Test: Rata Versatile grapple and hitch

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

It’s fair to say that North Canterbury farmers have copped a bad run in recent times. Between drought and earthquakes, they’ve had more than their fair share of challenges, so it is impressive to witness the resilience of farmers in the area. When faced with some massive issues, they have stuck in and tackled them head on.

New Zealand farmers are fairly good at working together to find solutions for problems. Recently, I got to see an example of this first-hand when I travelled to Omihi (North Canterbury) to catch up with Neil and Andrew Evans, a father and son team who farm sheep and beef on 1200 hectares 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 fall 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.

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 5120 tractor fitted with a Trima loader, carrying two Rata Versatile grapples on the front and rear to shift the rocks. 

Rata Versatile Grapple

Both the front and rear grapples are almost identical, except one is 1.6 metres wide and the other is slightly wider at 1.8 metres. While at first glance, the Rata Versatile grapples seem 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 is attacked with, 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 1.3-metre 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 grapples each weigh around 400kg is a testament to the robust construction.   

Three-point linkage to Euro hitch frame

While a regular three-point linkage to Euro hitch is nothing revolutionary on its own, the extra crowd rams built into the design is quite 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 two 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. Although, one improvement would be a self-locking mechanism on the rear Euro hitch (similar to those found on a loader).


Using the Deutz-Fahr to carry rocks front and rear not only doubles the work rate but more importantly the tractor is also more balanced and stable on the hills, with weight on the front and rear rather than just the front. The fact both grapples can be crowd over means that large rocks can be picked up with minimal effort. As most of the holes are in quite steep gullies, it works well in allowing them to line up and roll the rocks in. The setup proves ideal for the task. The three-point linkage to Euro hitch adapter has 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.  

The Rata Versatile grapple will quite literally find hundreds of uses around the farm, from picking up logs and rubbish to root raking and levelling ground or loading silage. Once you own one, you will just keep finding uses for it. There are also wider grapples available – up to 2.4 metres, with hitches available to fit almost any machine including telehandlers and diggers.

Rata Industries has been building a wide range of machinery specifically to suit New Zealand conditions since the early 1980s and know what is required to stand up to the conditions here. The family-owned and operated business is also happy to customise any of the attachments to suit intended conditions.

Photography: Brent Lilley

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