I get asked a good bit by landowners to-be if they will need tractors. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question though. It makes sense for some to get large equipment, but for some it does not. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind that might help you determine whether you need to invest in a tractor:
- Are you mechanically inclined? Tractors break—even brand new ones. Tractors are for working and are meant to perform very specific tasks. Most of the time when tractors break, it’s because people have pushed said machines beyond what they were designed to do. If you are not mechanically inclined, and you don’t want to learn how to use a tractor, don’t buy a tractor. Hire someone to mow, scrape, disc and plow for you.
- What is the value of your time on your tractor? Tractor work is therapy for me. More than likely, I could pay someone to operate a tractor for me for less than it costs me in time, from a strictly economic viewpoint. However, for those that really enjoy the think time it provide and the satisfaction of completing a job with big visual results, the value of that time spent on the tractor is not measured merely in dollars and cents. This is probably the biggest consideration you should make. If you don’t enjoy these things, and you can pay someone to do it for you for less than it costs you in time, then you should pay someone to do it for you.
- How big should your tractor be? Here’s a formula for you. One-hundred-twenty-five percent times your hardest job completed with your tractor equals the size tractor to buy. Again, we push the limits. If your tractor is slightly oversized, you are not nearly as likely to push it beyond its capabilities. If you have a 40-acre farm, a 120 horsepower tractor usually does not make much sense. Likewise, neither does an undersized 25 horsepower tractor. Now, where in the middle you fit depends on what you want to do with it. If a cab is a must for you, make sure you get one that’s big enough that the cab is not a danger to the operation. Cabs raise the center of gravity on the tractor, making them easier to turn over.
- What brand of tractor should you buy? I’m of the opinion that if you don’t go green, you will go wrong. However, I also only drive GM vehicles. I certainly ascribe to the “Found on Road Dead” theory, and I feel the same way about all tractor lifeforms that don’t have the initials “JD.” Be your own judge. I do have friends that drive “Fix or Repair Daily’s.” I just make them park out of sight if they visit me. In all seriousness, some brands are perfectly good for someone that spends less than a couple hours a week on a tractor. If you spend more than that on a tractor, consider very carefully the quality of the tractor you buy. You generally get what you pay for.
I use a 65 horsepower tractor in my day-to-day use. I pull a 10-foot bush hog, rake hay, bale hay, use a hay mower, use an 8-foot pick up type disc and use a 6-foot chisel plow with my tractor. For me, a front-end loader is indispensable.
I have a four-wheel drive tractor because on occasion, on a cattle farm, it gets muddy. It makes all the difference in the world. I grew up running tractors without four wheel drive, and got along OK, but it’s not something I want to do without now. My tractor does not have a cab, but does have a canopy. Real men don’t need a cab. We are perfectly capable of running the tractor in 95-degree heat, 15-degree cold and through all of the dust and yellow jackets you can throw at us. Plus, in that cab it’s much harder to “feel” the tractor and the land you are working on. Although a cab is a little more comfortable, yields less bee stings and less dust to extract from your lungs at night after several hours of mowing in August.
Land Agent Southeastern Land Group
Licensed in Alabama; Georgia
GA License #351945