Review: Rata Versatile Grapple

By: Brent Lilley, Photography by: Brent Lilley

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The jaw of the versatile grapple Additional crowd rams in the rear Euro hitch frame allow the rear grapple to be tipped over 90 degrees The jaw of the versatile grapple
The grabble picking up rocks Carrying rocks in the grabs on the front and rear of the tractor helped balance the weight evenly The grabble picking up rocks
The grapple attached to the rear A low hitching point for the three-point linkage allows the rear grab to be lifted well clear of the ground The grapple attached to the rear
The linkage A hydraulic top link gives even more control over the rear grapple The linkage
The Rata grapple up close Hoses are kept out of harm’s way by running along the back of the headboard … as are the two hydraulic rams that open and close the grab The Rata grapple up close
Sizable rocks are no issue for the rata Sizeable rocks are picked up and carried to the limestone holes where they are dropped in Sizable rocks are no issue for the rata

With clever design features, the Rata Versatile Grapple proves its worth on the farm.


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It’s fair to say that farmers in New Zealand’s North Canterbury region have copped a bad run in recent times – between drought and earthquakes, they’ve had more than their fair share of challenges.

But they’re resilient. When faced with some massive issues they have stuck in and tackled them head on, working together to find solutions for their problems.

Recently, I got to see an example of this first-hand when I travelled to Omihi to catch up with Neil and Andrew Evans, a father-and-son team who farm sheep and beef on 1200ha on the Canterbury coastline.

While their property escaped any major earthquake damage, they do have ongoing problems in the form of large limestone sinkholes, which stock inevitably falls into on occasion.

After looking into fencing the multiple holes off (which proved impractical) and several other ideas, it was decided that filling them in was the only practical solution.

The Rata grapple picking up boulders
The Rata Versatile Grapple opens to an impressive 1.3m wide to get hold of some seriously large objects

Large limestone boulders that fell out of a cliff on another part of the property were part of the answer but needed to be shifted and transported over some reasonably steep terrain. The solution was a Deutz-Fahr 5120 tractor fitted with a Trima loader and carrying two Rata Versatile Grapples on the front and rear to shift the rocks.  

Tough stuff

Both the front and rear grapples are almost identical, though one is 1.6m wide and the other is slightly wider at 1.8m.

While at first glance the Rata Versatile Grapple seems much like any other make, there are some clever design features that make it stand out.

To ensure it can handle tough punishment from whatever it attacks, the curved teeth are constructed from heavy-duty 400-grade high-tensile 16mm thick steel. It is also great to see that the top and bottom teeth interlock with each other, making sure it bites onto whatever is being picked up, regardless of the size.

Two hydraulic rams, powered by the third service when on the loader, are used to open and close the jaws. These rams are tucked out of harm’s way behind the headboard of the grab and can open the jaws almost vertical to give a 1.3m opening.

This allows for some large objects to be grabbed, and the leverage effect produces a high clamping force to keep objects in the grab.

Heavy-duty greaseable high-tensile pins are used on all pivot points to ensure a long lifespan, and the fact the each Rata grapple weigh around 400kg is a testament to the robust construction.    

Getting hitched

While a regular three-point linkage to Euro hitch is nothing revolutionary on its own, the extra crowd rams built into the design are unique and something Rata came up with after being approached by the Evans.

The way it works is simple. Essentially, there are two separate frames. The first is built from heavy wall box section and features Category 2 pins that connect to the three-point linkage of the tractor. The second is a standard Euro hitch frame like that found on a loader.

The clever part is that the two frames are joined at the bottom with two pins and at the top with two hydraulic rams. When extended, these cause the Euro hitch (and whatever is attached to it) to pivot almost 90 degrees from the three-point linkage frame, making attachments coupled up a lot more versatile.

A hydraulic top link is also used as part of the combination that allows around 45 degrees of tilt, which was quite adequate on its own.

When picking up rocks with the grapple, thanks to the extra crowd rams, it could be tipped over the top of a fairly large rock, closed, and then rolled back towards the tractor on the crowd rams to pick it up safely and securely. This setup does require three sets of hydraulic remote valves.

The great thing is that the Euro hitch will fit most loader attachments, and it is easy to change between Euro hitch implements.

That said, one improvement would be a self-locking mechanism on the rear Euro hitch (similar to those found on a loader).

The bottom line

The Rata versatile grapple front on
The curved interlocking jaws on the grapple wrap around objects to carry them safe and securely

Using the Deutz-Fahr 5120 to carry rocks front and rear not only doubles the work rate but also makes the tractor more balanced and stable on the hills, with weight on the front and rear rather than just the front.

We found that the Rata Versatile Grapples could pick up large rocks with minimal effort. But that’s just the start of it – you will quite literally find hundreds of uses for them around the farm, from picking up logs and rubbish to root raking and levelling ground or loading silage.

There are also wider grapples available – up to 2.4m, with hitches available to fit almost any machine, including telehandlers and diggers.

The three-point linkage to Euro hitch adapter also proved to be quite versatile in its own right, making it incredibly easy to hitch other attachments – such as a bucket and forks – to the rear of the tractor.  

New Zealand family-owned and operated Rata Industries has been building a wide range of machinery since the early 1980s and is happy to customise any of the attachments to suit intended conditions.

 

Rata Versatile Grapple: HITS

  • Heavy-duty grapple construction from 400-grade high-tensile steel
  • Interlocking jaws open to 1.3m wide
  • More than 90 degrees of crowd on rear grapple
  • Three-point linkage to Euro hitch allows other attachments to be used on the rear

 

Rata Versatile Grapple: MISSES

  • Euro hitch adapter doesn’t auto lock like most loader hitches

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