A SPECIALIZED loader called the telehandler is extending its reach onto farms. In the U.S., construction companies have been the primary buyers of telehandlers, using the machines' long-reach capabilities for everything from loading tall-sided dump trucks to lifting construction materials and workers to the upper levels of buildings.

In Europe, however, the agricultural telehandler market rules, leading equipment manufacturers to predict that the U.S. ag market could soon grow. The machines already are starting to serve farm suppliers, feedlots, dairy farms and farm situations that require bulk materials to be loaded quickly.

Agricultural telehandlers are similar to those used in the construction industry but are typically outfitted to be more versatile, accommodating multiple tools and attachments such as forks, carriages, buckets, hydraulic bunker claws and hay tools. Ag machines also may offer a lower-profile boom and a tighter turning radius for operation inside livestock buildings. And for moving between farm locations, most of these machines have highway speeds in excess of 20 mph.

Gehl

Gehl Company, a Wisconsin-based manufacturer of compact construction and agriculture equipment, recently contracted with French company Manitou to supply new telehandlers that will be marketed under the Gehl brand. Gehl has introduced five of these new machines as its CT series: CT5-16, CT5-16 Turbo, CT6-18 Low Profile, CT6-18 Turbo and CT7-23 Turbo.

These models offer quiet, ergonomically designed cabs with 360° visibility, high load capacity, a tight turning radius and three-mode steering (two-wheel, crab and circle steer). Turbocharged and naturally aspirated diesel engines range from 58 to 101 hp. Prices for the CT models range from $54,800 to $76,800.

For more information, contact Gehl Co., Box 179, West Bend, WI 53095, 800/628-0491, visit www.gehl.com.

Manitou MLT741

Manitou was one of the first companies to aggressively pursue the telehandler market. The company, which makes telehandlers for Gehl, also markets machines under its own brand name. Prices for the MLT741 start at $75,000.

For more information, contact Manitou North America Inc., Box 21386, Waco, TX 76702, 800/433-3304, visit www.manitou-na.com.

Caterpillar

Caterpillar telehandlers popular in the agriculture market include the TH215 and TH220B. Ranging from 84 to 120 hp with maximum lift capacities of around 5,500 lbs., the Cat machines are priced similarly to other machines in this class and have similar capabilities, including three-mode steering for maneuverability and maximum lift heights of 18 and 20 ft.

The difference that might persuade a farmer to buy a Caterpillar telehandler instead of a competitive machine could be the low-maintenance Cat 3054 diesel engines, or having a farm or feedlot close to a local Caterpillar dealer. Prices for the 215 and 220B models range from $55,740 to $70,500.

For more information, contact Caterpillar, Suite 400, 100 Regency Forest Dr., Cary, NC 27511, 919/465-2729, visit www.caterpillar.com.

JCB Loadall Farm Specials

JCB offers five telehandler models, ranging from 50 to 121 hp. Large farms and ranches tend to go for the larger sizes to maximize lift capacity, which can be 6,000 lbs. with the 100-hp 530FS, all the way up to 8,000 lbs. with the turbocharged 540FS.

The JCB machines provide excellent visibility from a comfortable glassed-in cab and are among the most compact and maneuverable of telehandlers with four-wheel steering. Prices for the 530 models start at $54,764, with the largest 540FS Plus priced at $96,497.

For more information, contact JCB Inc., Box 18306, Savannah, GA 31418, 912/447-2000, visit www.jcb.com.

John Deere 3420

Deere telehandlers are designed to fit a wide variety of markets and may be equipped with pallet forks, hay tools and dump buckets. The Deere machines differ from their competitors in that they have a rear-mounted engine and a wider stance to maximize usable lift capacity. Prices range from $74,887 to $87,702.

For more information, contact your John Deere dealer, visit www.johndeereag.com.