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Matching tractor needs to your land

 
pollinator
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Travis Johnson wrote:I do not fill my tires on any of my tractors either.

It does add weight to the tractor, but not really where it is needed. In fact I think fluid filled tires are one of those things that was once done, but now people see where it was kind of silly all along. That is because fluid filled tires goes against physics. To really counterbalance the weight of a front end loader, the weight should not be over the rear axle...it should be well beyond the rear axle. This is better accomplished by putting on a counterbalance on the 3 point hitch. It could be a concrete block, but I just use my winch, my snowblower, or anything heavy. That does so much more because the weight is exponentially increased the further out the weight is from the rear axle.

Another bad thing about fluid filled tires is, there is a lot of weight flopping around inside those tires. If you get the tractor stuck, and you start "rocking" the tractor to get it out, the weight sloshing back and forth can take out the ring gear in the rear end. I say that with WAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY too much experience. Ring gears are a pain to change out.

I use my tractor a lot in my gravel pit, and I say this with honesty, if I can get by without fluid filled tires, anyone can. I really use my loader a lot, and stand my tractor on its nose a lot trying to break out gravel that has been in place for some 9000 years.

Fluid filled tires also tend to rot out the rims of the tractor even if using tubes. They tend to leak a bit around the valve stems.

And fluid filled tires make changing them a real pain. You almost need a mechanical way (another tractor) to move the tire with that much weight in them.



Can't argue with any of that, but will say that there are a couple upsides to consider.

1: The added weight is as low as possible at all times. There is no other way to add weight so close to the ground. For sideways stability it's great.

2: Running a subsoiler or dragging a big log or similar, extra weight is good for traction, and the rear tires are just the right place for it.
 
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I have foam filled tires from the factory on my walk behind. Wheel weights are common on these models so it made sense. The foam adds about 50 lb to each tire, so still manageable in the unlikely event that I ever wanted to swap out. There’s a wide variety of different wheels, some designed for extreme hillsides or wet areas, turf tires and even tracks available. But in event no sloshing nor worry about the occasional nail.
 
gardener
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James,

I have to say that I think that a 2 wheel tractor can be a great piece of equipment for some.  I have some woodland I am trying to reclaim from vines, fallen brush and especially wild raspberries/blackberries and their wicked sharp thorns.

I used my subcompact tractor for the job, but at times I wanted something even smaller, more maneuverable and just as powerful.  For a time I was eyeing a 2 wheel tractor for this project.

Secondly, I love your decision to fill the tires with foam.  No more flats.  Ever!  And you get a bit extra weight and stability to boot.

Eric
 
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James Whitelaw wrote:I have foam filled tires from the factory on my walk behind. Wheel weights are common on these models so it made sense. The foam adds about 50 lb to each tire, so still manageable in the unlikely event that I ever wanted to swap out. There’s a wide variety of different wheels, some designed for extreme hillsides or wet areas, turf tires and even tracks available. But in event no sloshing nor worry about the occasional nail.



I have to tell you, I am in complete covetous sin in regards to wanting TRACKS for my BSC 2 Wheel tractor. I even went so far as to watch all 13 minutes of Joel of Earthway Tractor installing them. I would get the steel kind, but I can understand why people would want rubber.
 
Travis Johnson
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I think the biggest argument in tractors is:

Which is better, hydro transmissions or gear drive?

After that it is probably which tire is better, Ag Lug or Industrial Lug?

For me, both are pretty obvious, but just because of the way I use my tractor. Mechanical transmission with Ag tires.

I say that because I like how a mechanical gear transmission gets more horsepower to the PTO or the tires. There is just so little in the way. This is not the case with a slosh drive because they tend to rob the engine of a lot of torque and horsepower. This is especially important if you have a smaller tractor. But the main reason I like a mechanical transmission is because I will often run my tractor all day doing field work. Doing that the transmission does not heat up nearly as much.

The trade off of course is in loader work. There the hydro shines because you just step on one side or the other, and it goes forward or back, without trying to shift gears all the time. This is also really good for people who use the tractor who have not used a tractor much. It is pretty simple and easy to use.

As for longevity, I am not sure. A case could be made that with slosh drives, there would be no need to replace a clutch as they do not have one. I am not so sure that is a concern though because as hard as I have beat on my tractor, I did not replace the clutch until 2800 hours. Even then it was less than $300 to replace. That is a cost of 9 cents an hour so hardly worth recording, and who knows what kind of shape the slosh drive will be in at 2800 hours...or if a person could even work on it? So I do not see longevity for one, or the other, being better.

As for tires, again I cannot see a reason to have anything but ag lugs as the others get stuck pretty easy. They do claim wear is higher with ag tires, but my tractor is 20 years old and I am just reaching the point where I need new rear tires, That is almost 3000 hours, so I have got my $525 worth from them. I have gone through (2) sets of front tires, but again, considering the age of the tractor, that is not a huge cost. I have no idea on which is harder to change, or which get flats easier, ag tires I would say on the latter, but again it has not been a huge problem for me. I think I would get stuck more with Industrial Lug tires then I would in having flat tires from debris impacts.
 
