Cattle baron Cat 924K wheel loader
Ron Horner checks out a Cat 924K wheel loader being used on a cattle feedlot on the New South Wales/ Queensland border
Generally, when I review heavy machinery, it’s involved in the construction, mining and pipeline industries. But this test is of a new Cat 924K wheel loader being used on a cattle feedlot about 60km out of Goondiwindi on the New South
Wales/Queensland border. Normally we would find such a machine located on a small quarry site, construction site, mine site or roadworks project, so when I found out this one worked in the ag sector, I had to go and see for myself – not only for the review, but to check out just what type of role it played. I met up with Andrew Slack, farm manager for Sapphire/ Smithfield Feedlot, who runs a 4000-head beef cattle feedlot on 4000 acres just on the edge of the mighty McIntyre River.
The Cat 924K is a new addition to the lot’s fleet, replacing Komatsu and Volvo loaders. Andrew happened to be extremely busy when I first came to the property a few weeks earlier, so we decided to take a raincheck and catch up when he had run up about 100 hours of work on the rig. Now, for those not familiar with feedlot cattle, it is a practice where the property can sustain some crop growing (usually related to cattle production feed), has a good water supply for irrigation and stock, and is ideally located in close proximity to markets or has good road train or B-double truck access. The cattle have enough room for a quick trip to a paddock, but are usually penned and fattened up with a high-protein cattle feed mix of various feed crops blended in exacting quantities. Not all feed crops can be grown on the farm, so extra varieties of high-protein feed are brought in.
A very controlled diet and the addition of molasses allows the cattle to gain maximum controlled weight and condition in a very short time.
A great deal of land is used for irrigation farming on this particular farm, and feed crops are grown here to supplement the costs and feed for the cattle.
A lateral (travelling) irrigator pulls water from the main water irrigation channel and can place an inch of water over the area in one night, which is invaluable to farmers in this, and many other, rural communities.
ON THE JOB
This Caterpillar 924K is engaged as the main, and only, production loader in this feedlot. It is used to retrieve feed from eight concrete bulk feed bins located in the feed shed, haul it across the shed, and load it into a truck-mounted RotoMix mobile feed bin.
This material is then meticulously blended in the RotoMix prior to hauling and side-discharging into the concrete feed troughs at the cattle yards some 500m away.
This feed is quite a ‘pharmaceutical blend’ of sorghum silage, barley, cereal hay and cotton seed meal juiced up with a liquid molasses, all of which needs to be fed in exacting measurements for blending.
The loader has a big job ahead of it as the conditions in the shed are tough, even though it’s out of the weather and has a concrete floor.
The loader works in an area with little ventilation and continual dust issues, is engaged in continual movement at speed for hours on end, and the operator has to have excellent control over the bucket when discharging measured quantities into the Roto-Mix.
The Cat 924K, which sits at close to 13 tonnes, has an Aussie-designed and locally manufactured (by McCormack Industries in Oakey) 3-cubic-metre lightweight bucket that is perfectly suited to this machine for this application.
The operator can pick up two tonnes of bulk feed with this quick-release bucket, which means fewer trips at a lower cost and with more production – a win-win-win here on this job.
The quick-release bucket is off in a flash when the forklift tynes are required. This is another reason to have a loader of this size and versatility. When the hay stockpile in the feedlot bays starts to run a bit short, the forks are used to bring in hay bales for restocking.
The Cat 924K loader in the Goondiwindi cattle feed shed
CAT 924K LOADER
Operating weight 12.87 tonnes
Engine Cat C6.6 ACERT Max power 105kW Max dump height 3907mm Transmission Hydrostatic
Compare specs at TradeEarthmovers.com.au/spec
ABOVE: Prime beef cattle
1: The loader working in the
2: Andrew Slack’s cattle feedlot 2: Reviewer Ron Horner says the Cat 924K is ideally suited to feedlot work