A ten-year-old Yamaha Grizzly working the slopes of a north Wales farm has passed 20,000 miles and is still going strong.

Sheep and beef farmer, Graeme Ellett has owned the ATV from new and wouldn’t be without it, nor would he replace it, even after a decade of demanding work.

Cefn Derwen Farm is situated 900 feet above sea level with land reaching as high as 2,000 feet. The flock of 1,100 ewes overwinters on pasture land in the Tanat valley, near Oswestry, but from March 1, it is brought back to the hills for lambing.

Mr Ellett, and his wife, purchased the farm with its 265 acres in 2021. They rent further land which extends the farm to 700 acres, including a 150-acre mountain, presenting a significant challenge.

“We are reseeding grass leys, improving fencing and investing in buildings to house some sheep and our herd of Salers cattle. I have been covering more and more ground with the Grizzly, I really don’t know what I would do without it, and having it perform like this at ten years old means I can save the cost of a new one, at a time when we have priorities elsewhere on the farm,” he says.

  • Want to make sure all the latest farming news from Wales is delivered straight to your door? Subscribe to the print edition of Wales Farmer on 0800 052 0198.

With 55 sucklers, heifer replacements and bull calves fattened on the farm as bull beef he is also having to invest in a larger slurry provision to meet new Welsh legislation.

“We have to increase slurry storage under the new rules, so that will be another big investment. I also want to improve the housing so soon we will be looking at our options for converting and improving buildings and how slurry is stored,” he says.

With a closed herd and flock, the farm only brings in rams and bulls each year. Welsh Mountain, North Country Cheviot and Aberfield breeds have been chosen for their size and ability to manage at altitude. The Salers cattle are also well suited to the often challenging conditions in the Berwyn Mountains.

“We can have snow in April and getting to the flock can be tricky, but I have been able to reach them on the Grizzly.”

Spending so much time on an ATV led Mr Ellett to invest in the Yamaha ten years ago. Back problems caused by a previous ATV from another manufacturer led him to have the Yamaha on test from Hughes Brothers of Oswestry. The ‘Try on Farm’ concept available through Yamaha ATV dealers offers operators the chance to see if a machine is well suited to their farming system and Mr Ellett was appreciative of the opportunity.

“I went in for some parts and while I was complaining to Richard and Tim about my back they had a member of the team load the Grizzly on to my trailer. They told me to try it over the weekend and the following week I bought it. The seat was so much more comfortable, and the automatic transmission made life instantly easier. It was one of the easiest choices I have ever made.”

The latest Yamaha Grizzly features a 700cc petrol engine with Ultramatic CVT transmission. Despite being ten years old, Mr Ellett’s 550cc model offers many of the same comforts and design attributes. Its more compact size also makes it easy to manoeuvre on tricky terrain.

“The foot plates are nice and big, the seating position offers a great view and I have power steering, Diff-Lock and heated grips..”

The 550cc Grizzly is capable of towing a 320 kilo Logic snacker to the top of the farm’s mountain. Mr Ellet also tows a trailer with three ewes and six lambs easily. The Yamaha Fuel Injection (YFI) system in the 4-stroke SOHV engine is quick to react and offers him on- demand power throughout the rev range.

“The Grizzly has a great power to weight ratio. I can even use it in the snow because the Diff-Lock provides grip in slippery conditions. With the automatic transmission the power is always there when I need it. It also means that when rounding up the flock I can stop and start without having to go through the gears which makes it easier to react with tricky sheep.”

Maintenance has been minimal over ten years of ownership with only wear and tear parts replaced over the 20,000 miles. This is partly due to a stainless-steel exhaust system and aluminium heat shields along with Mr Ellett choosing to oil the underside of the ATV each year.

“I had to buy a new belt at 19,000 miles which is the only part I have replaced. I’m on the fourth set of tyres, but I have only had to replace one set of brake discs. We also upgraded the tow bar along with the replacing two suspension struts because of significant wear on the hilly terrain.”

He recalls being advised by friends that he should change his ATV every two years if he wanted to rely on it. This was the case when he owned other brands, but since the move to the Grizzly he has not seen the need.

“I jump on other, newer ATVs from time to time, but nothing comes close to the Grizzly for comfort.”

The Grizzly fulfils a great many farming tasks and since purchasing the farm Mr Ellett has been putting up new fencing and using a sprayer to tackle weeds in the grass leys.

“The sprayer can hold 110 litres and I ballast the Yamaha with two five-gallon drums on the front. It enables me to cover a good acreage very quickly and now that we have started the reseeding the quality of forage will improve immeasurably.”

Mr Ellett has no desire or intention to sell his Grizzly. It has earned a place on his farm, and he has full confidence in it. However, with a new Grizzly 700cc model launched in 2023 he may be tempted to set the 550 to lighter work and treat himself to an upgrade after 10 years.

“I intend to see how long it can go for. The oil is changed every 500 miles and it has new spark plugs, but otherwise it asks for very little. I’ve become quite attached to it and when the day comes that I can’t rely on it for work up the mountain, I suspect I will still keep it on the farm for checking on the flock in the winter,” he concludes.