Having got throught the ravages of PSA, kiwifruit production has bounced back delivering record harvests and record prices for orchards.
With a range of engine sizes from 400 to 1000cc and a myriad of specifications, many farmers are finding the genre much more useful than a basic quad or ATV.
Kawasaki reports that its Mule SX-XC Bigfoot is finding favour with many dairy operations around the country for its no-nonsense specifications, ease of use and economy of operation, so we decided to test one to find out more.
Revamped in 2017 and taking some design detail from the larger Pro Series, the SX centres around a tubular, ladder style chassis said to offer rigidity and comfortable ride. That ride quality has also been improved by increasing the pre-load on the springs up front for a more level ride, with a softening of the rear to improve user comfort. At the rear of the machine, the swingarm carries the engine and rear wheels on a separate subframe/cradle, pivoted centrally to remove vibration.
Power comes from a 400cc single cylinder, air-cooled unit with standard carburation and whilst not offering stunning power delivery, is certainly enough for the normal fetch, carry and move on a typical dairy farm.
In use, the engine starts and comes to a constant idle quickly, before selecting the choice of High, Low, Neutral or Reverse via the central dash-mounted lever. Drive is taken from the engine by the belt-driven automatic unit, with a heavy-duty transfer case taking care of 2 or 4-wheel drive selection. Maximum speed is limited to 40km/h and its interesting to note that the machine can be started in-gear, if the brake pedal is depressed.
The front axle incorporates a limited slip differential, while the rear utilises a lock up unit activated by the dashboard control and aimed at pushing through tough conditions.
Bigfoot is easy to live with, offering easy access by the slightly higher stance created by 26 inch rubber mounted on 12 inch rims. This set-up also helps deliver a big tyre footprint, offering improved stability, greater traction and increased ground clearance.
Weighing in at 90kg, it can tow up to 500kg at the trailer hitch, while the well laid out cargo tray has a capacity of 180kg. Equipped with a drop-down tailgate, the tipping tray incorporates a 1.5mm diamond plate floor for strength and a 25mm tie-down rail around its upper edge.
Dual seats with inertia reel seat belts offer comfort and safety, while the dashboard offers comprehensive information, accompanied by easily understood controls for gearshift, 4WD and diff-lock selection.
Rack and pinion steering is precise with low effort, with the machine also being very manoeuvrable with a tight 3.6m turning radius. Bringing things to a stop is the job of drum brakes on all four wheels, each protected from ingress of water and mud by triple-lipped labyrinth seals.