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A pickup man

From the Ground Up with Steve Kenyon

In our small world of regenerative agriculture, I have heard quotes at conferences many times that encourage producers to own as little equipment as possible. Put your hand up if you recognize any of these.

“Don’t own anything that rusts.”

“You shouldn’t own anything bigger than a wheelbarrow.”

“Get rid of the iron.”

I understand the idea behind these comments and I agree we should own as little equipment as possible but my farm would have a great deal of difficulty operating if I did not have any tools.

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That being said, I’ve been ranching for over 20 years and I have never owned a tractor. I would guess that the tractor would be the most important piece of equipment on most farms, but not on mine.

So, what equipment do we need here on the farm? How about a pickup truck for starters. To quote Joe Diffie, “There’s something women like about a pickup man.”

We live in Alberta. It is truck country. Everyone owns a big pickup truck. The oilfield and agriculture buys a lot of them. The dealerships are lined up with expensive trucks. The mentality here is that everyone has to own a 4×4 truck.

That is understandable as our winters can get pretty harsh. I, too, am guilty. I own a pickup, but it is not one of the $70,000 ones from the dealership. Sometimes I need a pickup. However, it is not my most valuable piece of equipment on the farm. And by valuable I am not referring to a dollar value. I do not like the purchase value nor do I like the fuel costs associated with big fancy pickups. I am shocked by the number of people I see that use their pickup as their everyday travel vehicle. Their fuel bill must be huge. My pickup stays parked most of the year and the one I own has a cassette player in it. I bought it for $4,000.

Without a tractor, how do I feed my cattle in the winter? Good question. The tool I own to move feed is a bale truck. This is usually a one-ton truck with a bale handler mounted on it. It has hydraulic arms that can lift just about anything. I use it to move bales, water troughs, portable corral panels, my garbage dumpster, the stock trailer or just about anything I need to. It is a very universal tool that can do most jobs on my farm. My vet told me once that I should write a book called 101 Uses for a Bale Truck.

In 20 years, I have owned five different bale trucks. I love them, but my advice to you is, if you want to own a bale truck, don’t buy a bale truck. Buy a truck and put a deck on it. Bale trucks have a hard life and don’t last forever. The deck will last longer than the truck. If I am selling a bale truck, don’t buy it. It is pretty beat up.

So here is where the pickup comes in. I use my pickup to extend the life of my bale truck. Transferring a bale deck from one truck to another will cost you. I only use the bale truck when I need to use the arms. If I just need to use it as a pickup, it stays at home. I can wear out the cheap old pickup instead. It is easy to replace.

I also used to own an ATV four-wheeler (we call it a quad). Correction: I still own one but I stopped repairing it and it is sitting dead in the bush. I found that the repair bills on the quad (or a side-by-side) are incredibly expensive.

Years ago, I replaced my quad with a Geo Tracker. (I don’t own a tractor, I own a tracker.) It is a very small 4×4 SUV that was made in the ’80s and ’90s. An identical SUV is the Suzuki Sidekick. They are very similar and parts are interchangeable. I’ve had both. I call it my side-by-side with a windshield, a heater and a radio.

It is a very economical vehicle to buy, to operate and to repair. Trackers and Sidekicks have a four-cylinder engine and are road-worthy. The most I have spent on one is $3,500.

This Sidekick is my fourth one. They are by no means new when I buy them and have a pretty hard life here on my farm. If I get two to three years out of one, I am happy. It is my day-to-day vehicle, and I love it. It is very light and rarely do I get stuck with it. If I do, there is an 8,000-lb. winch that can mount on the front or the back.

I would say the most valuable pieces of equipment on my farm are my bale truck and my little SUV. Sorry Joe Diffie, I am not a “pickup man.” If you ask my wife, she thinks my bale truck’s “sexy” and my daughter thinks that I am a superhero, because I have a “Sidekick.”

About the author

Contributor

Steve Kenyon runs Greener Pastures Ranching Ltd. in Busby, Alta. You can email him at [email protected] or call 780-307-6500.

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