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For the walk behind fans this looks possible



I'd convert this gearbox for the multiple mulcher attachments

https://www.vari.cz/en/product-catalogue/vari-modular-system/dsk-316/cc:20050/
 
pollinator
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Wow...awesome rebuild, Sam!  It's one of the few situations where all of that battery weight is a plus.  Are you going to post the specs on the motor and batteries on the YouTube site?  Thanks!
 
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All those reasons mentoined by Travis make me think that rear wheel weights are a good choice (not all tractor wheels have extra holes drilled for this though).

I also like the idea of something heavy hanging off the back. Last summer I was helping a buddy pull a severely broken down truck out of his barn with his tractor and he used a huge round bale of hay on the spear lol, it worked great!

Hmmm then I went back and saw Mr. Whitefield has foam filled...now that would be great! I dismantled wrecks for an auto salvage yard for a couple years and all our heavy equipment had those...you should have seen the terrible looking condition of some of them tires but they would still keep on working just fine!

As far as flats go - I was reading somewhere that when brushhogging an area that has been let go for a few years, mow it at least a foot high or higher. Then let it go for another 6 months or maybe longer before mowing again. The idea is that all the medium stuff being cut too short makes spikes that will puncture a tire when running back over. Cutting it high allows the tires to "push" them over instead, and letting some time go between will help to rot them before attempting to cut down again. Once established cut low as desired or just cut it high every few years.

I can't remember where I found that info, but it was recently as I'm researching a lot about proper techniques to operating equipment. Sounds legit to me??
 
D Nikolls
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Ty Greene wrote:All those reasons mentoined by Travis make me think that rear wheel weights are a good choice (not all tractor wheels have extra holes drilled for this though).

I also like the idea of something heavy hanging off the back. Last summer I was helping a buddy pull a severely broken down truck out of his barn with his tractor and he used a huge round bale of hay on the spear lol, it worked great!



A heavy load on the front end can help sometimes, but in field conditions often not so much as the narrow front tires will dig in excessively..


Rear wheel weights have the great advantage of being removable; the ballasted tires have the advantage of the weight being lower, and not carried by the axle.

For my TN55, ballasting the 14.9-28 rear tires with beet juice would add about 607lbs per tire. A hair more, using corrosive calcium chloride..

That is a lot of wheel weights, and fair bit of weight kept lower and off the axle!
 
Travis Johnson
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The problem with wheel weights of liquid ballast though is that the weight is not really doing any good. The weight is over the rear wheel of the tractor, and it needs to be out BEYOND the tear axle of the tractor.

You have to look at it like a teeter-totter. If you have a big kid on one end of the tractor (what would be a fully loaded front bucket), then having another kid sitting in the middle of the teeter-todder where the playground equipment pivots is not going to do much. On a front end loader of a tractor, it attaches at the midpoint of the machine, and the rear wheels is only a few feet back from that point. All the extra weight in the world is not really going to improve things adding weight here.

To have fun with a teeter-todder, you have to have another kid on the outer end of the opposite end to counteract that first kid. That is why putting a 3 point hitch attachment on, one that is heavy itself, or a concrete block counterweight, does so much more than wheel weights or liquid ballast. It is physics...and the weight is exponential as you get the weight further out. In short, a 300 pound implement, hanging a few feet beyond the rear axle is going to counteract the load of the bucket the same as 600 pounds of wheel weights. A 600 pound implement hanging off the back is going to be twice as effective as wheel weights. And a 900 pound implement is going to be four times as effective.

Or you can go with a lighter weight, but have it much farther out from the rear axle. In that case, a 300 pound implement hanging 6 feet off the back is going to be just as good as a 600 a pound implement that is only hanging 3 feet off the back.

What makes the tractor feel flippy with a fully loaded bucket is weight transfer, and so it will take weight transfer to counteract it. If you look at the tetter-todder example, even the fattest kid on the playground, just sitting on the midway point of the tetter-todder is not going to counteract even the smallest kid sitting on the outer end. What has to happen is, the fat kid has to keep sliding back until the weight transfer through leverage is equaled. That will mean the fat kid is about halfway down their end of the tetter-todder, and the small kid is all the way on their end of the tetter-todder.
 
Travis Johnson
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Wheel weights and liquid ballast does add traction in pulling situations, but even that is a fine line. The more weight that is added, the more work the tractor can do, but it also increases the chances of the machine breaking.

One of the things I like about my Kubota, and why I think it has lasted so long, and has not broken down much, is because of its light weight. When I go to pull or push on something that is too much, it simply breaks traction...it spins. If it was overly weighted down, it would eventually snap some parts driving it.

I do not feel I need wheel weights or liquid ballast because I got a couple of options. I can put the machine in four wheel drive, or I can use my positraction, or both together. To me, if these are not enough, I probably better think of a different way to accomplish the task. The chances of a little extra weight on the rear tires making the work possible, is pretty remote.
 
Travis Johnson
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The technical terms for tractors doing work is:

Tractive Effort
Drawbar Pull
Weight Transfer

Of these weight transfer is the most important. As a hard and fast rule, it is a 60%/40% weight transfer that is ideal. It also effects Tractive Effort and Drawbar Pull.

