PHOTO: Daniel Johnson
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February 4, 2020

Suppose you’re searching for a means to clear snow on your farm. You’re focused mainly on your driveway, with some attention also given to primary walking paths between outbuildings.

Let’s say you’ve elected to use your tractor for the job, and now you’re debating which snow-clearing attachment is right for your needs.

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You’ve analyzed the merits of snow blowers versus snow plows. You’re tempted by the simplicity and lower cost of a plow. But you’ve also read forums filled with farmers lauding the merits of huge tractor-mounted snow blowers. Which should you choose?

Well, wait a minute—could there be a third option?


Clear Snow With A Front-End Loader

Forget specialty equipment. You might be able to clear snow with the bucket on your front-end loader.

This approach isn’t necessarily for everyone. The volume of snow you receive in a year is a key factor to consider. If you live in an area where a significant storm produces just 6 inches of snow, it’s harder to rationalize the expense of a large tractor-mounted snow blower.

On the other hand, if you live in one of the snowbelt regions routinely hit by lake effect snow (which can produce a foot or two of snow on a whim), investing in a powerful snow blower will save you some winter aggravation and keep your farm running efficiently.

Assuming your average annual snowfall is reasonable, a front-end loader can be a viable option for removing snow. Here are a few other pros and cons to consider:

Pros

The biggest advantage to using a front-end loader for clearing snow is the cost savings.

Chances are you already have a front-end loader for your tractor. So aside from investing in tire chains (which you’ll probably want regardless of which snow-clearing approach you choose), there isn’t any expense involved.

You can give your front-end loader a try. If it doesn’t clear snow as well as you hoped, you haven’t lost anything but time.

Another advantage? You can use the front-end loader to lift snow off the ground and move it wherever you want, as opposed to pushing it along with a plow or blowing it with a snow blower.

You can work some magic adjusting the position of large snow piles, pushing them farther back from your driveway and making them taller if necessary to free up space. A front-end loader is also easier to maneuver and take off-road than a 6-foot snow blower.

Cons

Given enough time, your front-end loader can be used to clear almost any amount of snow.

But hobby farmers are busy folks, and unfortunately clearing snow with a front-end loader is a slow process compared to using a plow or snow blower. Farmers with long driveways might want to side with a snow plow or snow blower instead.

The challenges stem from the typical design of a front-end loader bucket. In most cases, the buckets are oriented straight ahead and cannot be angled. This means they can’t disperse snow off to one side as you drive forward.

As a result, the bucket quickly fills up and starts spilling snow out both sides, making a mess. To remedy this, you must frequently stop, turn and deposit the accumulated snow to one side, a slow process that adds significant time to the job.

For the same reasons, it’s hard to be thorough and tidy when clearing snow with a front-end loader.

You’ll get the job done, but it won’t be as crisp and clean as when performed with a snow blower. There’s a lot of pushing, scraping, and scooping involved—you’re bound to miss some snow along the way, and the edges of your clearings will probably wind up a bit ragged.

Front-end loaders might not be the perfect tool for clearing snow. But when faced with manageable conditions, they can provide a cost-effective way to keep your farm operational when snowstorms strike.

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