June 20 2024 02:03 PM

The ability to drive an array of vehicles is one skill farmers acquire.

There are endless reasons to be behind the wheel on the farm — whether you’re using the four-wheeler to pick up rocks from the field, scraping manure with the skid loader, driving the combine during harvest, or hauling cattle with the truck and trailer. These are just a small sampling of the types of machinery and vehicles farmers must know how to drive. In a day’s time, we hop in and out of countless machines to get chores, fieldwork, and chauffeuring of various goods completed.

Luckily, we don’t need official licenses for most equipment we drive; however, every different vehicle has a learning curve and requires some practice to run effectively. On our farm, just the basic job of mixing feed may end up being done with one of three different implements depending on what’s available or if one needs to be fixed. On any given day, we could be hopping in the skid loader, the telehandler, or the front-end loader to get that task done.

And, when it comes to fieldwork, the tractors vary in the way they operate, and all the different implements require specific knowledge. For hauling silage, we use a variety of our larger tractors. We tend to each stick to our same tractors that we know how to get the most and best performance out of to maximize our efficiency, although we oftentimes end up having to switch tractors for one reason or another. Just as the tractors tend to vary in terms of operation, each implement is quite different — from the rake and merger to the field cultivator and planter. Then, you have your self-propelled machinery like the windrower, combine, and chopper that are entirely different beasts.

The daily chores and regular fieldwork we must complete are somewhat obvious reasons to get behind the wheel of any number of machines. We also end up driving a lot in a chauffeuring capacity. During busy times of fieldwork, we spend some of our days transporting each other to and from different fields and farms to pick up or drop off equipment. Seed also needs movement from one place to another, and feed and hay are oftentimes hauled between our farm locations. Not to mention, the regular job of taking cattle by trailer ride to market or just to the next sized pen around the farm.

No matter what we’re doing on a given day or in a given season, we most likely are hopping in and out of different specialized equipment to help us do the job effectively, and that requires a vast knowledge of how various machines operate.

Molly Ihde (Schmitt)

The author dairy farms with her parents and brother near Hawkeye, Iowa. The family milks approximately 300 head of grade Holstein cows at Windsor Valley Dairy LLC — split half and half between a double-eight parallel milking parlor and four robotic milking units. In the spring of 2020, Molly decided to take a leap and fully embrace her love for the industry by returning full time to her family’s dairy.