The Skid-Steer Loader: A Utility Machine Fit for the Farm

These compact machines known as the skid-steer loader are good for more than moving dirt.

| November/December 2009

  • John Deere skid loader
    The skid-steer loader (often called skid loader) is really the ultimate heavy-duty compact loader.
    courtesy John Deere
  • Bobcat S630
    The Bobcat S630 is ready-made for loading bale feeders for your cattle.
    courtesy Bobcat
  • Mustang skid loader with auger attachment
    Tired of digging holes by hand? The auger attachment makes posthole drilling easy.
    courtesy Mustang
  • Gehl skid loader with tracks
    Tracks are great for uneven ground, in snow and other conditions where low ground pressure is an advantage.
    courtesy Gehl
  • Gehl skid loader with tires
    Rubber-tired skid loaders work great on firmer ground and are easier on the budget.
    courtesy Gehl

  • John Deere skid loader
  • Bobcat S630
  • Mustang skid loader with auger attachment
  • Gehl skid loader with tracks
  • Gehl skid loader with tires

You’ve seen them on job sites and landscaping projects, there’s at least one on the job down at the local elevator, and your hay supplier uses one to load big round bales on your trailer. They come in a number of varieties – and you’ve been dying to find a reason to bring one to your place. I’m not talking about a forklift attachment for your compact tractor; I’m talking about those delightfully maneuverable, super-compact skid-steer loaders that seem to pop up just about everywhere. 

The skid-steer loader (often called a skid loader) is really the ultimate heavy-duty compact loader. Although the concept was born on a farm – the famed Bobcat brand traces its roots to a three-wheeled, lever-steered, miniloader designed to clean out turkey barns – the modern skid loader has spent most of its life as a construction, landscaping and utility machine. Sure, large-scale dairy operations and cattle feeding setups have been using skid loaders for years, but until just a few years ago, the skid loader hadn’t made significant inroads into small-scale agricultural operations. We can thank the landscaping industry and its need for so many property maintenance attachments for leading the skid loader to acreage owners and small-farm operations. 

Skidding through the years 

The skid-steer loader was born in 1960 as the M-400, which was built by Melroe Co. in Gwinner, North Dakota. The M-400 was an improvement over the original turkey-barn-cleaning three-wheeled loader because it had more traction and stability with even better maneuverability. The machine was steered – crawler like – by clutching the left and right side drives independently of each other, which meant that it could spin in its own length. The M-400 evolved into the M-440, which in 1962 was also Melroe’s first skid loader to wear the “Bobcat” name. Fast forward through the decades and the Bobcat name became indelibly associated with skid loaders – so much so that even today people often refer to a skid-steer loader from any manufacturer as a “bobcat.” 

Skid loaders have come a long way since the early 1960s, and virtually every equipment manufacturer has offered a line of the compact loaders – many still do. Modern makers include Bobcat, Caterpillar, Gehl, Case, Mustang, New Holland, John Deere and several others. Gehl, Bobcat and John Deere have been particularly proactive with developing skid loaders that fit the size and budget requirements of acreage owners and small farmers. 

Small loader turned maintainer 

The skid-steer machine makes an excellent dedicated loader – it works great in the dirt pile and for landscaping the yard. It’s also a fantastic barn-cleaning, corral-grading and lane-maintaining machine, but there’s so much more it can do. 

With the right attachments you can use a skid loader to push, blow and sweep snow. You can also use a rotary broom attachment to sweep dirt from paved areas, leaves from your lawn and straw from the lanes in your barn. Swap out the buckets, blades and broom for a rotary tiller or s-tine cultivator, and you can use the skid loader to prepare gardens, food plots, nursery beds and small fields for seeding. If you need to do a little leveling, precision grading attachments can convert your skid loader into a miniature road grader. 

Henry Cooler
4/23/2013 6:13:33 AM

The skid steer rubber tracks that Rubber Tracks Plus manufactures are of high .We supply replacement Rubber Tracks to suit Excavators, Skid Steers, ASV. track skid loaders

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