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1 acre pasture mower recommendations?

 
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I've been developing 5 acres for a house and a small farm.  I want to utilize pasture rotation and have mapped out 4 1.25 acre (roughly) pastures I will want to rotate every week.  I will want to mow down any weeds/foliage that isn't eaten to prevent weed build up and help keep the actual grass growing well.  Looking at mowers it looks like riding mowers were not designed to cut knee high growth and just push tall grass down requiring multiple passes.  Because there will be 3 weeks in between mowing/grazing I'm thinking I will need something more heavy duty, but would prefer to avoid a tractor because buying a home is expensive and money will be tight.  Anyone have any recommendations or have done something similar where a type of mower worked well for them?  I was originally looking at a zero turn mower because they aren't crazy expensive and looked like they could make the job fast and easy(I don't enjoy the idea of mowing) but from my research a flail mower seems like it would work best, but you need a tractor for that.  
 
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For gas mowers a zero turn seems more efficient from a time and energy view. More time mowing vs looping around. Can cut in reverse also.

What animals? It seems with sheep and goats, there is very little cleanup needed. At least in my area. Thistle can be hit with a shovel to break it at ground level. They tend to be in patches vs the entire acreage. Diligence to keep it from seeding this year should oay off in following years.

 
pollinator
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wayne fajkus wrote:
What animals? It seems with sheep and goats, there is very little cleanup needed. At least in my area. Thistle can be hit with a shovel to break it at ground level. They tend to be in patches vs the entire acreage. Diligence to keep it from seeding this year should oay off in following years.



This is what I'm thinking, too.  You've got all you need to mow that grass now.  The only thing I'd suggest is to use fence netting to create one-day paddocks and move them every day.  If you do that, you likely won't have anything that needs mowing.  It all comes down to what you want, I guess.  If you want your pastures to look like lawns, you may have to mow.  Personally, I wouldn't care how it looks and anything that doesn't get eaten the first time around will get hit the next time.
 
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A flail mower is pretty expensive for your size  if all you are doing is knocking down weeds.  If that is the only purpose for the machine I would think twice about making a purchase.  Not knowing what you  are grazing or how dense you are grazing them makes it a bit hard to make a recommendation.  But given the size I would not buy anything the first year. Put some money aside to pay to have it bushhogged if it gets away from you. (much cheaper then buying a machine.  I like Wayne's   idea of doing it by hand at least the first year. You will get a better feel for the weed cycle and walk the pasture more intentionally instead of buzzing over it with a mower and moving on.  
 
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Hi Carson,

I had a diesel tractor mower and I switched to a zero turn.   There was a noticeable difference in torque/power when mowing.   I didn't go back with a diesel because I didn't want to spend 16k+   We are mowing three acres.  So far so good.

Just a suggestion if you go with a less expensive mower that's not as tough, you need to be on top of maintenance and cleaning.   We use the plastic auto ramps and a power wash every time we mow.  We keep the directional trap open with a bungee. Don't get lazy on checking the oil either.  

We are on schedule to change oil, filters, and plugs at least once per year.  Doing this keeps a lower powered mower from getting bogged down and burned up.  We are running a 22 HP Kohler and it's doing the job but it's a big box mower so time will tell.

When it comes to the ergonomics of mowing a zero turn is 100% better than a tractor mower...you will feel like you are driving a Cadillac if you make the switch.    If you go with a professional zero turn like an Exmark you are looking at 10 to 22k.

 
pollinator
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A steer.  Mmmm . . . tasty ribeye-making steer.

And some chickens to clean up behind him.
 
Carson Albright
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I've already purchased 4 Alpaca's, we will also be getting 3 goats, and we may get 2 guinea hogs in 2020.  I wanted to start stocking light to make sure the pasture can handle the load.  We will also be running a chicken tractor with them, roughly 6 chickens.  If they cannot handle the load with the growth, I may add sheep as well, but would prefer to wait for the pigs to see if it's needed.  I'm thinking I may want to mow for a few reasons 1. Stocking is light and I'm not sure if that many animals will be able to eat all the pasture in 1 week. 2.  My pasture is heavily invested with sunflowers and weeds.  
 
pollinator
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Carson,

You have an interesting dilemma.  I agree with you that a flail mower is absolutely tops for mowing down just about anything and everything.  If money were no issue I would recommend a tractor and flail mower in a heartbeat.

