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What to get for a tractor? (40 acres)

 
Posts: 489
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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I thought I had a lead on a tractor larger than I needed.  But the person with the tractor has memory problems (including Parkinson's), and it seems unlikely that he will sell the tractor.  It was Cech (Zetor) of unknown age (strong 3pt hitch, 4 wheel assist) and about 140hp.  More hp than I think I need, but it has a mechanical fuel system and could probably handle biodiesel (not diluted).

I want to make a bunch of swales this year.  I am thinking a 2 bottom, 3 point hitch plow is probably the fastest way to cut a swale (two passes).  I have a lot of tree seedlings coming, and while I can prep the sites with a mattock, a front end loader bucket might be a little faster.  But the thing that confuses everyone, I want to do keyline plowing.  And nobody here has any idea what hp is needed to pull a 1 bottom keyline plow.

The average slope of my farm is 7%.  I think the average slope in the upper half (which is where most of the keyline plowing would be done) is closer to 10%.

I will not buy a tractor encumbered with intellectual property issues (which pretty much rules out a bunch of John Deere's).  I would like to be able to run bio-diesel.  I am a good enough chemist to be able to make green-diesel (I have not looked at economic feasibility).

Any recommendations as to what to look for, or what to avoid?

With fruit trees in my plans, I think some kind of teleoperator is what I would get.  But most of my fruit trees are either old, or too young to produce fruit.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1429
Location: Victoria BC
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I have seen numbers from 10-30HP per tine req'd for a Yeomans plow.

The only one I've seen in person had two tines on it and if I recall right the operator suggested 25ish hp per tine minimum. This was for first pass on fairly heavy ground.

The closest thing I have to a Yeomans plow is a two tine subsoiler. I can bury them to full depth, l'd say 24"  in the ground and at least the bottom 12 of that is heavy clay.

I have a New Holland TN55, 50hp despite the name. MFWD, near new single ag tires, ballasted. I have had no issues with lack of power; I run out of traction first even with the diff locked. This generally only happens going uphill on wet grass/slick mud, and/or I have snagged something really beefy.

I think I will be able to manage a 3rd tine on this subsoiler but haven't found the steel or the time to make one yet. I figure a 50% increased resistance from the design of the Yeoman's plow seems like a reasonable SWAG.


As usual it will really come down to how wide a Yeomans  plow, or other implement, you want to pull. I recall Mark Shepard mentioning in his book using a single tine subsoiler. I think he ran it on a 30HP tractor..


I figure an ideal tractor is new and common enough in your country for good support/parts, has 4wd, but old enough to be simple. To me that says maybe 80s to early 90s. Go much older than this and 4x4 gets hard to find in my region, but OTOH my 1999 TN55 has way too much bullshit.

I like the 50-60hp size, but I do not hay. I run out of weight capacity, or traction.. never horsepower, so the 75hp TN75 in the same chassis would do nothing for me. I find there are a lot of things that my loader/tractor can just barely handle. A 40hp in a smaller chassis would have no chance.

I think something like an 80hp, at the bottom of the next size range, would be better for many of my needs, but not only was I unable to find one in a timely fashion, you have to remember how much more expensive the implements are to use it properly.

A 140HP tractor would need a massive brushhog costing thousands, for example, or you could use it to run a cheap 5ft like I do, using a bunch more fuel to accomplish the same thing...
 
Posts: 75
Location: Sweden
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I bought a tractor that just met my needs but I would rather have bought a used,bigger tractor than I need I think.My tractor wotk well but in the heaviest job it is full throttle and lowest gear and it takes hard on it.I have frontlader and the front axle dislike rhe big 800 kkilograms hey bales.I might have avoided exoensive costs with a bigger tractor.It is not cheap to repair the front axle for example.140 hp is good for an 40 acres farm.
 
Posts: 71
Location: Southside of Virginia
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The Ford 5600 series is a solid line of tractors. Good HP, simple operation, available parts.
 
gardener
Posts: 694
Location: Piedmont 7a
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I think I am with Rolf on this one - I have a 54 HP Kubota, I think the same one as Paul Wheaton, and it has been great. That said, I find myself wishing I had something bigger, maybe more like a 90 HP, so I could move the really big round bales without risking damage to the tractor (or myself) for that matter. Plus, I could do my own haying, move bigger ligs, etc...

At the end of the day tho, every piece of equipment chosen involves trade-offs between cost, complexity, maintenance, safety, etc.  I find myself thinking long and hard before adding another engine to pay for, maintain, store, repair, etc...
 
Gordon Haverland
Posts: 489
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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I have been a UN*X, Linux, Open Source, Creative Commons type person for a long time.  What John Deere and similar manufacturers are doing, will prevent me from buying anything new enough that I can't fix it (for IP reasons).

I don't think whatever tractor I get soon, is what I will keep forever.  Once the fruit and nut trees get older, I think a teleoperator makes a bunch more sense, and some of those have 3 point hitch and can pull implements.  I don't plan on working with big bales of hay, but who knows what might happen in a year or two.  Having a slightly bigger tractor seems to have a lot going for it, if you have to handle large bales of hay/straw.

It is nice to read that my guesses about sizing seem about right.  

For haying, I had bought an Austrian scythe and built a 12x16x34 square baler out of plywood and 2x4s.  I don't plan on making a lot of hay, but who knows.  

NPR had an article on Kernza (intermediate wheatgrass) today.  Some of what I read about kernza, said that it should be planted in wider rows than say wheat, but you need to till between rows to keep the wheatgrass from taking over all the ground.  I hadn't seen a permaculture response to that.  But, if in the future I was to set up to raise kernza on a plot, I could have a robot keep too much sprouting between rows at bay (possibly with acetic acid).

In another life, I used to sell parts for Ford 5600 tractors.  I'm glad nobody suggested an 8N.  

 
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