ATVs and UTVs were once considered a luxury or, at best, a way of transporting people and materials around the farm. Real farmers only used tractors. However, with more powerful engines and more robust frames and drive trains, modern ATVs and UTVs are proving capable farm tools, and their lower cost and maneuverability often give them an edge over their larger counterparts in some situations. You’ve maybe already discovered the value of a winch on your quad, but there are plenty of other implements that give these four-wheel wonders unexpected versatility.
Playing in the snow or just going for a winter’s drive down a quiet trail can be delightful, so why not enjoy the task of removing snow with your quad?
Off-road tires are great for trails and a little mud, but tire chains give your vehicle extra bite when working on dirt, snow or ice. They’re relatively inexpensive, are available for nearly every tire size, come in a variety of patterns and install quickly.
Snow removal blades come in two varieties: V-shaped and straight. V-blades push snow from the center to both sides for a balanced push, while straight blades can be slanted to push all the snow to one side or the other. If your quad lacks hydraulics, look for a model with an electric winch to raise and lower the blade. There are a number of blade manufacturers in a variety of sizes to fit just about anything from an ATV to a 1-ton truck.
If just pushing snow around isn’t good enough for you, consider a full-blown snow thrower with an auger feed. With its own air-cooled engine for power, it makes short work of making a trail out to the barn and woodpile, clearing driveways, or even throwing snow off the pond for ice fishing or a game of hockey.
Draft horse implements for cutting, raking and hauling hay are still being manufactured, and older ones in working condition often show up at farm auctions. Replace the harness with a drawbar and hitch it up to your quad, and you have the means to harvest your own hay.
Wheel-driven sickle-bar mowers that are originally designed for horse farming adapt well to ATVs and UTVs. There are several companies that manufacture them, but if you keep your eyes open, you may find one at a farm auction.
These are easy to find for quads: Just look for yard rakes. They often show up at auctions, but you’ll be bidding against people who just want to use them for yard ornaments.
Like an ant moving several times its weight, a quad can easily lift and move a 1,000-pound bale of hay on a two-wheel dolly. The less expensive units use a hand winch or come-along to lift the bale, while the powered lifts use an electric winch or hydraulic cylinders. The quick and maneuverable quad hay dolly may be become your go-to hay mover even if you have a full-sized tractor.
Many attachments can be pulled behind just about any vehicle—the key is to find an implement that matches your vehicle while staying within the power limits of your quad. Working at high-power output and slow speeds is a recipe for overheating and can be stressful to the drive train, so don’t attempt to substitute your vehicle for a tractor unless it’s up to the job.
Plowing is one of the most horsepower-intensive tasks you will ask of your quad, and the long, sustained pulls will test the cooling system and transmission. They typically use an electric winch to raise and lower the plow, and may require additional weight to match the vehicle to the task.
There are several manufacturers of tillers for ATVs and UTVs. These pull-behind units have their own power supply, which takes a lot of the load off of the vehicle. Even so, working for hours at slow speed means less cooling airflow over the engine, so you need a vehicle with an external oil cooler. What better way to till a large garden than to sit in the shade of a UTV cab with a cold drink and your favorite music?
Finish off the ground preparation with a harrow for a smooth, even surface ready for planting. (Harrows are also great for preparing arenas for shows.) Tight maneuverability and a light footprint make quads an ideal workhorse for these tasks.
For shallow soil preparation and the creation of evenly spaced rows, a cultivator is the tool of choice. Even a small quad can pull an old-fashioned walk-behind cultivator, but equipment designed for quads is much faster and more efficient, though much more expensive.
Pulling a disk can be one of the toughest jobs a quad can do because this operation usually takes place after plowing to break up large clumps of dirt or sod and to fill in the furrows. Large wheels with tractor tread and high ground clearance make the going easier. Make sure the disk is appropriate size for your quad’s weight and power.
Pasture & Woodlot Attachments
Large-scale land maintenance takes brute strength. Mowing, brush clearing and heavy lifting are typically tasks for 150-plus horsepower tractors and crawlers, but with some clever attachments, ATVs and UTVs are very capable tools for mowing, brush clearing, pulling, and lifting on the hobby or small-scale farm.
Some heavy-duty brush hogs available for ATVs and UTVs will take down small saplings and heavy brush. They’re available with their own gas motors, so you just attach them behind your vehicle and you’re ready to go. If you have hydraulics, there is also a front-mounted brush mower.
