Cattle ranch and feed lot operations are often impacted by the natural environment, from rainfall and available water sources for their livestock to adverse weather conditions that affect production. Ranch operation profit margins are also affected by economic factors such as feed prices and beef demand, as well as operational expenses such as cost of labor, replacement parts and fuel prices. Therefore, it is important for ranch owners to find ways to combat these variable elements to ensure their operation remains productive and profitable.
Making informed decisions when purchasing new equipment is especially important to help maintain and, in many cases, increase production and profit margins. Small wheel loaders have become an increasingly essential machine on modern day ranch and feed lot operations. And fortunately, the latest top tier models have been designed to increase productivity and profit margins through fuel efficiency, quality emissions systems and performance capabilities.
Fuel efficiency equals increased profit margins
Small wheel loaders with an intelligent hydrostatic power train allow operators to run the engine in one of two modes: standard or performance. In standard mode, the engine has a lower maximum speed of 1,600 RPM versus 2,300 RPM, which is the typical maximum speed of the engines most manufacturers install in their small wheel loaders. Because of this, the engine will burn less than 2.6 gallons of fuel in an hour. Depending on the comparison, this technology can deliver up to 20 to 35 percent in fuel savings over conventional machines.
In performance mode, the maximum engine speed is 1,800 RPM–still significantly lower than most manufacturers' small wheel loaders. However, the engine power and hydraulic speed are boosted in all speed ranges. This optimizes machine capabilities for multi-function work and allows operators to get the job done faster while still saving fuel.
Small wheel loaders equipped with hydrostatic power train, low speed and high torque engines, and intelligent power management technology can save up to 2,000 gallons of fuel a year. And less money spent on fuel quickly translates to increased profit margins.
Emissions technology: maximize uptime and save money
The latest, state-of-the-art emissions systems are not only reducing exhaust temperatures in an effort to minimize accident and injury risk, but are also helping to maximize small wheel loader uptime. These systems utilize a clean emissions module designed to require no operator intervention or disruption of work cycles. Regeneration of the diesel particulate filter (DPF) occurs passively at a low temperature. Comparatively, some small wheel loaders have to stop every 500 hours and be parked in a safe zone to allow the system to carry out this task—a process that takes about 45 minutes.
Additionally, the emissions systems on most small wheel loaders require the DPF to be taken out and serviced by a dealer every 3,000 to 5,000 hours, which costs about $2,500 each time. With the latest systems, the DPF is designed to last the life of the engine without needing to be changed. This not only increases uptime, but can also save operation owners up to $10,000 throughout the life of the machine.
Increase productivity with enhanced performance and precision
In addition to advancing machine technology, there have also been vast improvements in attachments. For instance, recent advancements in small wheel loader buckets are further increasing productivity and operator efficiency.
These buckets have a number of design elements that account for their superior loading characteristics:
A wider throat opening provides more space between the cutting edge and the spill guard.
A redesigned spill guard increases capacity; protects linkage components, hydraulic cylinders and sensors; and enhances sight lines to the loading area.
A longer floor provides more surface for entering material before it encounters the radius at the back of the bucket.
Curved side bars that add surface area to the side of the bucket to contain more material.
A modified strike plane that improves load retention in the bucket's carry position.
An increased bucket rack-back increases material retention.
The tangible results of these design elements include easier, faster loading–even by less experienced operators; as well as an additional 10 percent fill factor—increasing the fill rate to 110 percent. These buckets also improve containment of material during transport and allow for enhanced sight lines to the pile and into the bucket. This helps operators easily determine when the bucket is full—a feature that eliminates the time and fuel wasted in attempting to load an already-full bucket.
Today's top tier small wheel loaders are also equipped with software that allows the operator to control how responsive the bucket is from the joystick in the cab. For instance, operators can increase the response of the controls when added precision is needed for a task, such as mixing feed. Parallel lift and high tilt forces help these machines handle loads with increased precision. Additionally, intelligent power management systems distribute the right amount of power based on the task the machine is handling—maximizing performance capabilities.
Small wheel loaders have been crucial to cattle ranch and feed lot operations for years, and with the latest machine technologies and design elements, they are also significantly increasing production and profit margins. This is why it is absolutely essential for owners and operators to continually research the latest innovations and use this knowledge to purchase high-quality machines for their fleets.