Skid Steer Loaders vs. Tractors

Skid Steers and Track Loaders vs. Tractors: Which is Best for Your Farm?

Ben Rice | Agriculture Industry Representative

Growing up on a farm in the mountains of North Carolina, my dad had always used tractors. In fact, I have fond memories of riding on his tractor with him as a kid – it was like a rite of passage. But life on the farm is changing, and for my dad, now in his 60s, tasks like running cattle and hay aren’t as easy as they used to be. He needs a versatile and powerful machine that can help with day-to-day maintenance and operation. Because of this, he’s done some research into potentially purchasing a skid steer loader or compact track loader.

Whether you call it a skid steer or a track loader, it’s not just my dad who sees the benefits of such a machine on the farm – more farmers are realizing how versatile and helpful compact equipment can be. Let’s dig in to the differences between skid steer loaders and compact track loaders vs. tractors.

Skid Steers Offer Versatility

While tractors are often used for things like moving hay, skid steer loaders and compact track loaders offer increased versatility that makes them a good option for a wide variety of jobs on the farm. An array of attachments can be used with skid steers and track loaders, some of which aren’t available for tractors. For things like digging, land clearing, or property maintenance, a skid steer or track loader can be outfitted with backhoe, brushcutter, mulcher and rake attachments, among others, to help get the job done.

Other Cat® customers like Keith Ergle of Premier Angus Genetics in Phil Campbell, Alabama, have also found the versatility of skid steer loaders and track loaders to be a boon. Ergle has used his track loader for everything from post hole drilling to tree clearing, and has found it invaluable for tasks his old tractor just wasn’t meant to perform.

“This machine is like a mini bulldozer,” said Ergle. “We have literally been pushing up trees and flipping them out of the ground like it’s nothing.”

Additionally, these skid steer attachments are much easier to get on and off than those on a tractor and don’t require assistance to switch out, which is important as the average age of the American farmer climbs to 58 years old. As more farmers like my father age (and don’t necessarily have someone to help them change tractor attachments), this feature is key.

And for those like my father who live in mountainous regions, a machine with tracks is especially vital – there are areas of his land that you simply can’t navigate with a wheeled machine.

Power and Regeneration

Tractors are typically seen as a more powerful machine than a skid steer loader, and it is true that a skid steer or track loader won’t replace a tractor with 80+ horsepower. But for those who own tractors with between 40-75 horsepower, a skid steer loader or compact track loader can be just as effective.

Skid steers and track loaders also have a leg up on tractors when it comes to the regeneration process. Some tractors require a regeneration period, and that means losing out on valuable time spent working. Skid steer loaders and track loaders come equipped with cooling packs that prevent the machine from getting too hot, and allow you to keep working without a regeneration period.

Switching from a tractor to a skid steer or track loader is definitely a big change, and if you’re on the fence, your local Cat dealer can help. Schedule a demo of the machine and test it before you buy to see whether it will work for you.


Down to Earth: Agriculture

Down to Earth: Agriculture

Ben Rice

Ben Rice

Agriculture Industry Representative

Having spent his formative years on a tobacco farm, Ben Rice went on in the agriculture field to earn degrees in Agriculture Business Management and Agriculture Science from North Carolina State University. Rice now brings his invaluable expertise to Caterpillar as an industry sales and service representative.