Author Topic: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?  (Read 7719 times)

Offline gooch

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Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« on: November 23, 2016, 06:42:43 AM »
I am an MSB member who lurks here often but has not really posted much. the information everyone here provides is great.

We are moving from suburbia, .15 acre lot taken up mostly by house, where we have been doing some raised bed gardens, composting, worm bins. We are pretty new to gardening having done so for a few years now with pretty good results as well as some great failures but we are learning. We are moving to allow for an opportunity to have some animals (probably chickens to start) which is not allowed where we currently are as well as larger garden space and the possibility of some fruit trees. The new property is 3.28 acres all open with grass currently on it. It is a part of an existing 30 acre beef cattle farm in central MD. The property has a gravel driveway and is fairly steep, maybe 80' elevation change over the property. We will take possession of the property at the end of February. Our initial efforts will likely focus on some garden beds and herb gardening directly outside the back of the home on relatively flat ground. We are thinking of trying out the "raised bed" system that Nick Ferguson uses which is basically just swales on contour. I will need to mow the property and remove snow in the winter. I will also need to maintain the gravel driveway which will involve moving gravel from time to time. Beyond that we want to live on the property for a while before deciding on more permanent additions like tree systems and such but likely we will do some sort of tree swale systems on some of the steeper sections with room between for chicken tractors.

So one question I keep coming back to is do I buy a small tractor that would be flexible enough to allow for mower attachment, front end loader, etc. or do I just get something like a lawn tractor for mowing or a walk behind toro type mower and a snow blower. I am thinking that the cost and maintenance for the tractor may be more than I want to take on at this point unless I determine a real need for the FEL or other attachments. I am thinking it might be cheaper to just hire in someone to spread gravel when needed. Anyone have any thoughts? My gut says buy only what I know I need now and expand later if needed which I think would be some basic mower and snow blower.   

Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2016, 07:00:22 AM »
I feel that you need to live on the property for a year before you decide exactly what you want to do with it.  Putting in a couple of raised beds is one thing, but before you put in swales and such, you need to know what each season brings on that property.

For the tractor, I was in the market for a new mower to do my 2.5 acres.  I was all set on getting the John Deere 1-series tractor, FEL, belly mower and weight box.  I just couldn't come to terms with the $18k is would cost me.  MUCH cheaper to pay someone to move the gravel that I will need to move around.

Of course that was buying new.  There's some sub-compact tractors on the used market, but most used are slightly larger than the 1 series and I needed the small size to get into where I needed to mow.

Offline gooch

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2016, 07:14:50 AM »
Thanks. I think I am thinking along the same lines as you are. To clarify the swale comment I am really talking about doing what Nick Ferguson calls raised beds and only small ones right out back of the house to allow us to do some annuals right off the bat in the spring. I am intending to wait to make any real decisions until we have been there through a set of seasons.

What did you end up buying for mowing?

Offline machinisttx

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2016, 07:39:00 PM »
Either hire the work out or find a really, really good deal on a used tractor. On three acres, it's highly unlikely you'll ever have enough need for a tractor to justify the expense.

Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2016, 08:56:17 AM »
What did you end up buying for mowing?
I had a zero turn before this and I am too hilly for it.  I ended up losing one of the transmissions and that would have been $1600 to repair.  I ended up with a Craftsman garden tractor with the 54" deck.

What part of MD?  I'd guess near Frederick?  I'm up above Bel Air.

Offline Carl

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2016, 03:15:59 PM »
I would get moved in and then look at a small,say 23 Horse KUBOTA two or 4 wheel drive with behind mower front loader and rear blade.
They are not cheap,but are built for long term use and you might even add the PTO generator for blackouts.
You don't have much room for even ONE cow,but a few goats would convert weeds to fertilizer after your trees get large enough to not be goat salad.

Offline gooch

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2016, 07:48:44 PM »
I had a zero turn before this and I am too hilly for it.  I ended up losing one of the transmissions and that would have been $1600 to repair.  I ended up with a Craftsman garden tractor with the 54" deck.

