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Harnessing Utility
By Mike Dahl, Editor, LC/DBM

New Holland's Quick-Attach front snow blower comes in cutting widths from 50 to 72 inches, and cutting heights from 20 to 26 inches. Its two-stage operation combines an auger to break up the snow and an impeller to blow it out the adjustable chute.

Skid steers and tractors are faithful workhorses in the landscaping trade but their true grit really comes out when they're loaded up with the right traps - the attachments.

These are innovative, numerous and flexible. Some are mounted on the front, some are mounted on the back, and some can be mounted on the front or the back. Connecting to attachments has been described as "plug and play."

Attachments can have their own attachments. In this case, the Ventrac KH500 Versa-Loader attachment that comes with a five-cubic-foot bucket capable of lifting 500 pounds over six feet high, has been outfitted with an auger.

For skid steers, there are various types of mounts designed by companies like New Holland and Gehl, along with various types of adapters. However, the 'universal skid steer quick attach' has become the industry standard for skid steers and now even many tractor loaders. On the back of an attachment is a plate with notches on the bottom. On the machine side of the coupler, two protruding pins lock into the notches. Then typically the hydraulic lines are connected and you're ready to ride.

Tractor attachments are usually designed to mount on the rear of a tractor via its three-point hitch, which can also raise and lower an attachment. Tractors also have a power take-off (PTO), which is a shaft that runs from the tractor to the attachment and transfers the tractor's engine power to the attachment.

The Kracken from Ryan's Equipment is a wood splitter attachment that is rated at 10,000 pounds. It can rotate 360 degrees and has an opening of over 40 inches tip to tip.

The EZ Dig backhoe attachment from Quick Attach has a digging depth of 72 inches and can accommodate buckets from nine inches to 24 inches in width.

The following is a roundup of tips on some of the more common attachments. Keep in mind that not all attachments come in versions for tractors and skid steers, and they can be called by different names but there does seem to be an attachment for every job.

Scraping and Raking Attachments
Depending on your need, you can find angle blades that can be rotated vertically or horizontally or both. There are also ones that can be offset to one side.

The ripper teeth on box blades tend to be the most easily damaged part of the implement. Because of the two-sided rear blade, the unit can be operated in reverse to smooth or level the surface.

With both angle blades and box blades, it is recommended that the implement be at least as wide as the vehicle's tires or tracks for practical operation but not so wide that it strains the vehicle's capabilities. And they should be strong enough to stall the vehicle before bending when encountering a root or rock that they can't move.

Rakes can be used to prepare planting beds but also work for general landscape leveling. Front-mounted rakes with containment buckets are useful for removing rocks, roots and other materials while leveling the ground. Rear mounted rakes can be angled to control the flow of the material.

The Rockhound Rake is designed to remove debris as small as three-fourths of an inch. It features T-1 teeth mounted into a double channel replaceable tooth bar and comes in two widths: 60 inch and 72 inch.

Loading and Digging Attachments
Some buckets on front-end loaders have a self-leveling feature, which keeps them from tipping and losing their contents. Rear counterweight, such as a 3-point mounted weight box filled with sand, concrete, gravel or soil is recommended to balance the front-end load. Shovels work similarly to loaders, but without as much lifting capability.

Dirt scoops, also called rear buckets, slip buckets or slip scoops, are an inexpensive, though less efficient alternative to front-end loaders. They can be raised and lowered by the PTO, but usually dumped manually by the operator pulling a rope.

Backhoes can be expensive, difficult to mount, remove and operate, and require more maintenance than most attachments. They typically have their own hydraulic pump that mounts on the tractor's PTO. For skid steers, there are backhoe attachments that mount to its front arms.

The choice of buckets includes narrow ones for trenching, wide ones for general digging, and very wide ones for ditch cleaning. Other accessories to increase the versatility of a backhoe are also available.

Scheduled lubrication is critical to a long lifespan of the unit. Also, it is important to protect the hydraulic cylinder rods from corrosion, since that could cause the seals to fail. To help prevent this, a backhoe attachment should be stored inside, which will also help protect the hoses from cracking due to exposure to sunlight.