On a bucket loader, like a John Deere 744G or something, when empty, 60% of the weight is on the rear of the machine which houses the engine and such, and only 40% on the front. BUT when the tractor goes into a gravel bank, the engineers size the bucket capacity so that now the rear has only 40% of the weight, and 60% of the weight is carried up front. When the bucket was filled, that is the weight transfer that takes place.

It is the same on my skidder. When I go into the woods, 40% of the weight is on the back of my machine, but 60% is up front where the engine is. But when I hook onto a twitch of logs, the weight gets transferred to being 60% on the back, and only 40% on the front.

Most machines are set up that way. When the operator exceeds those limits, the front end starts coming off the ground, or the back end depending on if it is pulling, or doing loader work.

But the math is not straight forward. My tractor has a 1/3 cubic yard capacity, and gravel has a weight of 3000 pounds per cubic yard. Therefore the weight in my front bucket is around 1000 pounds. To get the tractor to be stable, I have to get an additional 1000 pounds rearward, but it has to be the same distance as the front. For the front, a person has to measure the distance from the front bucket to the front axle. They will need the same weight, the same distance back on the rear to have a stable machine. OR...if the length is shorter, then more weight to make up the difference.
 
Travis Johnson
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Two wheel tractors are a whole different animal.

Weight transfer for these tractors is dramatically different because the weight transfer is on a single pivot point...the wheels. Get it right and it is stable, but try to pull too much and the machine rears upwards. When a sulky or cart is added, thus making it a 2 axle machine, often the weight transfer to its wheels is not enough, and they spin a lot.

In terms of weight transfer, they are a bit of a challenge. It is not that they are bad machines, it is just that they have little room for weight transfer, it has to be 50/50 all the time.

But weight and breakage is not a problem with these machines. That is because their weight to horsepower ratio is so different. My BSC 2 wheel tractor has 13 HP and weighs 600 pounds, or 46 pounds per horsepower. My tractor on the other hand is 27 horsepower and weighs 3000 pounds, or 111 pounds per horsepower. That means a person can really weigh these 2 wheel tractors down with weight before they even come close to having the same weight to horsepower ratios as a four wheel tractor.

Weight, tracks, dual tires...all that is fine because a person cannot fuss much with weight transfer to get better traction...which of course is tractive effort. The only tool they have in their toolbox is to get more traction outright. And with all steel gears, and cast iron construction, that is what makes a 2 wheel tractor a real tractor, and not a glorified rototiller. They can take extra weight and extra traction without breaking.
 
Eric Hanson
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Everyone,

One of the reasons I like this thread and those similar is the very real set of compromises that need considering.

Many people here on Permies are essentially small landowners and while a tractor is incredibly helpful, they are not cheap investments.  Moreover, if you are anything like myself, I am always tempted for the larger tractor even when the smaller one would more than suffice.

But I love how we all make the compromise, or more accurately balance our desires with the practical needs for our land.

Eric
 
John Weiland
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Eric Hanson wrote:

Many people here on Permies are essentially small landowners and while a tractor is incredibly helpful, they are not cheap investments.  Moreover, if you are anything like myself, I am always tempted for the larger tractor even when the smaller one would more than suffice.



Yes....all of this will come down to personal needs and choices.  We have ~18 acres......but only a 50 X 100 ft plot is routinely used as a garden.  There is a fair amount of mowing to keep grassland open, but only one or twice a year.  This latter activity is really the only reason we have the bigger tractor since my wife was uncomfortable mowing with the small one which tilts and bounces more on the terrain.  So my own personal bias would be to sell the larger one (32 hp) if it came to that and to keep the smaller one (18 hp; both diesels).  The advantage of the small one for our lifestyle is that there are tight spaces into which to maneuver with the front loader for removing manure, etc.  For this same acreage, that bias might be different if the "tight space" issue was not present and more of the property was under cultivation.

But one additional consideration which certainly has come up before is with regard to 'investment'.  I remember now that my wife's 2002 Nissa Xterra 4X4 was purchased used in ~ 2011 for $7000.00.  Retail price of that vehicle new was over $20,000.00 in 2002.  By contrast my 2005 John Deere 4010 (18 hp) was purchased new with a front loader for $12,000.00 (and that, at 0% interest for 60 months....a financing deal which exists to this day if I'm not mistaken).  Quick perusal of current prices for that model-year, varying by hours and accompanying attachments, are around $8,000-9,000.00.  So the depreciation on equipment like this is much lower than for your average automobile and other important household items.  (The best example being the Ford 2N/8N/9N, used ones of which cost the same today as the did when selling for new in the 1940s and 1950s.)  For what it's worth, we've always purchased cars and trucks used, because the depreciation generally puts you into a good vehicle (with some research) for a reasonable price.  I have not regretted purchasing both tractors new....with the amount of work they do, their reliability, their "fit" for our lifestyle, the financing structure from the dealership, and the projected resale value, both have been worth the purchase for our needs.
 
Travis Johnson
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A tractor, new or even used, is well worth buying. Because of the shear amount of work that they do, they really cannot be beat.

My Log Trailer is even included in that. The first year we had it, we got a grant from the USDA to build a road across our land for $9000.