What part of MD?  I'd guess near Frederick?  I'm up above Bel Air.

Good to know on the zero turn. we are pretty steep and I was wondering about one of them.

We are currently in New Market and the new place is in Boonsboro. My wifes family are up in Parkville and Perry Hall so closer to your way. Good to see someone from nearby here.

Offline scoob

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2016, 08:00:53 PM »
When we moved to 5acres in the mountains, we bit the bullet and picked up a 24hp tractor with a front end loader and 3point/pto.  Could we get along without it? Sure. But it takes time to shovel dirt, gravel, compost, mulch, etc., and we work full time.  We'll take the time saver, not to mention the saver of bones and joints!  Oh yeah, and that little loader doesn't look like much, but try and do the job with a shovel and a wheelbarrow while the tractor is in the shop, and you'll find out how much mechanical advantage you're missing!

We got a great deal on a pto snowblower, and that thing rocks when we get home from work and there's a foot or two of snow on the ground. We have a grader blade that we dress up the driveway with too. 

Thought about picking up an auger attachment for post holes, but our 3pt isn't set up for hydraulic down-pressure, so it's more effective to rent a purpose-made auger.

Offline Davew223

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2016, 07:29:38 AM »
scoob, you don't need down pressure for an auger.  The screw will pull itself down.

Offline scoob

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2016, 11:35:13 AM »
Haha, not in our soil Dave.  We rented a skidsteer auger attachment for our neighbor's Bobcat, and it even strugged!
That won't be the case everywhere, but something for folks to consider when purchasing a tractor.  =)

Offline Davew223

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2016, 12:31:16 PM »
tannerite?

Offline Stwood

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2016, 02:14:34 PM »

Haha, not in our soil Dave.

+1





On the tractor, I would wait a while till you get somewhat established.
Tractors are very handy, but not sitting in the barn.
Hire out your gravel and brush mowing needs for a while. Maybe you can find a close neighbor that would do it for a few bucks. Or trade for labor

Offline spud

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #12 on: November 28, 2016, 08:34:19 AM »
I'm not an expert on zero turns and hilly property, but you might want to check around your local dealerships to get an additional  opinion on their durability in challenging situations.  I have a commercial walk behind and I don't see hills making it work harder.  If traction is a problem, all mine will do is just spin the tires.  But commercial ones aren't cheap either, my 60 inch ex mark is 8,800 new. I have two acres and can't justify the need for 20 grand tractor.  Start watching craigslist to see what's out there, if you buy it right, and don't like it, you can easily resell it without much of a loss.

Offline Better Together Life

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #13 on: December 06, 2016, 07:32:57 PM »
I know nothing at this moment of our homestead build in Texas.  We are 12mo the Out from moving to our 7.5acres.

But I do know that Justin Rhodes of Abundant Permaculture runs his 30acres or so with a soccer mom van.  How.  He says exactly what others have said, if you need something like that then just hire it out.  But again, I truly don't know anything.

Offline CF.Tree

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #14 on: January 14, 2017, 06:29:34 AM »
Most of your tasks with the tractor sound like seasonal events, so you might check out availability of rental equipment to at least try out before owning something to big or to small .

Offline greencountry

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #15 on: January 18, 2017, 08:27:45 PM »
I agree with the others. I recommend not buying one yet.
Hire it out at first just so you can get things it done. People who do this for a living will get it done way faster and better than you can with out the experience.
Later start renting tractors when you need one. This will give you the time in the seat to see if you really want to do it yourself and also lets you try different pieces of equipment. That way if you decide to buy one you will know more what you want and don't want on your tractor.

Offline CPT Morgan

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #16 on: January 18, 2017, 08:55:03 PM »
I can honestly tell you that no matter how few the reasons for needing one, you will NEVER regret owning the right tractor.  And it's a pretty good bet that before you've owned one, you have no idea how many jobs they are handy for once you have it.

Offline Cronezilla

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #17 on: January 18, 2017, 11:46:53 PM »
I don't know if this response is timely enough. I would say unless you have more money than you know what to do with, do not buy it until you know for certain you will need it.

