A gal’s guide to a tractor for the small farm

A tractor is one of the most important tools you will ever purchase for your farm. To agriculture enthusiasts like yourself, these powerful machines are even considered a necessity, in that they help you accomplish so much more than you could otherwise. So, what power range and tools will make, work easier on your small farm? Your answers will depend upon the type and amount of work you plan to do with your tractor. Be sure to consider tasks that you want to accomplish in the future-you wouldn't want to find yourself unable to do the later on down the road.

Consider the options by breaking down the chores that may be breaking your back. If your main tasks involve some landscaping, mowing several acres, and lifting light-duty loads, then you will want to consider a compact utility tractor in the 24-35 HP range. Tractors with HP in this range will allow you the freedom to do most of what you will need to do on 10 acres or less. Ask the dealership how the condition of your land (hills, soil texture, etc.) might affect your HP requirements.


Example of a 24-35 HP compact utility tractor.

Your compact utility tractor should have a 3-point hitch and PTO-both will enable you to attach and operate implements, such as a mower. Mid-mount and rear-mount mowing tools are available, as well as material collection systems. A rotary cutter will slice through thick grass, weeds, and some light brush. A blade is another useful implement that will enable you level surfaces and drag materials. A tractor in the 24-35 HP range should also be perfect for tilling an acre or two. Mowers, loaders, blades, and tillage tools are available for most utility tractors.   

If you are planning to do heavier duty work, till three or four acres, or mow 10 to 15 acres, consider a compact utility tractor with 35 to 45 HP. You may prefer tools for crop management that do not involve tillage, and such implements are available  Front or rear weights can prove to be a handy accessory for your tractor if it needs additional stability while operating some implements.


Example of a 35-45 HP compact utility tractor.

Other accessories to consider for your utility tractor are hood guards, tire chains, tooth bars (attach them to edge of your loader), toolboxes, front hitches, beacon lights, and cruise control. You may be interested in a canopy or an umbrella to protect you from harsh sun. Check with the dealer about interior options such as arm rests, stereos, CD players, a horn, etc.

Utility tractors are also available with a cab, which give you the option of heat and air conditioning. This way, extreme temperatures won't stop you from getting your work done. In fact, with all of the accessories available, you may be making up excuses to 'start 'er up' and get to work. 


Example of an over 45 HP utility tractor.

If your farming needs will at some point include baling, and cultivating more significant acreage than our earlier examples describe, then you will want to look for a utility tractor with 45 HP or more. More strenuous work will require a more powerful machine. Balers can produce square or round bales. Tractors fitting into the "or more" HP category should have no problem operating either type baler. 


Example of a baler.

Some balers are equipped with gauge wheels. These help the baler follow the ground with more precision, and lessen the likelihood of damaged soil. Surface wrap is another baler accessory that can lessen damage to bales, by providing them a weather-resistant covering. A bale spear will prove useful for hauling hay around the farm. 

There are many other helpful implements that may be obtained for your utility tractor. Some may be crucial to your farming goals: fencing tools, manure spreaders, planters, seeders, grapple buckets, and backhoes. Most implements come in different sizes to work for your particular purposes.

Ask the dealer if it is possible to test out attachments on your tractor before you buy them. This way, you'll get an idea of how they'll handle when you really use them. Be sure to test all of the features on the tractor and implements. Ask about the maintenance of the equipment, including fuel requirements, when to change fluids and filters, winterizing, etc. Such an investment will require your being informed and prepared. Try to purchase from a dealer who sells and services the equipment. This will establish a relationship for your future needs.

Let's face it; some small farm owners just don't have enough time to research options for tractors and their accessories.  If this describes your scenario, it would be wise to seek the advice from farmers who have first-hand experience using the equipment that interests you.  You can learn a lot from those who have found success-or failure-with a particular brand of tractor or type of implement.  Talk to your local dealer. The majority of the time, they use their own equipment at home and can provide helpful insight too. With any luck, you will be puttering along with preparedness as your greatest implement.

Contibuted by Amanda Hawkins


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