1. Time Savings. By far the biggest savings accrue from the time saved by zipping around at up to 40 mph. One Nebraska family streamlined its irrigation system checkups, with savings of $280,000 a year in employee salaries alone, reports Arlen Mickelsen of Superior Outdoor Power in Superior, Neb. The father-son operation was employing seven men to help keep tabs on 27 center pivots spread over 23 miles. Now they drive an ATV the entire distance.
“They built ramps over fences and save an estimated two hours a day just in not having to open gates,” Mickelsen says. The family numbered their fields and installed a radio-controlled monitoring system. “They just need to get close enough to get a reading and are able to track when the oil was changed, gallons per minute, etc.,” Mickelsen explains. This allows them to manage irrigation with just one employee.
Ranches also enjoy huge time savings by switching from horses to ATVs. “I work with one large ranch that estimates 75% greater efficiency in calf field branding and vaccination versus rounding up and penning the animals,” Mickelsen says. “Where they might have needed eight or nine people to treat 300 calves a day in the past, now it takes only two or three, with less stress to the animals.” Being on the ground also provides a much better handle on animal health and range conditions.
2. Product Savings. Spot-treating weeds can be another potential big-money saver. A farmer with 6,700 acres of irrigated corn began spot-treating weeds using a tank mounted on his ATV four years ago. He uses a spotter plane and spends one day flagging fields for treatment, then about four days spot-spraying. He estimates he has a $420,000 per year better return versus using his tractor for spraying—both in chemical savings and less stressed plants.
3. Fuel/Capital Savings. Few operations buy ATVs for their fuel savings, but that undoubtedly occurs, as does time savings in fewer refills. In addition, “the price is half or less that of a pickup truck,” says Barry Nelson of John Deere.
And they often last longer. “A farm may go through three $40,000 pickups before they would wear out an ATV,” Mickelsen says.
4. Field Wear and Tear. You’ll get less compaction running these much lighter-weight vehicles, says Kevin Aschenbach of Honda Motor Co. “The impact to the ground surface is minimal compared with a heavy tractor or truck.” The smaller size of an ATV also lets you maneuver into tight places.
5. Body Wear and Tear. Last, but not least, “they are easy to get on and off compared with a tractor or a truck,” Aschenbach says. “Farmers say this not only saves time but wear and tear on their backs and knees, especially when doing chores such as checking irrigation lines or fence lines and taking soil samples.”