I saw a youtube video with Joel Salatin talkin about capital assets. You cannot have that thing parked. you must be leveraging capital assets.

I am sure that their is a formula or rule of thumb.

If you don't want to use a riding lawn mower to mow with, get some live stock. or ATV with a pull behind mower deck could be fun. again its all about the money equation.


Offline CF.Tree

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #18 on: January 19, 2017, 05:05:10 AM »
Consider the ability of some equipment to hold value. When I purchased my compact tractor I was glad to get it for what it retailed for 15 years prior and was told by a dealer he would have added 20-30% to the price.

If you go used be sure you can get part.

Offline jtcweb

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #19 on: January 19, 2017, 09:54:42 AM »
For an older used piece of equipment you can almost always get out of it what you paid for it if you decide you do not need it.  I have 10 acres (only 5 of which my tractor has ever been on) and let me tell you mowing with a ZTR takes so much less time than mowing with a tractor.  So buying a tractor with it's primary use as a mower I don't feel is the right choice.  I did mow with a tractor for 10 years before we built the house, but that was only 5 or 6 times a year to keep the areas I wanted open from getting out of control.  After the excavation for construction was done I used my Ford 4000 to do all the final grading of 2 acres of ground.  I'm not sure I could have hired it done for what I have in the tractor.  However having said that I will be selling the tractor as it is just too big for what I normally would use a tractor for.

The biggest thing I find myself needed now is a front end loader.  I'm hoping to sell the big tractor and get a sub-compact with a front end loader, but we shall see.

Offline Dave in Broadway, NC

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #20 on: March 04, 2017, 09:54:32 PM »
Gooch, we bought a used 4wd 27HP Kubota with front end loader when we moved onto our 5-acre property in central NC in 2011. Tractor cost us $5,500. Over the next few years we bought a bunch of 48" implements for it (some new, some used). In late 2015 we decided that a BCS was more appropriate, simply because we were moving into market gardening, and the tractor had become somewhat unwieldy with all the trees and bushes we had planted. We listed the tractor and all the implements for $8100 and sold it all the first day. Our total cost for all this, to include 4 years of maintenance, was just shy of $11,000. So in the end it cost us about $3,000 to use that tractor and all the implements for the five years we had it.  So if the work you need to do justifies a tractor, get one. Buy used. Buy one that retains its value and if you sell it, you won't be out a whole lot, and the convenience of having ready access to it will make it worth it.   

Offline fritz_monroe

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #21 on: March 06, 2017, 05:17:49 AM »
Is there an online listing of used tractors?  Something like Auto Trader?

Offline Carl

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #22 on: March 06, 2017, 06:31:19 AM »
Is there an online listing of used tractors?  Something like Auto Trader?

Like the equipment trader?

http://www.equipmenttrader.com/Farming-Equipment/Tractors-For-Sale/search-results?category=Tractors|2001881

Offline LvsChant

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #23 on: March 06, 2017, 09:58:50 AM »
We finally bought a really old Ford tractor last year. We had been on the homestead since 2012, so we weren't sure we would really need one. However, my husband found this old tractor online and had to drive to TX to pick it up (we have a trailer, so no prob). There was a little bit of mechanical work needed, but simple enough for him to do himself. Then he bought a mowing attachment at tractor supply...

Now it works very well in helping us to maintain our gravel road (has a box blade) and also for the mowing of the 5 acres... I think the cost was very reasonable (cannot remember exactly what he paid, but in the $3-4K range).  For this price, it has probably already paid for itself in road maintenance costs. Our neighbors are also very happy we bought it since they also benefit from the road maintenance thing.

If you look carefully and are a bit handy with mechanics, you could find a nice deal. We do store it under a covered awning when my dh isn't welding.