I had a contractor give me a price for hauling the gravel for the road, and he wanted $7000. It was a half mile haul out of my own gravel pit. Phooey with that! Katie and I deduced that we needed 350 cubic yards, but we can only haul (1) cubic yard at a time. We then figured out that if we hauled (10) loads per day, in 35 days we would have hauled the gravel for our road. We did just that and kept every dollar of that grant that we got.

That one job paid for 1/2 of the log trailer. Throwing in a few loads of wood, and within the first year that log trailer had paid for itself.

It is hard to pull the trigger on some of these purchases, but seldom do landowners regret doing so.

Close-Up-Dirt-Road.jpg
[Thumbnail for Close-Up-Dirt-Road.jpg]
Finished Roadway
 
pollinator
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John you make some really good points. I’m a big fan of economics because it gives you signals. I intend to use signals the opposite of most people as a contrarian investor. So if most people buy new cars and sell them after they have depreciated I buy used cars and drive them into the ground. My newest automobile was bought used in 2004. I have lost very little in depreciation.

My little tractor is a 2012 35 HP and has probably appreciated since it was the last year before the EPA regulation requiring DEF or reburn. I keep it up well.

Bigger tractors now are too expensive for me depreciation or not, but if I really NEEDED a big tractor I would buy one new. Since it is a luxury I bought a really old one that will do the occasional job and require a lot of maintenance per hour. So I don’t use it very many hours.

This has bit me in the occasion, the old skid steer is a pain to work on. But since it already depreciated I’m not out anything. Just a failed experiment.
 
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I'm going to add my rambling two cents. I have 26 acres of mostly Lodi silty clay loam. When I bought my farm I hacked at the overgrown fence lines with a variety of billhooks, hoes, machetes and a pushmower. It took me a year to clear 1000 ft of old barbed wire fence that was encrusted with all kinds of fun poison ivy and rose. My back still hurts.  I lugged the chopped up barbed wire pieces to a central location as my own draft animal. The work was demoralizingly slow but felt good on the soul. I wanted to key line my property and spent the entire first two years shopping for the right tractor while doing everything manually. The two years was crucial to figuring out what I needed. Not that I got it perfect but it helped me understand what my needs would be. I needed horsepower to key line with a plow (I wound up with a single bottom plow that works great for swales). I needed material handling to really get the work I wanted to do, done.  I needed to dig ponds for surge protection at the ends of my swales. I needed to maintain roads and create new ones. I needed to brush hog the property lines and the roads to maintain their access, additionally I needed to maintain any brush work I had succeeded at and go further on those old barbed wire lines.

I bought a 50hp 4x4 JD 4700 used as hell. It had 3000 hours on it when I bought it from a third tier dealer who had purchased it at auction from a Graveyard. It had been a gravedigger. The platform was factory mated with a backhoe and that is what sold me on it. I immediately sent it to the JD dealership to fix old hydraulic lines, and to get everything back into field ready condition. It cost me $20k used and I put another $2500 into it with repairs and a replacement tire.

Pros: Big enough to do almost everything I need, more so usually. I can put the backhoe on and haul as big a scoop of topsoil as I can grab in the front end loader without worry of toppling. I can mow with my backhoe and it looks like finish mowing, I can tiptoe around all of my obstacles and manicure my land decently. I can dig 8 ft down with my backhoe and grade decently with my front end loader.

Cons: My neighbors will hay my fields if I ask, but the tractor can't safely carry the roundtables, they're huge and it just isn't safe. It can lift them but I'm not comfortable. I occasionally regret not going with the larger platform JD that has the same size wheels front and back, they're more competent in the field.  The backhoe option meant that the tractor didn't come with a 3pt hitch setup, this was a much bigger problem than I dismissed it as being when I bought it! 20 year old parts matching isn't straightforward and is damn expensive.  Being old, my tractors joints are all loose. I didn't realize it but every front end loader and backhoe joint wiggles and sways in an unproductive way. That being said, I save 20k off new.

Some thoughts for those contemplating buying a tractor. I wish I had a BCS also. I have a high tunnel and this tractor is not appropriate for it. I mow with my zero turn now that I've tamed the land with my 4700. I would not want to be without the ability to jump in and go dig a hole, or scoop up something, or grab a telephone pole out of the ground, this capacity has helped me turn motivation into action.  $25000 is a ton of money. I took out a 4 year loan to buy it. I was able to pay it off early but it was $400 a month and that was not easy on top of everything else. $25000 would have gotten me 1/6th of the way to paying off my farm. This was a serious tradeoff in time for debt. My tractor could be slightly bigger. I thought I was buying too large, I wasn't. I could easily go back and decide to buy the same HP but larger platform JD, the functionality would have paid off and the prices were similar, I was just intimidated.

Hope some of this helps someone.
 
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I got a Kubota MX5100 (51HP) to take care of our 22 acres.

The most important criteria when making my decision was that the tractor be fully mechanical.  If something breaks, I can work out what's wrong and fix it.  In an electronic tractor if some random 5¢ diode goes, your tractor is an expensive doorstop until some specialist with a magical diagnostics box comes out to isolate the $x00 or $x000 module that needs to be replaced, and replaces it.  Most competent folks can troubleshoot and fix mechanical problems.  The same cannot be said of electronic problems.

