, like his, that don’t raise livestock. He also believes the Multifarmer’s durability makes it more economical to operate than a standard ag tractor when used for heavy lifting work. “Your running and maintenance costs are lower than a tractor.”
But the initial investment could be a little higher. “They are generally within $10,000 of a comparable tractor,” he adds. According to Merlo’s marketing agent, Judith Lefebvre, suggested retail prices for the Multifarmer line run between $135,000 and $150,000, depending on options and model.
But when it comes to comes to convincing other farmers to try a telehandler, Mazer says reaction has been mixed. “It’s like any kind of new product. A lot of people are leery of changing their ways. Once you start using them, though, you find new uses every day.”
Contacthimat [email protected]