Not long after the thrill-seekers embraced the first all-terrain vehicles 40 years ago, the ag industry began catching on to their potential for use on the farm or ranch.
Now they are indispensable workhorses that tend to stay in action all year. With their ability to get through areas not accessible to pickup trucks and perform some of the duties of tractors, ATVs have sped their way onto all types of farms, ranches, ornamental nurseries and orchards.
ATVs also provide a new sense of freedom to individuals with limited physical mobility, enabling them to access all areas of the farm and increasing their involvement in the operation.
ATVs are commonly used to inspect crops, livestock, fences, irrigation lines and touch base with work crews. They are also used to fertilize and apply chemicals, herd livestock, mow and transport materials.
“They’re used for just about everything, from checking the mail to pulling the drag chain to feeding the herd,” Edward Maldonado of Cycle Country said. “Unlike tractors, combines and other large equipment requiring winterization, ATVs, side-by-sides and utility machines tend to get used all year.”
Cycle Country in Salem, Ore., is a Honda dealer.
These and the other ATVs are so useful and reliable they are often overlooked when it comes to preventive maintenance.
“While they’re still going, there doesn’t seem to be an issue, but they still need regular maintenance and services,” Maldonado said.
Cycle Country service manager Steven Coen said while many farm operations perform their own maintenance or bring them in for periodic tune-ups, there’s a tendency to run them until they break down.
“We see an influx of machines during the spraying season,” Coen said. “They’ve been causing problems but owners haven’t wanted to bring them in, both because they rely on them for daily work and because of the perceived expense associated with servicing at the dealer. More often than not, most agricultural clients are pleasantly surprised at the final total, and are always excited to have a great functioning machine after having been through service.”
Coen finds his agricultural clients down-to-earth, easy-going and great at using their rigs to their full potential.
“ATVs are an easier way for some of the farmers to maintain their fields without spending $90,000 to $100,000 on a tractor that often has more restrictions and a higher expense per use,” Coen said.
Monitoring the systems of the farm’s ATV protects that investment and reduces the risk of injury and the potential of getting stranded. These include the throttle, brakes, lights, oil and fuel, drive train, chassis as well as tires — but only to a point.
“They all want bald tires so they don’t tear up their fields,” Coen said. “When they come in and we recommend new tires they usually say no.”