Our property is not a farm and we don't have large areas that need the usual types of attention (tilling, seeding, spraying, harvesting, etc.) that farmers need to give their fields.  The chosen tractor, therefore, needed to be an all-rounder.  Not so small/light that it couldn't pull a 6–700kg round bale or pallet off the back of a truck, but at the same time not so large that it can't manoeuvre between trees, or so heavy that it ruts up the yard.  The MX series is the cross-over range in Kubota's line-up between "proper" farm utility tractors and compact tractors, so was a good fit for our needs.

Speaking of rutting up the yard...  Put R1 Agricultural tyres on your tractor and you can pretty-much kiss your lawn goodbye.  The tread is so aggressive that lawn doesn't stand a chance under most conditions.  The R4 Industrial tyres don't have as aggressive a tread pattern, and have stronger side-walls, so whilst they don't provide as good traction (especially on clay), they do last longer, are more puncture-resistant (handy for those of us with woodlots), are more stable when doing loader work, and don't outright destroy your lawn.  R4 Industrials are the "all-rounder" tyre.

All that said and done, through, a tractor is just a mobile power plant.  It's what you connect to it that makes it useful.

On the back end you want a PTO and a proper Category 1 (or 2) three-point hitch.  Cat 1 opens up a world of possibilities.  Be wary of sub-compacts with Category 0 or 'limited' Category 1 hitches.  Category 2 is a luxury that comes in really handy if you need to hitch bigger/heavier implements (or other loads).

Hanging a counterweight off the three-point is the best way to reduce the load on the front axle that you will experience doing loader work.  It is about the only time that the placement of the mass matters.  When doing anything else what you want is more traction, and wheel-weights or ballast work absolutely fine for that (as well as freeing up the three-point for something else).  Unless you are in a place that experiences severe/prolonged frosts, put standard tap water in your tyres and the rims will be fine for a quarter-century or so.  You won't care about bleeding/empting them because the water only costs a buck or two, instead of a few hundred bucks as is the case with more exotic fluids (e.g. CaCl, beet juice).  The rear axle of a tractor is incredibly strong — you're not going to wear it down or break it by adding weight there.

Disclaimer:  Weighing down the rear wheels can give you a surprising amount of extra traction.  In the vast majority of cases this is a "good thing" in the same way that a sharp knife is a "good thing".  In certain edge cases, however, things can get 'exciting'.  If you don't mind a bit of 'excitement' in your life, go right ahead.  ;)

It should go without saying that any time you add anything to increase the weight of a tractor, the amount of rutting you will cause increases.  Shifting into 2WD and driving straight as an arrow can only help so much.

On the front end you should have a loader with a universal skid-steer quick-attach (SSQA) system.  Well, it's "universal" in that everyone in the universe — except for John Deere — uses it.  Buy into the JD ecosystem, however, and you're stuck with a much more limited range of proprietary (and nearly always more expensive) loader attachments... forever.

With a SSQA the world is your oyster as far as what you connect to it, and connecting stuff is a breeze.  Buckets, 4-in-1s, grapples, forks, you name it.

Based on the thousands of buckets of soil that I've excavated from the pond area so far, 4-in-1 buckets are fine as long as you're digging mainly sand (or slightly gravely/clayey sand).  The going gets tough when encountering cemented gravel or heavy clay.  A dedicated bucket with a tooth bar would help in the former case, an excavator in the latter.  I have a 500kg counterweight and it's not enough — the MX5100 breaks traction on a regular basis.  Most of Kubota's tractors (probably all modern tractors) are in the same boat:  They have a very high power-to-weight ratio.  You really need mass on the back end to harness it all.

4WD is mandatory for any serious loader work, and highly recommended otherwise.  Unless you're doing field work (which includes mowing) all day long, 2WD just won't cut it.

A hydrostatic transmission is pretty-much mandatory for loader work, optional for most everything else, undesirable for field work, but really easy to learn and use.

Then there's the backhoe question.  Over the next few weeks I'll be laying a few hundred metres of fibre-optic cable and 50mm water line for irrigation and bushfire defence.  I predict that will constitute about a third to a half of all of the "trenching" that I'll ever need to do on this property.  It will cost me ~AU$200 to hire the trencher for a weekend and get it all done.  A new backhoe costs ~$12,000.  One should really think long and hard before buying a backhoe.  You can rent an awful lot of specialised equipment (e.g. trencher, excavator) for the same amount of money.

Finally, and perhaps more philosophically, one should remember that a tractor was designed from the outset to PULL things behind.  It was not designed to PUSH or LIFT things in front.  If you think that most/all of your work will be done in front of you, then perhaps a tractor isn't the right tool for the job?  Excavators and Skidsteers are both remarkably capable and versatile machines that let you focus forwards.  Food for thought.
 
Ty Greene
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This weekend did a lot of work, again,  because I have not a tractor lol

The wife and I used pitchforks and hand loaded my 16ft trailer with conifer wood chips, then hand un-loaded them along an area I plan to eventually get berries growing.

All in all about 3.5 hrs worth of work for both of us, when I could have got it done by myself in about 20 minutes with a tractor/loader.

So While I was at the farm I decided to try and get an idea of the slopes...

I used a torpedo level along the bottom of a speed square (all I had and could think of) and placed the pivot point at eye level low on the slope, when looking at it from the side - then just read the degree angle on the other side.

