Essential farm tools: the ATV – it can drive around the world!

One of our ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) – the 2004 Suzuki Eiger – has just gone over 40,075km.  That is the distance around the Earth at the equator. Not bad, considering all but perhaps one kilometre was done on Amherst Island. The kilometre-age(!) is actually higher because the speedometer cable was broken for a few months. Also when the machine is in reverse, the metre runs backwards.

Don's ATV 'Old Faithful' showing odometer reading - photo by Don Tubb

Don’s ATV ‘Old Faithful’ showing odometer reading – photo by Don Tubb

We currently have 4 ATVs (all Suzukis)… 2 Eigers, one smaller King Quad, and one larger something-or-other. The total distance travelled on these and our previous ATVs would total over 200,000kms. The ATVs are absolutely vital in allowing us to farm as we do. We check sheep in several fields, and feed the guardian dogs daily (and I mean daily… come rain, shine, snow, sleet, hail, ice storms… you name it).  Depending on the season they may be in up to 8 fields, often distant from each other. Some winters we feed the sheep grain, towing a self-unloading grain cart with 800 lbs of corn. (We used to do that by hand from bags.)

tractor-pulled ATV doing chores - by Jake

In heavy snow the tractor pulls the ATV with ‘snacker’ to feed grain. photo by Jake

We do sheep drives, build and maintain fences, control weeds, and haul firewood plus a lot of day-to-day activities. Even doing basic repairs around the buildings, the first tool you reach for is the ATV because the other tools are up in the shop and you’re going to forget something.

ATV's have a wide variety of other uses, including getting our 'Charlie Brown' Christmas tree.  photo by Sally

ATV’s have a wide variety of other uses, including getting our ‘Charlie Brown’ Christmas tree. photo by Sally

Now it’s not all sweetness and light with these machines… during our peak usage period, one or more breaks down or is thinking about it. And, repairs are not cheap! We do most of our tractor repairs, but these ATV motors are specialized.  We ordered repair manuals for all, and deliver them to our Island barefoot mechanic for fixing.  Most of the year, all four are in basic running order.   They are fabulous machines and make virtually everything more efficient… for example: long, long ago (in the ‘good old days’), we used to do sheep drives on bicycles!  ATVs are faster, can handle rougher terrain, and you’re not as likely to be wounded or winded at the end of a long drive.
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Topsy Farms is located on scenic Amherst Island, west of Kingston, in Lake Ontario. Our sheep farm has been owned and operated for over 35 years by 5 shareholders, and involves 3 generations of the Murray family. Our flock of about 2500 sheep graze on tree-shaded pastures, protected by over 20 miles of fence and numerous guard dogs. Natural farming methods without spraying pesticides, or using growth hormones, chemicals, or animal by-products, produce animals of the highest quality.
 

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