Offline CandyGram4Mongo

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #24 on: July 03, 2017, 02:54:40 PM »
Haha, not in our soil Dave.  We rented a skidsteer auger attachment for our neighbor's Bobcat, and it even strugged!
That won't be the case everywhere, but something for folks to consider when purchasing a tractor.  =)

After manually digging a dozen post-holes to start a paddock we bought an auger with down-pressure kit to fence the rest of our acreage. 
http://www.landpride.com/ari/attach/lp/public/manuals/317-059m.pdf

I can honestly tell you that no matter how few the reasons for needing one, you will NEVER regret owning the right tractor.  And it's a pretty good bet that before you've owned one, you have no idea how many jobs they are handy for once you have it.

Strongly agree!  The tractor is so versatile that most of our weekend chores center around it, including turning compost, filling raised beds, tightening fences, and towing a trailerload of hay into and out of the barn.  Be warned though: tractors are to homesteaders what AR-15s are to shooters - it's impossible to be satisfied with the base model so you'll find yourself shopping for accessories until you've got it fully tricked-out.  We've found our best deals at estate sales.

There is some EXCELLENT guidance on used tractors on The Shrugging Out Podcast:
http://shruggingout.blogspot.com/search?q=tractor
He devoted a full episode to it and shared his experience over time.  Very, very useful for my wife and I as we learned about tractoring.
HTH

Online IKN

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #25 on: July 31, 2017, 07:16:25 AM »
Gooch,
If I were you, I'd wait on the tractor for a while until you see the needs you'll have.
I live on a 75 acre farm in central Illinois and have two tractors, a Kubota BX24 (23 HP) with end loader and backhoe and a Mahindra 55 HP tractor with end loader.
If I had it to do over, I'd have gotten a bigger Kubota either a larger 'B' or small 'L' series. With slopes and snow, definitely go with either 4 wheel drive or front wheel assist.
I bought the BX24 mostly for a lawn mowing (64" deck), but the end loader and backhoe attachments have been a god send. While I love the tractor and have used it extensively even beyond what it was designed to do. Like a Timex, it takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'.

There are too many factors to account for to decide on what or if to buy. For instance, I have a 300' gravel driveway. I find it easier and faster to use my 4x4 ATV to plow the drive as I don't have a snow plow for the tractor. It will also matter if you end up with animals such as sheep and/or goats. If you do, you will have to source hay to feed through the winter. I don't know about your area, but small square bales are harder to find in my area than big round bales.
Big round bales are cheaper for the amount you get, but have a higher wastage and much harder to move especially in the winter. My little BX24 can push a big bale around if there's not too much snow, but I have to work at it and be careful not to unwind it while moving. You'd have to be very careful doing it this way on slopes. These bales can weigh between 1600# up to 2000# depending on who bales them and equipment used. That much weight and size can do a lot of damage if it starts rolling down a hill if it gets away from you.

In the end, you'll want a tractor to fit your needs. Too big can pose as much of a problem as too small. You'll have to consider cost of the tractor, quantity, price, and availability of attachments you'd need not to mention fuel availability. I think all of these size tractors have diesel engines. Unless you have a large fuel storage tank and have it delivered, you have to consider if any gas stations near your area sell diesel. Even for me, it's impractical to have a 300 gal fuel tank for my tractors so find out if fuel delivery companies deliver in smaller quantities. They probably will if there are other places to deliver to in your immediate area or they pass through on the way.
Another option would be to have a small trailer with a 30-55 gallon barrel that you could haul fuel yourself from a local filling station.

Money wise, a used tractor will be much cheaper to purchase, but you have to know what you're looking at. Along with the above listed considerations, you will have to account for condition, remaining warranty (if any), and machine hours on a used one along with how it was used. Even if new, find out what type of engine it has. Most newer tractors (even small ones) have what they call a series 4 diesel engine, this has to do with emissions. Many of the name brand tractors now use a special exhaust filter that uses a catalyst to clean up emissions. These filters operate at an extremely high temperature via a catalytic reaction to clean the diesel exhaust. They have to be replaced fairly often and run in the $700 range. You also can't just shut them down. The filter requires a cool down period and have been known to cause fires if not done correctly.