Seems pretty legit to me, but I don't know for sure?

Anyhow - according to my readings I'm averaging 17.5* with a mix of 15*-21* throughout most of the cleared land.

That's around a 30% slope, mix of them facing west, east, and mostly south.

I noticed for sale, tractor "tilt" gauges and 25* is maxed on them, with 17*-20* being in the red.

...Walking around on the land it seems do-able on a tractor to me but maybe I should rent one first and see how it feels before buying one??
 
Travis Johnson
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I am not sure if this helps or not Ty...but I mow the ides of the road in the summer. Anything steeper than a 4 to 1 slope, generally requires guard rails. So if you see a steep ditch, and there are no guard rails, it is a 4 to 1 slope, or less.

The "pucker factor" on mowing the sides of the road can get pretty high sometimes, but by design, they are able to be managed with a tractor.

I am not sure if you can gauge your slopes by that, but if they are steeper or less steep than a road ditch, you can get an idea if it is able to be worked with a  tractor. Generally 18 degrees is about all you would want with a tractor. Either way, you will want four wheel drive...not for traction, but for braking. Having the weight on the front wheels, and then having those wheels dynamic brake through the running gear, makes a HUHE< HUGE< HUGE difference on stopping on slopes.
 
David Miller
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I have a lot of slopes too, and I don't go there on my tractor. The pucker factor is a great way to phrase it, and my tolerance is low!!  I have the geared option and though I wanted the hydrostatic, I think geared was a better option for the amount of soil work I do. That said, I have a power reverser that makes loader work far easier than it would be. Also, as mentioned by many others, 4x4 is mandatory!
 
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I bought a 18.5 hp Satoh Buck compact tractor in WV in 2007. It has a front loader and 3-speed PTO.

I paid $2200 for it, but it needed work and I've spent $4000 having the electrical rebuilt, the 4-wh-drive lever fixed, clutch replaced, and so on.

It does a lot of work, runs a mower, tiller and other implements, but it is small and not infrequently overheats.

Previously I had a Kubota of similar type which was also good.

You can only use the smallest implements with this, Type 0 or 1 hitch size, and using the tiller I nearly always overheat after a bit.

Still, such tractors, apparently created in Japan for use in rice paddies and as part of foreign aid packages, are relatively cheap, relatively durable, and simple (though also more dangerous, lacking what are now standard safety features on JD, etc.).

I like this Satoh, though right now I have to take it to the shop to replace the head gasket which is leaking... this tractor was made in the 1970's.
 
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We use a twin-wheeled BCS 740 walk-behind diesel, on 20 acres to make hay, dig swales and ditches, plough, chip wood, mow, grade, and move tools and stuff around the site on a trailer.  This is all great but my favourite bit is the 0.13 gals p/h
 
pollinator
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I have to ask, if the primary purpose of a very expensive piece of equipment is to mow, why not get some grazers and electric fencing and let them do the work? Seems like the maintenance costs of the tractor alone would be greater than the fencing and even feeding of an LGD or paying a herder. I have used both tractors and excavators to do earthworks, and for most projects that I would associate with permaculture I’d say a rented excavator is more efficient and cost effective. Of course a neighbor helping with their tractor is an offer you can’t refuse, but I do start to wonder how many zeros are on y’alls budgets for heavy equipment and How that effects financial flexibility.
 
Eric Hanson
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Tim,

Just a brief word on SSQA vs JSQA.

Actually, the JDQA was the original variant.  It is extremely easy to use, and for some of the small to mid-sized tractors, there are a lot of loader attachments that come with JDQA at no extra cost.

Increasingly, even the JD tractors are coming with SSQA standard loaders, especially for the larger Utility tractors in the 4 series and larger.

Eric
 
Travis Johnson
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Ben Zumeta wrote:I have to ask, if the primary purpose of a very expensive piece of equipment is to mow, why not get some grazers and electric fencing and let them do the work? Seems like the maintenance costs of the tractor alone would be greater than the fencing and even feeding of an LGD or paying a herder. I have used both tractors and excavators to do earthworks, and for most projects that I would associate with permaculture I’d say a rented excavator is more efficient and cost effective. Of course a neighbor helping with their tractor is an offer you can’t refuse, but I do start to wonder how many zeros are on y’alls budgets for heavy equipment and How that effects financial flexibility.



It is pretty hard to get perfect grazers. Inevitably they will leave some of the grass and weeds that they do not like behind. Most of the time weeds are late in going to seed over that of grasses, so it is nice to go out and "clip" pastures which kills the weeds before they go to seed. Doing this really improves the field because it is both Chop and Drop, and Rotational Grazing. Within a few years of clipping pastures at the right time, you will get really thick stands of sward.

The maintenance on a tractor is not that bad. As I said, I put a clutch in mine for $300 in the 20 years I have had it. A few front tires, and some odds and end mechanical work. Its been under $1000 in maintenance costs in 20 years; or the equivalent of buying about 5 sheep at todays prices. It will take well more than 5 sheep to mob graze any pasture! I bought mine in 1999 for $14,200, and it is worth about $9,000 today. So in twenty years it has a total cost of about $6,200. It also has just shy of 3000 hours on it, so it has an average cost of around $2.00 per hour. To me, my time is worth more than $2.00 per hour.