But money is (always) a factor.  I have a suggestion that may be useful, but not ideal.  In your particular case I would recommend a 2 wheel tractor with a flail mower.  I think the tractor-attachment combination would work very well.  I think the flail mower will handle any vegetation you throw at it.

However it does mean that you would be walking behind the mower for a whole 1.25 acres—yuck!

You could get a riding mower or zero turn mower, but those mower decks are engineered to give a good finished look for grass that is mowed on a regular basis.  They really don’t do very well on grass that has been left to grow for any length of time.  I know from experience that finish mowers, regardless of how powerful the engine, just won’t mow tall grass well.

The only other thought I can come up with is using a garden tractor or 4 wheeler to tow a self powered dedicated rough cutter or flail mower.  My grandfather was a farmer for over 70 years and had numerous options for equipment.  His choice for mowing ditches was a little 15hp self powered flail mower towed behind his 4 wheeler.

I hope these options might give you some help.  I know that these decisions can be frustrating, but maybe some compromise can work for you.

Good Luck, and if you have further questions, or please don’t hesitate to ask.

Eric

 
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If you have an ATV, a tow-behind brush hog might be a good option to consider. I use a DR tow-behind for trails and areas I don’t want to take the tractor. One downside is the tow bar is fairly long, which can be a challenge in tight areas.  
 
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Carson, I'm curious. What, exactly, are weeds?

Kidding, sort of, but what are you talking about specifically, in addition to sunflowers?

My Flemish Giant will eat a Russian Mammoth Sunflower down to the roots, if given enough time. I wonder how goats like it?

I would catalogue all the "weeds" that you see on your pasture, and see how many of them feature on lists of favourite livestock forage. Then I would take what remains, what you need to actually extirpate from your property for the health of the livestock, and seek it out before grazing, where possible, to avoid harming the livestock. I would mark each occurrence with a stake in the ground, and monitor.

Then, for each of those you need to get rid of, I would find a species of preferred forage that occupies the same trophic level. I would plant a guild of these around each stake. Something will thrive, and outcompete what you wish to remove.

This sounds intensive, and it is, but you're working on an intensive scale. With simple, human-powered equipment, one-and-a-quarter acres of market garden might be a large undertaking, but of pasture? It's not like twenty, or a hundred, or a thousand.

And maybe a guard donkey/lama?

-CK
 
Carson Albright
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Horseweed and sunflowers are the prevalent weeds, I'm hoping the goats will help with both, but I've not had experience with goats so I"m not sure if they are truly the weed eating machines people make them out to be.  Hoping if we add Guinea hogs they would also help with this.  I don't need a perfect pasture, or a manicured lawn, but I would like to maximize the food output for the animals to add other livestock if successful.  From my understanding horseweed and sunflowers are not ideal for livestock, so while I"m fine if there are a few in my pasture, I have areas that have totally choked out the grass and clover because they both grow much taller faster.  
I have never heard of a two wheel tractor, I may look into that.  Riding would be preferable, but I have actually mowed the whole 5 acres with a push mower at one point(it sucked) so splitting it up into 1 acre mows weekly with something designed to handle the height might actually be feasible.  
 
John Tietjen
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From a cost perspective given your size and now I know your animals you intend, you might consider cattle.  Buy three steers that will set you back roughly $2000.00 and a custom fitted scythe. Work them a whole season. They will mow and fertilize your pastures and you can sell them at the end of the season for a profit.  They will improve your pasture better then a mower ever will and will make you money. Stack that up against a mower that will cost $3000.00 and will have to be fueled and maintained and will eventually break. As you can tell I have an aversion to machines if there is any other way around a problem.  They are an easy solution, just not always the best.

If you plan to keep hogs they can be quite destructive regardless of the breed.  They are great for tearing up undesirable plants,  brush and small trees.  But if you have decent pasture now it may be a step back letting them out to be destructive on decent land. My opinion.  They are woodland animals not really grazers.
 
Eric Hanson
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Carson,

A two wheel tractor looks superficially like an overgrown roto tiller.  Two wheel tractors are self powered so you won’t have to push the machine, at least as much as you would a regular, non-powered mower.  A two wheel tractor has its own PTO and the handles can flip around so the machine can operate with the PTO operating in either the forward or rear position.  To give an example of what this means is that the tractor can operate like a rear tine roto tiller, or like a mower with the deck out front.

