We recently bought some land to turn into our permie homestead and part of the closing included clearing the overgrown 2 acres for our future homesite. Now that spring has arrived we want to stay ahead of the brambles and brush starting to grow up. The property is about 2 hours from our current residence and we will be moving to it this year,but before then we were trying to figure out how to keep the area cleared for us to build. We will eventually get some goats but we can't have them in our current home and there isn't any infrastructure there. There is a bush hog attachment sitting in the woods (covered up) that we can use but no tractor to attach it to. We've been looking to see what is available to purchase but not sure if there is a particular brand that's better than others. Ideally we want to buy used so we're keeping an eye out on the market sites for one. Any suggestions?
A general rule of thumb for sizing a bush hog for a tractor is 5hp minimum per foot of cut. I have a 30hp tractor on loan from a neighbor that has a 5 foot bush hog on it, and when I get into thick growth, the engine is really working hard to keep the bush hog cutting. If I were in the market for a tractor, and I thought I needed say 50hp to do everything I want, I'd go up a size or two. I've browsed tractor threads here, and tractor forums on the internet, and read tractor articles in magazines, and they all contain a common story somewhere- tractor owners who wish they had bought a bigger tractor with more horsepower, and many of them trading in the one they bought for something more adequate to meet their needs. And if I may make two suggestions, consider 4wd and a loader on the tractor.
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As James mentioned, it’s relative aka it all depends on your specific factors. Each model of brush hog has a minimum HP rating and that would be a good starting point if you are trying to figure out which tractor to match to it (it’s always better if you exceed the minimum). Once you know the specs for your brush hog, you will have a better idea of which tractor may or may not work. I prefer an enclosed cab in case I run over some ground bees or I am near swarms of anything bitey, (but prefer and afford don’t always line up). A brush hog can save you days, weeks, sometimes months of hard work. They are also expensive to repair (keep that in mind if you consider dragging one over stumps) but like most heavy equipment (they are one of the few times where money can buy time so the cost is relative as well).
My 50hp tractor is overkill for my 5' brush hog 95% of the time, and almost enough the other 5%..
My gearing is the saving grace. I have a 16/16 shuttle shift, the lowest gear is insanely slow, and I use it for those rare times that the mower will bog me down otherwise.
My friend has a 50hp with a 9/3 transmission, his lowest gear is somewhere around my 3rd or 4th. There are times that this would mean a given patch of really nasty stuff cannot be mowed, or elae mowing it by moving the tractor in increments, stopping and starting...
I find there are an awful lot of times my tractor is just barely big enough, especially when it comes to loader work. I routinely move things thst a tractor one size down could not.
'Theoretically this level of creeping Orwellian dynamics should ramp up our awareness, but what happens instead is that each alert becomes less and less effective because we're incredibly stupid.' - Jerry Holkins
There is some very good information here, but I will add my 2 cents anyway.
Generally the 5hp/ft is a pretty good estimate. I used to own a very slightly updated version of the tractor John Dean mentioned above and it was plenty powerful to run a 4’ brush hog. Moreover, I found that the hardest vegetation for that brush hog to mow was actually lush, green grass. Brambles just disappeared effortlessly while mowing, so if you are mowing raspberries, blackberries or other similar woody canes, I think you will have plenty of power.
Given that you are talking about 2 acres, I would think that a small compact tractor/subcompact tractor will be just fine for mowing purposes (mine was 24 hp/18 PTO hp. Many fall into this category). For a 2 acre homestead, this might be all the tractor you ever need. However, if you think that you will need more tractor in the future there is some wisdom in not buying too small, but this is a decision only you can make. These small tractors will run a truly wide range of implements, especially as of recently.
I will also second the idea of getting a loader. By far the loader is the most used implement on my tractor.
Good Luck and I would love to hear what you come up with!
Bushog size is a function of how much time you want to spend bushogging. Buying a tractor to fit an existing bushog is not ideal, better to get the correct tractor for your use and then replace the bushog if needed.
If your land is not flat, the width to which you can spread out your rear tires is very important. Compact tractors (my first) are often very tippy (not good on slopes) as the tires were at less than 40" with no way to widen them. All it takes is not seeing one rock on the high side or one hole on the low side and you can feel it start to go. I resorted to driving around with my backhoe outriggers almost down, but obviously you can't bushog with a backhoe. My second tractor (full size) is set out over 90" at the rear tires. Should have bought a midsize or bigger initially...
On non flat land a loader needs 4x4. Otherwise you have no front brakes. 4x4 allows rear brakes to slow the front axle when engaged. Also if you pick up something heavy and don't have 4x4 engaged, and you start down a hill watch out! No fun when your back tires lock up but all the weight is on the front axle so you pick up speed... you don't quickly forget again.
I would pick a tractor based on frame size first, then determine what HP engine I want with that frame.
Intelligence is a must. Tractors are dumb. They will hurt you. You need the wisdom to do a job correctly and safely. Keep kids and onlookers away. A "safe" machine sized to the task helps. Hard to be safe with incorrect equipment, especially when tired and trying to finish.
Measure the distance from the outside of one back tire to the outside of the other back tire of any tractor you are considering buying. This distance should not be more than width of the brush hog. Otherwise you will inevitably leave lines of brush you think you mowed but did nt with each pass.
Ive been clearing some old fields with my tractor and brush hog here are some tips I learned through bitter experience.
1- Don't run RPM over 540 if you have woody material greater than 2 inches in diameter
2-Cut material over 2 inches with a saw , save your brushhog. Ask me how I know!
3-Mow, mow, mow and mow again. Goal is to starve the roots carbohydrate energy. Dont let them grow back!
The sun's a light bulb and the moon is a mirror-- Gord Downie
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