Jim Felton – Ashland, MT
To put it bluntly, we’re cowboys,” says Jim Felton, a third generation Montana registered Angus producer. “We own T-L pivots because we understand hydraulic systems and can fix them. They’re simple and low maintenance.”
Felton’s father, Rich, installed their first T-L in 1984. They’ve since put in 6 more with the most recent going up in August of 2017. “When we went to buy this one, we didn’t even price out an electric pivot,” he says. And he laughed at another company marketing a lightweight system. “Until they make lightweight water, I don’t see any benefit there.”
The Feltons farm roughly 850 acres of irrigated land growing mostly forage crops for their registered Angus herd, including alfalfa and alfalfa grass hay, triticale haylage, corn silage, and some grain corn. The irrigated acres are split between the Springdale ranch in central Montana where Jim and his family develop Felton Angus Ranch yearling bulls and heifers, and the Tongue River Felton ranch near Ashland where his parents, Rich and Karol, run the cow/calf herd.
The hydraulic T-L systems are well within their comfort zone for repairs. They’ve had plenty of experience with hydraulics thanks to years of do-it-yourself repairs on their tractors and haying equipment. If they can’t do the work themselves, it’s a problem. So is a system that needs a lot of attention. The Feltons are known for raising cattle that can hold their own in rough pastures and in challenging weather without being babied. They expect the same of their irrigation system and for good reason.
“Some ranches have an owner, a farm manager, a herd manager, plus hired help. Here I’m the farm boss, the cow boss, the manager, the feed truck driver, etc. It’s just me and one hired man,” Felton explains. On any given day he’s fixing fence, spraying noxious weeds in the pastures, checking cattle, putting up hay, and managing the irrigation. He appreciates a bare minimum of time, and money, is devoted to running and repairing his T-L irrigation pivots.
He’s seen for himself the same can’t be said for electric pivots. Two electric pivots on some rented land had them calling out the dealer for repairs on average once a week.
“You have to be an electrical engineer to fix those things and I don’t have time to learn how, so we had to call for service. Every time they came out it was around $1,000. That’s fine for absentee landowners. They don’t care. But for someone trying to make a living on the land those fees get atrocious,” Felton says.
One time at a repair shop, Felton witnessed a producer coming in for parts and they brought him out a dolly stacked with about 10 gear boxes for his electric pivots. With his T-Ls, there just aren’t that many things that can, or do, go wrong.
“Maybe they’ll get out of alignment but all I need is a 9/16th wrench and a 7/8th crescent wrench and 15 minutes later you’re ready to go,” Felton says. “The T-L pivots have been really reliable.”
To continue reading Jim’s story: https://www.tlirr.com/blog/testimonial/t-l-pivots-are-cowboy-compatible/