Skid steer and compact track loaders are the number one tool carriers in North America. I like to think of these compact machines as the “Swiss Army knives” of light utility equipment.

When equipped with the right set of attachments for your specific operation, these tool carriers can vastly improve your productivity on the farm.

But what attachments are right for you and which ones are worth the investment?

The first and most important consideration is this: If you need to save time and labor when performing specific tasks, the right attachments can provide that solution. And with the right set of attachments, you can do everything from lifting bales to grading and preparing a seedbed, to performing odd jobs around the farm.

Attachment types

Among the most hard-working attachments that can help you get through your chores in far less time are:

  • Digging tools – If you’ve ever had to dig or drill into very tough ground, you can understand why digging and drilling attachments have become so important to farmers. For soil that is difficult to penetrate, consider a planetary drive auger or post-hole driver attachment that can get these jobs done quickly and effortlessly.

  • Hay-moving attachments – For moving, lifting and stacking hay, the right hay attachment for your equipment saves you time – not to mention your back. This attachment is a must-have for the livestock operator or hay producer, especially if you prefer large round bales.

  • Manure-handling attachments – If this daily chore can’t happen fast enough, then you owe yourself a look at these time- and labor-saving attachments. A manure fork moves loose hay and manure, and can also be used with grapple to transport branches or limbs; a manure scraper draws material away from walls, corners or fences.

  • Multiple-purpose attachments – One of the most versatile attachments for a skid steer loader is a four-in-one bucket you can use as a loader, grapple, dozer blade or high-dump bucket.

  • Rakes – Rakes can be used to prepare a seedbed, level and grade soil, and separate debris and rocks from soil. A variety of rake types are available depending on the specific project.

  • Silage defacer – With this attachment, you can remove hay and corn silage, and maintain a smooth compacted bunker face from tightly compacted bunkers by breaking it up for reduced spoilage and easy access. The best ones will maintain the haylage stem length for improved palatability and digestibility, yielding higher milk production.

  • Snow attachments – If you live in areas of the country where it snows, the right snow-removal attachments can substantially increase your productivity on the farm during winter.

  • Rotary cutters – For skid steer loaders, these attachments come in handy for large-scale brush clearing and fenceline maintenance.

Rent or purchase?

When considering attachments, the decision to rent or purchase an attachment should be based on usage. For example, if you can use an attachment at least 60 percent of the time, that’s probably the right attachment for your operation. But if a project is more short term, renting might be the better option.

Should you decide to buy an attachment, it’s important to understand the useful life of that attachment depends on how much it’s used as well as how you are using and maintaining it. Ask your equipment dealer how to use your attachment and how you can get the most from your investment.

Understand what the attachment is designed to do – if you are not maintaining or using it correctly, you can expect a much shorter lifespan. Easy maintenance fixes, such as replacing worn parts or making adjustments, can extend the life of the attachment.

It’s also important to choose attachments that have been designed and tested by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for use with the OEM’s equipment. There is no universal standard for interchangeability; OEM attachments are adapted for compatibility and designed for the best fit, productivity and performance with that OEM’s machine.

For example, if you have to manage the hydraulic pressure settings for your machine, the hose connections are properly configured for easy access and safe operation. OEM quick-connect couplers are designed to connect under pressure, for easy operator access and safe and proper operation of that attachment. Electrical connections are another example.

It’s always important to share your challenges with your equipment dealer. Be specific about the job you are trying to accomplish, such as the ground you are working with and how large of an area needs covering. Attachments are very specialized depending on those factors.

And even though attachments are specialized, most have more than one application. So your dealer can help you determine those opportunities as well.

The bottom line is: Attachments are an easy, cost-effective way to get the most from your light construction equipment. You may not purchase a new skid steer or compact track loader every few years, but you can vastly expand its usefulness with the right combination of attachments.  end mark

ILLUSTRATION: Illustration by Kristen Phillips.

Perry Girard is the product manager for New Holland Construction Attachments