August 2007
Featured Articles

ATVs at Work on the Farm: Use Ingenuity

  John Howle drives the Yamaha Grizzly 450 auto 4x4 while his son, Jake, uses the Gee Whiz plow normally used with a mule.
By John Howle

The all-terrain vehicle (ATV) transformed the way we work and play. Outdoor enthusiasts quickly realized that the ATV made a great scouting vehicle, ideal transport for tree stands and convenient way to haul large game out of the woods. Meanwhile, farmers realized the ATV was a fine vehicle for checking fence lines and livestock. With some ingenuity, you can find many practical uses for the ATV to help out with work on the farm or afield.

Currently there are just about as many implements designed for the ATV as the tractor. The advantages of the ATV are the small size, maneuverability and ease of hauling from one place to another. However, to get the most out of your ATV, choosing the right size is essential. I use a Yamaha Grizzly 450 4-wheel drive around the farm because it has plenty of power to pull implements, yet it’s nimble enough to work and cut cattle.

Jimmie Howle uses the ATV for herding cattle.  
If you are planning to use the ATV for work, the old rule of thumb is that you need one with an engine size of at least 400 cc. With 4-wheel drive, you also have the added bonus of pulling power when you need it. In addition, the Grizzly 450 auto 4x4 has a locking differential that allows for all-wheel pull.
Handling Livestock

Before the ATV, I would often find myself on foot trying to drive cattle into a catch pen only to have one cow bolt and send the rest scattering just as they are about to enter the gate. When driven carefully and with all the safety gear, the ATV allows easy driving of cattle. Once the animals realize they can’t out run the vehicle, you’re set from then on.

Usually, all it takes is gentle driving by closing in on one side of the herd, then sweeping to the opposite side. Once you’ve worked cattle with an ATV a few times, they become used to the sound of the engine and cooperate. Keep in mind the herd mentality of the cattle and try to keep them in a group as you work them toward the destination.

  John Howle uses an herbicide sprayer with foldout booms to cover ground quickly with the ATV. Mounted on the front of the ATV is a Moultrie seed spreader. This allows the operator to see the seed dispersal with ease.
If you are herding a single cow or cow/calf pair, slowly work up on each quarter. If the cow attempts to turn left, slowly quarter to the left side. The same goes for the right. Otherwise, stay a short distance behind the cow and adjust as needed.

An easy way I’ve found to get the herd used to the ATV is to carry sweet feed on the ATV to the feeding site. Before long, they’ll associate the ATV with food. Simply drive through the herd slowly with the sweet feed and scoop the feed into a trough once you’ve stopped. Leave the engine running nearby while the cattle feed.

ATVs for Gardens and Food Plots

One unconventional method I’ve used for gardens and food plots is cultivating equipment formerly used with mules. The mules I’m talking about are the kind that eat grass instead of gas. Growing up on the farm, I was taught to plow a mule at a young age. Chances are rural folks around Alabama still have plenty of mule-drawn cultivating equipment stored in a barn.

Once the corn or other crops begin growing, I’ll hook what we call a Gee Whiz plow to the rear of the ATV with a short section of rope. While I drive the ATV at a slow pace or low range, my eight-year-old son Jake can easily balance the plow as we run the middle of the rows to eliminate weeds and other growth. It’s the next best thing to teaching a youngster how to plow with a mule.

Choosing the implements

There are enough ATV implements currently available to complete just about any outdoor or farm activity that you can imagine. One of the most effective implements for the ATV I’ve found is the herbicide sprayer with foldout booms. Many times, it’s not practical to hook to a large tractor-style boom sprayer if you only need to spray a couple of acres.

Your local Co-op either carries or can order a 25-gallon boom sprayer. The unit I use has a 25-gallon tank that is mounted to a steel box that can then be mounted to your ATV rack. A rear slide-in mounting system allows the foldout booms to be attached to the rear of the vehicle, and the boom has multiple height adjustments. With five jet nozzles and a seven foot width, you can cover ground quickly with the foldout booms. In addition, the deluxe hand wand and three gallon per minute pump allow you to spray tree tops if necessary.

Moultrie ( makes an ideal seed spreader, also available at your local Co-op, that attaches to the racks of the ATV. I mount the seed spreader to the front of the ATV so I can easily see the seed dispersal rate. In addition, when the hopper is empty, this is an ideal carrier for sweet feed used for livestock mentioned earlier. The frame of the food plot spreader has a quick release system that allows you to completely remove the unit when it’s not in use.

Safety First

As with all farm equipment, the ATV should be used with caution knowing injury can result if not used properly. If you are slowly herding cattle to the destination, avoid playing chicken with an uncooperative bull. If you are carrying a heavy, 25-gallon sprayer on your ATV, go down hills if possible as compared to going around the sides of hills. Save the steep parts for the adjustable hand wand on the sprayer. Finally, know the limits of your machine and never exceed the manufacturer’s recommendations on towing, hauling and rack capacities.

ATVs are true time savers and just plain fun to drive. With safety and some ingenuity, you’ll discover many additional uses for the ATV other than simple trail riding.

John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.