As for my BSC, I bought it used for $500.
 
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I learned to plow on a TO-30 (1951-1954) at ten years old. It pulled disk harrow, tiller-disk style, two horse mower, planter, cultvators.
You can work 50 acres with this small tractor, but if you want a backhoe & frontend loader to build a pond or cellar, then you need a bigger tractor.
So it not the land, it is what you want to do with the land to size the tractor.
 
Tim Bermaw
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Eric Hanson wrote:Increasingly, even the JD tractors are coming with SSQA standard loaders, especially for the larger Utility tractors in the 4 series and larger.


That's good news.  It was inevitable that JD would eventually have to abandon their proprietary system.  The faster the change filters down to the smaller tractors the better.  :)
 
Eric Hanson
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Tim,

I agree with you that having a single connection type is the best way to go.

Actually what I was trying to say was that the original standard.  The SSQA was the up and commer that eventually became increasingly standardized.  It was not all that long ago (10 years?) that Kubota had its own connection system as wry.  Kubota went SSQA motivated equally by the desire for standardization and the fact that their connection system was not especially quick or easy.

The JD system was the original quick attach system and honestly, it works pretty well.  For the smaller tractors, changing buckets on loaders just is not much of an issue.  Most small tractor owners only use one bucket.  Maybe they have a grapple and most of those manufacturers will put on a JDQA for no extra charge.  

Maybe at some point in the future there will only be one type of QA, and at this point it looks like that will be SSQA.  But at the moment, I don’t think that the JDQA is a great impediment to tractor owners.

Eric
 
D Nikolls
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Eric Hanson wrote:Tim,

I agree with you that having a single connection type is the best way to go.

Actually what I was trying to say was that the original standard.  The SSQA was the up and commer that eventually became increasingly standardized.  It was not all that long ago (10 years?) that Kubota had its own connection system as wry.  Kubota went SSQA motivated equally by the desire for standardization and the fact that their connection system was not especially quick or easy.

The JD system was the original quick attach system and honestly, it works pretty well.  For the smaller tractors, changing buckets on loaders just is not much of an issue.  Most small tractor owners only use one bucket.  Maybe they have a grapple and most of those manufacturers will put on a JDQA for no extra charge.  

Maybe at some point in the future there will only be one type of QA, and at this point it looks like that will be SSQA.  But at the moment, I don’t think that the JDQA is a great impediment to tractor owners.

Eric



I have a fair bit of seat time on my friends JD 5055E, with a JDQA. He has forks, bucket, and a bale grapple.

My TN55 is a new holland, similar size and vintage. SSQA; I have a bucket, forks, and grapple-bucket.

I think the skid steer design is a bit faster. But, it seems to me the JD might last a bit longer. Mine needs a 4lb persuader on one side, much of the time..

As you say, there is really not a big difference once you have used either a few times...

But, third party and used implements are definitely easier to find for the SSQA. And, if I need my neighbours skeleton bucket, it will fit...
 
D Nikolls
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Ben Zumeta wrote:I have to ask, if the primary purpose of a very expensive piece of equipment is to mow, why not get some grazers and electric fencing and let them do the work? Seems like the maintenance costs of the tractor alone would be greater than the fencing and even feeding of an LGD or paying a herder. I have used both tractors and excavators to do earthworks, and for most projects that I would associate with permaculture I’d say a rented excavator is more efficient and cost effective. Of course a neighbor helping with their tractor is an offer you can’t refuse, but I do start to wonder how many zeros are on y’alls budgets for heavy equipment and How that effects financial flexibility.



For me, it is a roll of the dice. My tractor is middle aged bought at 3000 hours, the excavator came with almost 13k, god only knows what the 1971 dozer has on it.

I am gambling that my time plus this equipment can accomplish more than that xx,000 would buy contracted out. What breaks along the way, and how much I can fix myself, will be the main determinate of success by this metric plus the used equipment market!

Doing it this way, I am learning about my property as I go, and have a lot of flexibility about what I do, how much, when...

I do some brush mowing; only goats would have a prayer at eating the stuff I am mowing, and LGD would not be optional. I am confident given the dispersed nature of the stuff I mow that I am saving time and money doing it by tractor for now. Plus, I am not risking my fruit and nut saplings near goats without 2 layers of Really Good Fence.
 
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I have some *extremely* generous friends who have a Ford 3000 and a gas BCS, both with multiple implements, which they have let me borrow on multiple occasions for my single acre. The BCS totally rocks for working soil that's already been broken at least once, but two years ago I tried to turn a 50x50' piece of my hard clay yard into a garden, and my ground laughed, as did my friend. He brought his Ford and a chisel harrow to bear, and then I was able to make art with the two wheeler. This February I rented an excavator to repair my septic system, and before they picked it up I decided to go to town on my garden plot, so I double-dug it to 60"! We then tilled in five tons of composted horse manure, and I have to say that it turned out well. I personally can't justify the purchase of a full tractor, but I am looking for a reason! The BCS only started working when I strapped a milk crate full of garden rocks on the front as a counterweight. It needs no less than 100 lbs to maintain traction. If I could get one in hydrostatic with a nearby dealer, I'd be sold.
 