The Mahindra I purchased last year uses a different technology and doesn't use these filters. They have the best warranty on the market currently and a price point far below any of the other name brands (see here: http://mahindrausa.com/Tractors/series. If you decide to go with a Mahindra, make sure the latest software has been installed on the ECU. Mine didn't and ran like crap if the temperature dropped below 35 degrees F. Since the tractors were first made for India, they never considered cold temperatures. The new software fixes this problem.
FYI, Mahindra is the largest tractor manufacturer in the world. The company was originally created as a collaboration between Minneapolis Moline and International Harvester tractor companies back in the 1950's.
New or used make sure you have an authorized full service dealer near your location. If not, parts and repairs can be a huge pain.


Offline T Kehl

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #26 on: November 30, 2017, 08:13:25 AM »
I'd look into a walking tractor like a BCS.  Lot's of attachments so it can be mower, tiller, trailer, etc.

The downside is the attachments all cost more than used stuff made for a 3 point that is common.  However, a BCS does operate better in tight spaces

If you go with a regular tractor, with that kind of slope, think low to the ground like an 8N Ford and not high like a WD-45 Allis.  (Utility versus row crop)

Renting and hiring jobs out also makes a lot of sense.

Offline CandyGram4Mongo

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #27 on: February 23, 2019, 08:58:11 AM »
Regarding accessories, especially as they relate to “Big round bales are cheaper for the amount you get, but have a higher wastage and much harder to move especially in the winter. My little BX24 can push a big bale around if there's not too much snow, but I have to work at it and be careful not to unwind it while moving. You'd have to be very careful doing it this way on slopes.”

We’d been using small bales to feed our horses.  Met a guy with a Deere 4xxx who was moving large bales (4x4x8’) and round bales with a hay spear that he had fabricated.  Searched the internet and found these guys:

https://hayspear.com/

Got one and have been VERY HAPPY.  Opted for a 3-prong fork with 3’ long tines.  It is very easy to dismount the bucket and mount the spears.  Have also used the spears as an ad-hoc forklift to unload a pallet of 10 corral panels.
We’ve got a Deere 3320 and it’s been OK for many tasks.
We also found out that a 9” auger is much more likely to make a hole than the 12” auger we had been using.  Even with pneumatic downpressure the soil at our new homestead defeated the big auger.

Offline creuzerm

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Re: Making a move. Should we get a tractor?
« Reply #28 on: March 04, 2019, 09:20:33 PM »
A neighbor of my parents have one of those baby Kuboto tractors with a front loader.  Handy thing.  I want one in the 2nd worst of ways. The PTO generator like was previously mentioned would be a big draw for me as well.  I am tired of gas engines and I want one that runs regularly rather than a couple where they don't get run often enough.

Have you thought about an old classic tractor?  They can be found in running order for pretty cheap and if you aren't using them much will probably last well for low use.  I think my dad paid $500 for an old 52 model A John Deere.  Pushed snow wonderfully.

New place,  more land, less room for the old big tractor, the old A is gone.  A couple of Garden tractors,  snow blowers, plows etc.  He is now running a garden tractor for mowing and an arctic cat 2 seat ATV with a plow for the snow. He found his sweet spot with this pair for the current property.  Took him ten years and as many machines.

Skid steers are awesome machines with a skilled operator.  Expensive to fix when they break. All hydraulic.

We always did driveway maintenance with a little drag behind a mower (snapper) or ATV when we got one of those. Frequency overcame the small scope of the tool. Never with the tractor.

I have an accepted offer on 66 acres in Kentucky in the Appalachian foothills and am contemplating the same tractor question.  I am going to start with my current push mower (battery and electric -that gas engine frustration) and a scythe to start.

I am going to see what they use to log the place and how well that works for them.

I am wanting on a walking excavator in the worst of ways. The property is all Holler so would use one to good effect,  but it's not needed if you take the long way around everywhere you go. It's been logged and mined without one. I am seriously considering Holtzer style terraces so I could use the capabilities.
It's really hard to justify a toy that costs more then the property!
But I want one in the worst of ways!