As fuel prices continue to rise, ranchers can realize significant cost savings through fuel efficiency, says Tyler Lane, Montana State University (MSU) Extension agent in Toole County.

Ballasting your tractor for the load you're pulling is one of the first steps in saving fuel, Lane says. In the field, there are things you can do to cash in on fuel economy that require little or no down time.

"Most operations have more tractor than they need for the implement that they're pulling," he says. So, an efficient practice they can apply on the fly is to gear up and throttle back.

According to Ag Tech Centre research, a four-wheel-drive 262 horsepower tractor consumed 13.8 gallons of fuel/hour at full throttle. The same tractor, run in higher gear at part throttle, consumed 9.8 gallons/hour, or roughly 30% less fuel.

Additionally, consider these simple efficiency tips:
1) For best performance and ride, set all the tires on a given axle to the same pressure. Lane says to measure tire pressure when the tractor has not been used for several hours.

2) If fluid is used for ballasting on a new tractor, equalize the fluid among all of the tires on the axle.

3)Warm up your engine by starting slow in low gear (idling is not necessary). When shutting the tractor down for the day, wait for the temperature gauge to drop slightly. Additional cool-down time is not necessary.

More research-based information on tractor efficiency to save fuel, reduce depreciation and minimize soil compaction is available at extn.msu.montana.edu/Directory/Field.asp.