Every racecourse manager knows that the costs involved in maintaining large areas of turf quickly mount up. While considerable focus is placed on the purchase price of the mowing equipment, the fact is that this is only a minor component in the overall turf care picture. Labour, maintenance, fuel, downtime and other expenses far outweigh the initial purchase price of machinery over its expected lifecycle
According to Toro Australia’s National Corporate Accounts Manager, Paul Prout, these other costs can make up almost 90% of the total cost of purchasing and operating mowing equipment over a four-year period. Paul says: “Greater emphasis should be placed on equipment that offers economies in labour, maintenance, fuel and other expenses, rather than the up-front cost of the mowers themselves.
“To keep operating costs down you should choose the best mower for the job and look at factors like the suitability of the mower, the efficiency it brings, the flexibility it offers, and the support you receive from the manufacturer and their dealership. “Toro Australia is recognised as a market leader in mowing equipment with productivity a key driver in product development.”
Productivity is a measure of the rate at which work is performed and is commonly expressed in terms of acres per hour. While manufacturers usually publish this information in the product specifications, the calculations often assume straight-ahead mowing with no allowances for overlap, stops, turns, trimming or manoeuvring around trees or other obstacles. The data is useful, but does not tell the whole story.
Factors that make a significant difference to overall productivity are: •How the mower performs on the grass, and whether it has sufficient engine power to cut heavy grasses at high speed
- Its suitability for the situation – i.e. usability
- Innovative features
- Ergonomic design to maximise operator comfort
- Manufacturer and dealer support in the event of breakdown or maintenance issues
- Quality construction to minimise downtime
- Ease of access to assist in servicing
“Having the right equipment for the job can result in significant time savings when mowing a particular area, as well as saving on operating costs,” says Paul. “Toro has undertaken several studies where we compared the time a particular machine takes to do a job (using GPS tracking) against other competitor models. These studies quickly show how a reduction in mowing hours (and the savings this will bring for maintenance, repair and life span of the mower) overcomes any difference in initial equipment costs.” The studies were conducted using Toro Reelmaster 7000, Groundsmaster 5910 and Groundsmaster 360 mowers, and Paul said racecourse managers can contact him to have a look at the results.
Operating costs include fuel, maintenance, downtime and labour and make up the majority of mowing costs. Fuel consumption depends on the engine’s efficiency and the total horsepower demand and is one area where the wrong equipment choice can make a big difference in costs over a year.
Paul: “Poorly designed or inappropriate equipment for a particular situation can quickly boost fuel consumption, while reducing the quality of the cut. “The solution is getting the right machine for the job and this depends on issues such as whether reserve power is needed for heavy or wet grass cutting, how hilly the area is to be mowed, and the efficiency of the grass discharge. “Having the right item of equipment will result in significant fuel savings.”
Maintenance and repair costs are another significant operating cost that influences the choice of equipment. While regular servicing is essential to prevent more serious breakdowns, better quality machinery has features designed to reduce these maintenance costs, including:
- High capacity, easy to maintain oil and air filters
- Ease of access for servicing and maintenance
- High quality transmissions that will last for the life of the mower
- Strong frames or shells for the cutting deck to protect against breakage and shock
- Quality bearings and seals at critical points.
Every item of equipment has downtime, even if it is just for regular servicing. However, these costs escalate when extraordinary repairs are required and this normally happens when inferior quality, poor maintenance routines or abuse results in unexpected breakage. As well as the cost of the repair, downtime costs include delays in sourcing replacement parts, transport expenses, hiring replacement machinery, unproductive grounds staff and general inconvenience.
Toro offers strong dealer support, ready access to genuine Toro replacement parts and servicing, ease of access for servicing and repair, and the use of heavy duty parts and equipment to minimise the chances of breakage. Additionally, having a modern fleet can significantly reduce downtime.
Paul: “Equipment more than three years old generally requires more preventative maintenance and regular repair. In fact, repair and maintenance costs are likely to double every 500 hours after the first 1500 hours of use. Major wear and tear repairs such as bearings, bushings, electricals and hydraulics are all significant drains on productivity.”
Labour is one of the largest costs of mowing, and it makes sense to maximise labour productivity. Features which can help this include:
- Width of cut
- Trim capability
- Ease of operation
- Safety features
- Ease of routine adjustments
- Maximum speed with superior cut quality
While quality machinery results in significant long-term savings, for many clubs the higher up-front price for such machinery is frequently cited as a major hurdle. However, Toro Finance has packages designed to overcome this problem.
Paul says finance packages are not about borrowing because a club cannot afford to pay cash. It is about smarter management of a finite resource. “For example, a club with an annual equipment budget of $140,000 can get access to more than $565,000 of new Toro equipment, based on a 48-month operating lease. Financing also gives clubs access to new equipment, which delivers greater productivity. Toro Finance has a solution for most clubs and can offer flexible payments to meet annual cashflow peaks and troughs. The savings gained by the use of quality modern mowing equipment more than justify this approach and Toro Finance would be pleased to discuss this with any club manager.”
If you would like to discuss your race course’s mowing costs, give Paul Prout at Toro a ring on 0418 680 040 and he will be happy to discuss.