Your vehicle can be indispensable for moving logs out of the woods. Whether you have a sawmill or just need firewood from a woodlot thinning, log arches save wear on the machine and avoid making ruts in the ground by lifting the log onto its own axles for an easier pull. A well-designed arch automatically lifts a log as it’s pulled and drops the log to provide drag when going downhill.
If you have a heavy load to move but don’t have a front-end loader, you can attach a power loader, which uses an electric winch to lift up to 250 pounds off the ground and set the load in the front carrier. This makes it a perfect tool for taking mineral blocks, sacks of feed or a bale of hay out to the feedlot or for lifting sandbags when you need more front weight. The power loader fully retracts out of the way, allowing the vehicle to be used for other tasks without removing it.
There are several options for drilling holes in the ground. The simplest one is a bracket that holds a one-person gas-powered earth auger and lowers it straight down into the ground with a winch. Auger diameters range from 3 to 12 inches, though the larger ones may not do well in hard or rocky soil. The stability of the vehicle takes a lot of stress out of drilling post holes, and you can disconnect the auger and use it manually, if you’d like.
You may already be delivering feed in a trailer behind your vehicle, but to speed up the chore, a power feeder might be just the ticket. Mounted on its own wheels, it can carry around 500 pounds and features a 12-volt electric auger that dispenses the feed without requiring the operator to leave the vehicle.
Sprayers are typically self-contained units that have their own power and pump. Boom sprayers direct the spray down in a line behind the vehicle and are best suited to ground application over open areas. Wand sprayers position the spray directly where needed and are well-suited to brush and tree work. Large sprayers are trailer-mounted, while smaller ones sit on the front and/or rear carrying racks.
A dry material spreader can save a lot of time when seeding and fertilizing wildlife plots or lawns or spreading salt on sidewalks to melt the ice. These typically attach to the quad with a pin or ball hitch, and models are available with electric spreaders or with a dispersal mechanism driven by the wheels. Hopper sizes range from 85 to 600 pounds.
Attachments For Moving Dirt
Moving dirt is one of the most demanding jobs for a quad. This is another application where the high power/slow speed can overheat an engine, unless it’s liquid-cooled or equipped with an oil cooler. You might also consider adding extra weights to the vehicle.
The tumblebug dirt mover dates back to the days of horse-drawn equipment and the building of the railroads. Although it’s not as common as it was a hundred years ago, it’s an inexpensive tool that allows you to scoop up a load of dirt or manure, transport it and dump it—all without leaving the seat of your vehicle.
The simplest dirt-moving tool is a straight blade that mounts to the back of the vehicle. Although it’s compact and maneuverable in tight places, it tends to dig in, especially with an ATV that has a short wheelbase.
A dolly-mounted grader blade naturally cuts into the hills and fills the valleys for overall smoothing larger areas, such as driveways, yards and arenas. The unit attaches to a trailer hitch, so it can be pulled by a variety of vehicles.
One of the most complex and expensive attachments for an ATV or UTV is a backhoe. While not heavy enough for most commercial work, it’s a viable tool for digging electric or water lines, foundation for sheds, planting trees or landscape work. Some attach directly to the vehicle—which means you’ll need a front counterweight—while others have their own wheels. Most models contain their own motor and pump to meet the demand for high flow rates and pressure. Once on the job site, stabilizing outriggers support the weight and hold the backhoe steady.
Is your quad up to the job? Using an ATV or UTV to push, pull, carry or haul can be an ideal solution for hobby farms, but it’s important to understand the limitations. These vehicles are much lighter than the tractors that traditionally do many of these tasks, and air-cooled engines are not well-suited to working under a load at low speeds. Here are a few things to consider when looking at farming with a quad.
- Four-wheel drive gives more traction and can get you out of tough spots.
- Shaft drives are much more robust than chain drive.
- The quad needs at least a 400-cc engine, depending on the application. Check with the implement manufacturer about power requirements.
- External oil coolers are critical for engine cooling at low speeds.
- Disk brakes give more positive stopping power than drum brakes.
- A receiver hitch is a versatile attachment that is either welded or bolted to the frame so that the quad can pull without causing any damage.
ATVs and UTVs are relatively inexpensive and versatile tools for hobby farms, maintaining food plots or managing woodlots. Of course, you can always go out and just have fun with it, as well—or better yet, have the fun of off-roading while you work.
This article originally ran in the January/February 2017 issue of Hobby Farms.