Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan have certainly had their share of trouble with excess moisture through the spring and summer. Flooding made it necessary for many livestock producers to transport hay and feed across very wet ground until late in the season, especially those near Lake Manitoba. Getting bales to herds stranded on higher and drier ground was a major problem for some.
Peter Doerksen farms near Inwood, Man., and was one of those who had his share of trouble. He was constantly getting stuck when pulling wagonloads of hay out to his bison herd. With a load of feed, the wagon sank deeply into the soft, muddy soil.
“The regular wheels (on the wagon) would bog the tractor down,” he says. “We were always getting stuck.”
Even a front-wheel assist tractor equipped with duals couldn’t always get the feed delivered. So Doerksen began looking at alternatives. He decided he needed a bale carrier that could be equipped with tracks to improve floatation. After discussing his needs with Kevin Gudmundson, owner of Gudmundson Farm Equipment at Lundar, Man., Doerksen ordered a new Farm King bale carrier that hauls a single row of round bales.
“We had to use a single (row) mover, because the wheels are on the outside,” explains Gudmundson. That made it possible to retrofit it with tracks. Carriers that move two parallel rows of bales have their wheels under the deck surface, so converting them to a track system becomes nearly impossible.
But even the single-row Farm King model Doerksen ordered didn’t come with a factory track option, so it was up to him to figure out how to add one. “We had seen one before,” he says. “A guy that did some custom work for me last year had exactly this unit.”
Doerksen managed to get his hands on a second-hand set of tracks that are typically used on specialty equipment designed to operate in deep snow or boggy conditions. The steel and rubber belts are designed to fit over regular tires. “They came from a wrecked machine from Manitoba Hydro,” he says.
Doerksen took the unit to a local shop to have the tracks shortened and fitted to the carrier axles. The wide, floatation tires, which were standard equipment on the carrier, had to be replaced with narrower, six-inch tires and wheels to run inside the tracks.
The narrow tires were deflated to allow for installation of the tracks. Then simply re-inflating them created enough tension to keep the tracks firmly in place. Overall, Doerksen estimates the conversion added about $3,000 to the cost of the carrier. But the improvised design changes made it possible to reliably get feed to the bison.
“The worst tracks we make now are with the tractor,” Doerksen says. “This thing hasn’t got stuck once.” When conditions get back to normal, the tracks can be removed by simply reversing the installation process and reinstalling the wider tires the carrier came with. He says the tracks tend to tear up dry surfaces, so he will only be using them when necessary.
“In a pinch you have to make something work,” says Doerksen. “This works very well.”
If you had to improvise to keep your equipment working in wet conditions this year, let me know about it. Send a picture and description of your modified machine to scott. [email protected]