One of the most important tools for today’s farmer is the skid steer. Some farmers here in Ashtabula County have owned one for many years, but we purchased one just last fall. On our small farm there wasn’t a way to justify the cost. Then my husband decided he had to have one. Is it me or do “needs for the farm” seem to jump way ahead of fixing the bathroom or painting on the priority list?
Well, according to my husband a skid steer can do almost anything except bale hay. And that’s why we spend a big chunk of our small income on it. A farm wife once said that they would always have a monthly skid steer payment because they couldn’t farm without one.
Skid steers come in different sizes and are made by about 10 companies like New Holland or John Deere. They were invented in 1957 by a Minnesota man for the purpose of digging under existing structures like digging out a basement. The best part is they have about 15 different attachments such as post hole diggers, forks and buckets.
On our farm we make lots of hay except for this year. Due to early non-stop rains that kept us out of the fields and then no rain that stopped second cutting from growing at all, we have made practically no hay. Lots of farmers need small square bales and that’s what we usually make the most of.
But “hay help” (anyone willing to fry in the sun, be covered by hay dust and eaten by three-cornered flies) just does not exist around our area. I can’t understand why everyone isn’t knocking down our door volunteering to work. But they aren’t. That’s why my husband has gone to making large round bales that weigh about 400 pounds—one person can do nearly everything.
However moving those large bales is a problem. Here comes the skid steer to the rescue. With a three-pronged, spear-like attachment, our skid steer can pick up and then move the bales to the side of the field. We try to put them as close as possible to the driveways so that next winter when the snow is deep, we can get the bales to feed the cows and horses without tearing up the fields.
Picking up the bales to load them onto a large trailer is another job for the skid steer. It can pick up the bales approximately 12 feet into the air with the hydraulic arms the operator controls with foot pedals. Stacking these bales in a barn or bunk silo is another job the skid steer can handle with ease.
A second attachment for our skid steer is a 5-foot bucket. We used it for plowing snow and cleaning driveways last winter and it was amazing. Most dairy farmers use the bucket for moving and feeding silage. The skid steer is smaller than a tractor and so it can work in tight spaces.
A huge job our skid steer is going to work on is cleaning manure out of our barns. We will have to use an attachment that looks like a large fork. The load can be picked up and dumped into a manure spreader to be spread on our fields. The amount of labor the skid steer saves is unbelievable!
There are lots of other uses for a skid steer too. Oh well, I guess the bathroom re-do will just have to wait. Kathy Smith is a farm wife from Wayne Township. She writes for the Ashtabula County Farm Bureau.