A two wheel tractor can be an extremely flexible piece of machinery as it can be attached to a very long list of implements.  To the best of my knowledge, the main dealer of two wheel tractors in the US is Earthtools in Kentucky.  They sell two major brands—Grillo and BCS.  Of the two, Grillo is the least expensive and BCS offers the most bells and whistles.  The tractors themselves range from relatively small gas engines to 12hp Diesel engines.  The diesel models are impressive, but expect to pay over $5K for the tractor alone.  The gas ones are much cheaper, but also much less powerful.  A smaller one might well work for you, but check with the seller first.

A final point.  While I agree with you that the flail mower is absolutely tops for mowing—it can mow through the roughest of material and leave it looking like the finest finish mowers cleaned it up—a rough cutter may work for you as well and is a cheaper option.

I hope this information helps and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Eric
 
Carson Albright
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Anyone use a brush beast before?  
https://www.gxioutdoorpower.com/brush-beast-36-in-22-hp-subaru-commercial-duty-dual-hydro-brush-power-type-in-gas-electric-start-gas-commercial-walk-behind-mower-not-sold-in-california/

Claims to do 1 acre in half an hour, which would be totally do-able, I'll be doing an acre a week on clean up crew after the animals.  Pretty pricey, but I'd rather buy great equipment upfront than buy 2 brush cutters later.  
 
John Tietjen
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Can't speak to it's quality but a 36" walk behind can't cut an acre in 1/2 hour.  That being said after a year or two your pastures shouldn't need a brush mower ( actually after the first year).  Not wanting to be negative but  I would hate for you to spend valuable money on something you might not need in a year or two.
 
Carson Albright
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I was intending on using this for years, why do you say I won't need it after the first few years?
 
Eric Hanson
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Carson,

That machine looks a lot like a DR brush mower.  A DR mower cuts about a 30” cut with a bit more hp.  I can’t speak as to how fast it will mow as that figure is heavily dependent on the condition of the ground (smooth, rough, soft, hard, wet, dry, etc.) and the length and type of vegetation you are cutting.  My experience is that long, green supple grass is the hardest to cut.

I would be cautious about getting a brush mower with a 3’ cutting width from a single blade.  The reason is that is a lot of mass to haul around and maneuver.  Brush mowing is not exactly light work, even when the mower is self propelled.  But ultimately it is your decision and you know your ground better than anyone else.  The mower may be very good, I would check ratings and reviews.

Just my thoughts,

Eric
 
Artie Scott
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Hi Carson, as I mentioned I have the DR version of that, except I tow it behind an ATV vice walk-behind. With heavy duty blade, it cuts both grass and brush with ease. If your pastures have a lot of woody growth, that would be a good choice. I did notice that you can change out the brush blade for a finish mower blade, so once your pastures are thick and lush with grass, you can swap blades for a cleaner cut if desired. With a self-propelled 36 inch wide cut, I wouldn’t be surprised if you could do an acre pretty quickly if not too rough - let us know if 30 minutes turns out to be reasonably accurate!  
 
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Carson Albright wrote:I've already purchased 4 Alpaca's, we will also be getting 3 goats, and we may get 2 guinea hogs in 2020.  I wanted to start stocking light to make sure the pasture can handle the load.  We will also be running a chicken tractor with them, roughly 6 chickens.  If they cannot handle the load with the growth, I may add sheep as well, but would prefer to wait for the pigs to see if it's needed.  I'm thinking I may want to mow for a few reasons 1. Stocking is light and I'm not sure if that many animals will be able to eat all the pasture in 1 week. 2.  My pasture is heavily invested with sunflowers and weeds.  



I don't see a need for a mower for your situation, maybe a scythe or power scythe (weed eater) but not a full blown mower. (they do make flail mowers you can pull behind a 4 wheeler)

The alpacas will take care of most of the grass, and the goats will eat most other plants growing in the pasture since they are more browsers than grazers. Once you get the AGHogs, your troubles will be over as far as mowing a pasture is concerned. (all these animals will co-habit on a single pasture area or you can move them through one set after the other so that would mean three paddock areas with animals in them at any given point in time).

