Milking 50 cows in a spring-calving system, Francis Young is a mixed organic beef and dairy producer who farms alongside his two sons, Richard and John.
Farming just outside Rosenallis, Co Laois, the family has a number of low-lying sheds and narrow cow laneways around the farmyard.
Cleaning both used to involve a huge amount of manual labour. The family said entire days were spent forking and barrowing old bedding out of calving pens and calf sheds. After many years of thinking about buying a machine to cut down on labour, the family sat down during COVID and analysed their options.
A skid steer was the obvious choice, due to the restrictive low entry heights of the sheds. A 120hp Massey Ferguson and front-end loader carries out most of the feeding and heavier lifting on the farm, so a smaller telehandler wouldn’t have been of much benefit.
Francis said: “We looked through all the skid steer options, and felt they were actually quite limited in terms of machines. Richard and John were very keen on the Bobcat from the get go. It was a clean, fresh secondhand machine which we had our sights set on.
“However, we quickly learned that the likes of such didn’t exist in the country. We then travelled to Limerick to Adare Machinery and looked at several new Bobcat models. We were impressed with what we saw and did the deal that day for a new S450.”
The family use the skid steer to operate three attachments – a multidirectional brush, a set of pallet forks and a bucket with a grapple.
A large section of the farm’s milking platform is across a public road. The hydraulically powered brush is quickly run over the road once the cows have passed, resulting in a clean road for everyone.
The unit is one of just two in Ireland. The brush can be angled in either direction to a maximum pitch of 25°, allowing the operator to sweep material to either side. The speed of the brush can be easily changed, while its rotation can also be reversed. As can be seen in the video accompanying this article on our website, the Young family have some narrow winding concrete lanes which lead the cows through the yard and into the parlour.
Francis said: “The multidirectional brush is a gift for cleaning roadways, the silage slab and the farmyard. It does a brilliant job, and it’s very quick. Part of the concreted cow lane in the yard is narrow and winding. The brush can be angled around the curves, meaning it can all be swept clean. Other tasks the Bobcat is used for include feeding bales of silage/straw, cleaning out sheds, loading the dung spreader and many other odd ball jobs. For example, we levelled out 22 lorry loads of stone with it this summer while putting down a new road way.”
The S450 sources power from Bobcat’s own engine which has 49hp (36.5kW) on tap. Bobcat says it has configured its engines to produce high torque levels at low rpm. The family all agreed the machine had ample power, and complimented how quiet it was in the fully enclosed cabin. The Youngs realise that routine maintenance is key to longevity, and they grease and wash the machine on a regular basis.
The unit comes with a 53.8l diesel tank which the family said would last them for up to two weeks, where it would be used for an average of 30-60 minutes per day. Happy with fuel efficiency, Richard noted how he spent a day helping a neighbour cleaning out a shed with heavy lifting in a restricted area, and only burnt half a tank.
Transmission and hydraulics
The skid steer features a standard hydraulic flow rate of 63.2l/min. Francis said the hydraulics are very fast, and are never found wanting for more capacity. The S450 features infinitely variable tandem hydrostatic piston pumps. As an optional extra, Youngs went for a two-speed transmission – the low range 12.3 km/h (7.6 mph) and the high range 14.8 km/h (9.2 mph).
The skid steer features Bobcat’s patented cooling system. A hydraulically powered dual-path design senses engine temperature which cools with a fan that only turns as fast as needed.
The unit features a ground clearance of 9.8in, and is 77.8in (6.5ft) to the top of the cab. The undercarriage is steel plated and thus very well protected. Although the dealer has carried out all servicing works to date, the family said it is easy to access all maintenance and service points, simply by just swinging open the quarter-inch steel tailgate door.
The family opted to fully spec out the cab. This included going for the pressurised interior (heater and air con) with a closing door and the selectable joystick controls. The latter offers hand control of all of the machine’s work group functions.
Francis said: “When we decided to bite the bullet and go for a new machine, we wanted to have a bit of comfort. We ticked all the boxes in terms of optional extras. One such extra is the reversing camera. It’s a great job and a must have from a safety point of view. One design we might tweak if we had the option would be to include a larger top window for a wider viewing when raising a load above the cab. Overall, we are very happy with the cab. It’s neat and tidy. The control layout is very simple and easy to follow. The heater and air con work well. It’s well finished inside. It did take me a few days to get used to it at the start more so than my sons, but I’m very happy with it now.”
The Youngs took delivery of the Bobcat S450 in 2020 and explained that they have been very impressed with it to date.
“We are over the moon with the machine. It has transformed work on our farm. It has turned back-breaking tasks into enjoyable chores. You would now actually look forward to cleaning out a shed with the comfort and manoeuvrability of the machine. It hasn’t given any mechanical trouble since it landed. If we were to ever upgrade the unit, we would be changing up to the next largest model. We certainly won’t be moving away from a skid steer anytime soon. We would be lost without it,” the family said.
Engine: Stage V Bobcat.
Horsepower: 49hp (36.5 kW).
Transmission: Infinitely variable tandem hydrostatic piston pumps.
Travel speed: 14.8 km/hr (9.2 mph).
Operating weight: 2,436kg.
Height to bucket hinge pin: 2,781mm.
Rated operating capacity: 649kg (with ballast).
Fuel tank capacity: 53.8l.
Starting price: €45,000 plus VAT