ATVs are an essential tool for most hill farmers.

The ability of ATVs to traverse tricky terrain to reach sheep quickly has become largely taken for granted. However, Archie MacGregor, of Allanfauld Farm, near Kilsyth, has worked with and without his ATVs and is very appreciative of how the technology has improved the way he and his family farm.

He has two Yamaha Kodiak 700 ATVs, supplied by ATV Services, of Ayr, to help him, his son, and their shepherd, David Kinloch, manage their flock of 1600 breeding ewes, that graze the farm’s 2000 acres.

The family is known for breeding pedigree Blackface sheep and though the flock is mostly Blackies, there are also small flocks of Scotch Mules, pedigree Texels and Bluefaced Leicesters.

“With the different breeds we are lambing both indoors and out. The Texels start in February, followed by the Leicesters in March. Both lamb indoors and are followed by the Blackface in April that lamb on the hills,” he said.

A third-generation farmer, Archie remembered walking the flock to look for problem ewes or lambs. “We used to walk the flock once or possibly twice a day during lambing which we thought was fine, until we started ATVs.

"Now we can monitor the flock much more closely and make far more visits in a fraction of the time. It saves lives, helps with twinning lambs and gives us much more time to attend to other farm tasks,” he said.

The ATVs are also useful to round up the family’s herds of pedigree Charolais, Limousin and Luing cattle. “We have 80 in total, and they don’t respond well to the dogs, so we use the ATVs which are far more effective,” he explained.

The farm has been using the two Yamahas for 15 months. With 700cc engines the ATVs are the most powerful that Archie has owned, and he believes the larger more powerful model is better for his land.

“It is steep and undulating land that rises from 600 feet to 1600 feet above sea level. Other bikes have not struggled, but these new Yamahas have more than enough power which makes the driving experience more relaxed and comfortable,” he explained.

He has not noticed either machine using more fuel or oil either. “The assumption is that larger engines will use more fuel but these two seem just as efficient as lower capacity ATVs we have owned in the past,” he said.

Power steering is a luxury that Archie never thought he would want or need on an ATV. However, the Kodiak has the option of electric power steering (EPS) and it is a feature that he has grown to appreciate.

“It is much easier on the arms, especially on the hills. It also makes a big difference when it is wet and muddy here. We lower the tyre pressure to reduce compaction and to give us more grip.

"Previous ATVs we have owned were hard to manoeuvre in muddy conditions, especially with low tyre pressures, However, the Kodiak is still agile and easy to control in challenging conditions,” he said.

Archie has also found the larger 700 model more comfortable. “The driving position is good for me, and I appreciate the well sprung suspension and padded seat,” he says. He suggests that speed is not as important as control and comfort and that he has grown used to the automatic transmission.

“The Kodiak will travel far faster than I need it to. The attraction of the model for me is the automatic gearbox with low range that is perfect for the high ground on our farm.

"There is a diff lock function too, but I seldom have the need for it and the bike has not yet been stuck once. It is good for the mossy wet ground we have in parts of the farm and in when we get light snow,” he added.

The larger engine also helps when carrying feed and towing. The flock is fed from January to May so many journeys are required.

“We can load the quad and a trailer so that as we feed, if we find a problem ewe or lamb, we can bring them back after we have fed the rest of the flock. Despite the weight, the Kodiaks have never got stuck and I have not had to use the winch once. In fact, the only time we did use the winch was to pull our side by side out when it got stuck,” he added.

Archie’s Kodiak has covered 5000 miles and David’s is already up to 6200 after just 15 months. “They are a tool that we use everyday and the best ATVs are the ones that you don’t have to think about.

"We just jump on and off them throughout the day and ATV Services maintain them, but so far, the only time we have been without them is for routine servicing and we always receive replacements. They are essentially maintenance free,” he pointed out.