Augers and posthole diggers usually come as separate drive units with attachable bits, which are available in different lengths and diameters, and for different surfaces including rock, asphalt and concrete. There are augers designed especially for tree and shrub planting. Some units can drill angled holes. Reverse rotation allows the hole to be cleaned out.

Star's root grapples come in widths from 66 to 72 inches. With tip-to-tip openings of 35.5 inches to 42.75 inches, their capacities range from 15.8 cubic feet to 19.7 cubic feet.

This stump grinder from Land Pride features a 1/2-inch cutting wheel with carbide teeth that spins up to 1,100 rpm. It has a maximum cutting arc of 55 degrees and a cutting depth of eight inches below ground.

Pallet fork attachments can either mount to the front of a skid steer, replace the bucket on a front-end loader or be mounted to the front of the bucket, which is more convenient but because this technique moves the load further forward, the unit's load capacity is reduced, as is visibility. For either technique, rear counterweight is recommended.

Pallet fork attachments are also available for the rear of a tractor. Some are on wheels and pull behind the tractor. Others mount to the 3-point hitch, which allows transporting pallets but not stacking them.

Tilling Attachments
Harrows come in different types, such as disc, spring-tooth, spike-tooth and chain, with various levels of aggressiveness and depths of tillage. They are generally inexpensive, easy to use, and require minimal power to operate.

Cultivators' tines come in different configurations including rigid shanks, spring tines, sweep, point, rolling and individual floating gangs.

Turf aerators, whether flat bladed, solid spiked or hollow spiked, which brings up cores of soil and deposits them on the turf, often need extra weight for sufficient penetration so most have some capacity for adding weight.

Some dethatchers have tines to rake up thatch and tines to puncture the soil like an aerator.

Rotary tillers typically require 10 to 15 horsepower per foot of the tillers' width if operated at full depth and normal operating speed so smaller tractors and skid steers might not even be able to handle tillers as wide as the vehicle. In those cases, the tiller must be offset to one side. Some tillers have a fixed offset; others can be shifted to the side or centered.

Seeding and Fertilizing Attachments
Spreaders, whether rotary or pendulum-action, and whether simple tow-behind attachments that operate by gravity and the forward motion of the attachment's wheels, or those mounted on the rear of a tractor and driven by the PTO, should have their spread rates determined by in-the-field calibration, not by relying on the product labels' settings.

Seeders can have front and rear rollers that smooth and firm the seedbed in-between the seeds being planted. Some are bi-directional. Seeding rates are typically adjustable. Sprayers, whether boom sprayers or trailer sprayers, can be customized for specific types of jobs by changing nozzles, pumps, nozzle spacing, boom height and type of agitation.

Tow-behind utility carts might be overlooked but filled with bags of fertilizer or seed, plants, mulch, even hand tools, they can make the work much more efficient.

Off-season Attachments
For snow blower implements for tractors and skid steers with wheels, it is recommend using tire chains to avoid spinning the drive wheels, and adding extra weight in the rear to offset the weight of the snow blower.

Shovels can also be used to push snow to the side of roads and parking lots or to dig into snow, pick it up and dump it.

Rotary brooms or sweepers can be used for removing light snow. They can also perform spring-cleaning of roads, driveways and parking lots.

Lawn and debris sweepers can be used in the fall to rake up and remove leaves.

Log splitters are another attachment that can bring in business in the fall. Some operate vertically, some operate horizontally, which tend to be better for splitting smaller logs, and some can operate in either orientation.

Now before you plunk down cash for these or any of the numerous other available attachments, you should, as always, consider the business upshots. These include: the types of projects that the attachment is capable of, the number of times a year you do those types of projects, the amount of training needed to learn how to operate the equipment and to do new types of projects if applicable, and the space needed to haul and store the attachment.

That being said, new attachments can always corral new business and put some giddyup into your work routine.

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October 20, 2019, 8:11 pm PDT

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