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Utility October 29, 2021

With Sportsman, Dairy Farmer Does More with Less

Milking schedules, grazing rotations, fence repairs, crop planting, hay baling, and harvesting — keeping track of all these chores and more is enough to make your head spin. But it’s all a day in the life of a dairy farmer with a diversified operation. On this operation in Wisconsin, two Polaris Sportsmans help keep the job manageable for one farmer.

Under a still-dark sky at 5 a.m., fourth-generation Wisconsin dairy farmer Richard Van Buren hops on his Polaris Sportsman 570, one of two that he owns, and drives to a nearby pasture. It’s time to round up the cows and bring them to the milking barn. So goes the life of a dairy farmer.

“The cattle spend the night in an open field. Since it’s still dark out this early, with the Sportsman ATV, I can spin it around and use the headlights to find the cows,” says Van Buren, 52, who runs the 385-acre farm mostly on his own. His father and 20-year-old son pitch in when needed. “It’s very agile. It’s much easier to maneuver than a tractor if you have to turn around and get a cow you left behind.”

The Best Utility Vehicle for a Small Farm

With 35 Holstein milk cows, and sometimes as many as 30 calves, Van Buren’s dairy farm operation is small and lean by design. He also grows alfalfa, corn, soybeans, and wheat, and raises a few steers. The Sportsmans get him from one part of the farm to another quickly, and they go places other farm equipment can’t go, due to their size, power, and ability to drive through tough conditions, which helps him do more chores each day than he’d otherwise be able to do, a plus when staff resources are limited. “They’re quick and reliable, and always there when I need them,” he says. “I couldn’t run the farm without them.”

Better Than a Farm Tractor

While the cows are being milked, Van Buren, true to his efficient nature, hooks up an 18-foot-long feed wagon to a Sportsman and pulls it just outside of the milking barn, so it’s ready for the cows when the milking is finished. The Sportsman 570 specs help to get the job done. It’s powerful 44-hp. engine makes simple work of towing up to 1,350 pounds of feed, and its practical stature, just 47 inches tall by 48 inches wide, makes it easier to navigate than a truck or a tractor. “The Sportsman can scoot underneath the overhead electric wires that span the top of the swinging gates, about 6½ feet high,” he says. “A tractor would hit the wires. A truck would, too.”

Once the cows are milked and fed, they’re let out into the pasture for the day; this time it’s 25 acres of marsh and oak woods just beyond the grassy pastures. Van Buren often hops onto a Sportsman again to check on them in the middle of the day. “Occasionally, we throw a bale of hay on the rear rack of a Sportsman and take it to the feeders,” he says. “The Sportsman’s on-demand all-wheel drive gets you out there and gets you through almost anything you have to go through. When it’s muddy, you have to get the cows into the barn. The Sportsman allows you to get through the mud quickly, and it won’t get stuck, unlike other big farm equipment.”

Right for Transporting Tools and Navigating Tight Spaces

With a double row of fences to keep the cows in — one electric and one barbed wire — fence repair is a constant chore. “It might be once a month, once a week, or daily,” he says. “A tree could blow over, or something could get caught in the wire, or a deer could run through it and tangle things up.”

Van Buren keeps his supplies and tools — hammers, pliers, fencing equipment, and insulators — in the Sportsman’s Lock & Ride storage, so he can easily hop off, do a repair, and move on to the next chore. “If you have to pull a tree limb off of the fence, you have the Sportsman’s muscle and four-wheel drive to do it,” he says. “A truck or a tractor might work to pull the tree limb, but if you were out in the fields, neither one would be able to drive between the crops and the fence line, which is only about 5 feet wide. The Sportsman is small enough to easily make it through these narrow spaces.”

Van Buren is on a Sportsman all day, checking on the crops when he’s not rounding up the cows. “Today, I went out to the hayfields with a Sportsman. We had an inch of rain earlier this week, and I wanted to see if the hay was dry enough to bale. I jumped on a Sportsman, rode down the lane between the crops and the fence, jumped off to check the moisture, then hopped right back on. With the Sportsman, you can hop on and off quickly. You can turn around in a narrow lane instead of having to back up all the way with a truck or even a tractor. Sometimes you get into tight spots that other vehicles would be too wide and high for. It’s really handy.”

His two Sportsman 570s also help him keep his operation exactly as he likes it — sustainable and manageable for one farmer, plus a family member or two. “I don’t care to expand and have other employees,” he says. “I’d rather do it all myself and take an extra day if I need to. The Sportsmans help me with all of the different parts of my operation — the cows and calves, the steers, and all of the crops. They’re versatile, easy to get on and get going with. You throw some tools in them and get the job done. I’d be lost without them.”


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