Some infrastructure readjustment recommendations; make each pasture area smaller so the size fits the number of animals in the largest set of animals (in this case Alpaca at four is the largest set).
Depending on how often you plant to move them, the pasture size could be as small as 1/4 acre per paddock or as large as 1 acre per paddock.
For a 1/4 acre size you would want to move them daily, for an acre you could wait around 5-7 days before moving them.
You will want to over seed every time you move them from an area for at least one year so the pasture gets thicker and thicker in plant density. (this gets the plant to "weed" ratio more in line with plants, by the way, if the animals eat them are they really weeds?)
By over seeding you will put more of the desired plants into the pasture which will shade out and eventually kill the unwanted plants in those pastures.
Sunflowers are usually more of a crop plant than a pasture plant and they don't come back perennially either, so decide if the space is pasture or farm land and stick with one or the other, you will have fewer headaches over the years (hogs love sunflowers).

Pasture is not Lawn, pasture is for feeding animals, as such it is not a great idea to cut it since the animals will be missing out on that food you just whacked down to rot.

Redhawk
 
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We recently acquired a BCS walk behind with a brush mower attachment and the thing is a beast. Managed to knock down 5 acres of saplings and brush.

The walk behinds offer a lot of flexibility and durability. I like that the powered implements run off of a PTO, so no belts to deal with.
 
pollinator
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I recommend scything initially because I found that when scything I got to know our pastures really well. I got a feel for how thick the grass was in each place and what the understory looked like. Was there moss growing (sign of acidification) for example. All of these things helped me to decide where to put the chicken tractor first and foremost. I was able to make better decisions as to which areas could be left alone for a while and which needed immediate attention.

If things get out of hand and you don't have time to scythe, could you ask a neighbour to come with his tractor, maybe in exchange for something, or just paying him to do it? In the end it may be cheaper than buying machinery that needs parts and maintenance and that you may find you don't even need once you get the rotations going. Another idea that comes to my mind would be to rent the machine you need, for those (if just a few) days that you need it.

 
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Brush mower, look online for an old walk behind gravley with a mowing deck, tow behind on an atv or golf cart, a good scythe with 2+ blades, livestock, chicken tractors, sillage tarps, weed wipe with commercial vinegar, fire, reseed with native grasses.
 
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I think you might be overthinking it, do other fields round you have a lot of weeds spread fairly evenly? Here what gets left behind are patches of thistles and nettles, both perennial and yes they need cutting/pulling/poisoning but a strimmer is a better choice (for us) than any form of mower as they are only in patches and not spread over the entire field. If you are starting with something really overgrown then perhaps have someone in with a large tractor and bushhog to clear it out the first time.
As to the two wheeled tractors, we have a Grillo I have the smallest they make which has 5.5 Hp and it only takes a few implements (rotovator, snow brush) and a finger clipper.. not sure what americans call it but the type of mower that looks a bit like a hedge trimmer. it does well for tall grass and small woody weeds, like first year blackberries, it is not happy with second year canes.
 
Carson Albright
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Wanted to post an update.  I did go with a walk behind Dr brushmower to keep initial expenses down, and I was unsure how much I truly would be using it once animals were on the land so I didn't want to buy the heavy duty one.  
I mowed roughly 2 acres over the weekend, focusing on the woody weeds that were really tall.  All in all it took me roughly 4 hours, but my pasture is a lot thicker and more overgrown than I had thought.  The Dr did the job and I don't regret buying it, it did get interrupted when mowing thick grassy growth like a lawn mower, something more horsepower may have helped and been nice to have.  Once the land is being grazed I suspect this will no longer be an issue.
It is doable to use this to mow an acre on the weekend, and if grazed should be useful keeping undesirable vegetation in check.
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Eric Hanson
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Carson,

Your pasture looks beautiful!  Congratulations on deciding on your DR mower.  I hope it works out for you, and from the sounds of things, it is doing the job you intended.  I would be willing to bet that once you get some animals on the ground you won’t have to do much mowing, but I understand that you sorta need to do some initial mowing and maintenance in order to get your pastures set up and fences put in place.

I love the pictures!

Eric
 
Carson Albright
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Thanks Eric!  It's been a long process, I was just looking at some pictures of the pasture a year ago and can't believe how much it's changed.  Here's the same area at roughly the same time last year
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Eric Hanson
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Carson,

Given the state of your land I see the need to mow.  You have a lot of woody vegetation on that land and I can really understand that you would want to mow it down before getting livestock on it.  I know that the first mow is a tough one and hopefully the animals will keep it mowed for you.

Good luck and I hope to see more pictures as you keep us updated.

Eric
 
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