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http://elec-trak.org/

http://www.elec-trak.com/tractorbreakdown.jpg

These electric lawn/garden tractors were made in the early 70's. There are many still around, especially in the North-East U.S. Attachments included snow blowers, plows, snow blades, roto tillers, mower decks, fork lift, rotary inverters (true sine wave), welder, and much more.
I use mine to mow 3 acres using approximately 4.5-5 KWH to recharge the 6 6 volt GC2 (golf cart sized) batteries. These are heavy duty machines and I estimate the weight at around 900 lbs.
My only regret is that it does not have a manual locking differential.

 
Travis Johnson
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I really like the idea of electric tractors. It really is a place where battery weight can work to the advantage of the tractor designer. Not only is there just shear weight, but that weight can be placed exactly where it would work the best for weight transfer.

But there is another place that I feel electricity has a place on a tractor, and that is upon powering implements.

I design and build a lot of my own implements, and one thing I try and do to make that feasible is to get rid of gearing gearboxes, chains, pto-shafts, etc. The world is engineered for electric motors, so there are a ton of options. My tractor is too underpowered for this, but it does have a front PTO driveshaft. If I was to couple a 3 phase generator into the PTO shaft on the front, what a tractor that would be! Instead of running shafts and gears and chains to drive various components, there would just be wires going to directly attached electric motors. If that sounds crazy, consider just (1) pto shaft will cost $200, now add in $600 right angle gear boxes, chains, sprockets, etc.

Now I say 3 phase because a person can directly control three phase motors better so there would be no need for gear reductions. Not only would the cost be less to build implements, they would be better. No more being left with one speed for various parts of the implement. Nope, a farmer could have a control box on the tractor and on-the-fly increase or decrease every speed on the machine to best match field conditions. And not just that, the speed of each motorized part would be independent of the tractor rpm.

The only problem I have run into so far is the size. The smallest 3 phase PTO generator I can find is 31 KW which takes a pretty good sized tractor.

 
Travis Johnson
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The title of this topic is "Matching Tractor Needs to your Land", and I had this idea that was directly related to that.

I had my small bulldozer for awhile, and it was nice, but really hard to match its high tractive effort, with the implements that I had. The cost of maintain the tracks was pretty crazy too as it always seemed I was working on them. But with me transitioning to small grains or potatoes now, I was thinking maybe a bigger, better tractor might be a grader. It has wheels, but plenty of hydraulic power, and has attachment points on the front, mid-mount, and rear side. I think with 6 wheel drive, I could pull some fairly sizable implements across my fields.

But in the Spring and fall, I could pull double duty with it and grade the gravel roads for area towns, again, a rather lucrative job.

But wait, there is more, because as you know, I mow the sides of the road for area towns and it is pretty lucrative as well. If I mounted the boom mower onto the grader, not only would it be a stable platform in which to mount the mower, it would give me triple-duty out of the machine. The issue of course is powering the mower, but if I used a separate engine on the opposite side of the power for counterweight and power, I should have a pretty decent boom mower.

It is just a thought at this time, but a person can pick up graders really cheaply, I just wondered if this would give me a very versatile tractor?
 
James Whitelaw
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Patrick Poe wrote:I have some *extremely* generous friends who have a Ford 3000 and a gas BCS, both with multiple implements, which they have let me borrow on multiple occasions for my single acre. The BCS totally rocks for working soil that's already been broken at least once, but two years ago I tried to turn a 50x50' piece of my hard clay yard into a garden, and my ground laughed, as did my friend. He brought his Ford and a chisel harrow to bear, and then I was able to make art with the two wheeler. This February I rented an excavator to repair my septic system, and before they picked it up I decided to go to town on my garden plot, so I double-dug it to 60"! We then tilled in five tons of composted horse manure, and I have to say that it turned out well. I personally can't justify the purchase of a full tractor, but I am looking for a reason! The BCS only started working when I strapped a milk crate full of garden rocks on the front as a counterweight. It needs no less than 100 lbs to maintain traction. If I could get one in hydrostatic with a nearby dealer, I'd be sold.



Earth Tools in Kentucky, a great source for all things related to walk behind tractors, now has a spike tooth harrow by Aldo Biagioli from Italy that I am going to get. I’m will to bet your neighbors tractor if heavier and using the spike harrow could have done some damage (what model BCS does the neighbor have?). I’m interested in your experience with the specific attachments the neighbor has and which ones they use.

One possible side business we are thinking of related to our BCS would be providing a service creating garden beds in folks back yards, small jobs. Not a fan of putting tractors on or getting them off of trailers, from experience and having read many accounts of near or resulting deaths from loading 4 wheel tractors on trailers, but wouldn’t blink at running my 853 up on my trailer along with a couple of implements. A side business could justify some cool implements such as the Caravaggi hay chopper/blower that falls squarely into the “nice to have, much too expensive” category currently.

Someone mentioned proprietary aspects of modern tractors, and that is one of the things I like about the BCS tractors. Although not currently, BCS and Grillo cooperated on design for a number of years and although now competing, a lot attachments and implements are interchangeable and professional grade implements by companies who make larger implements for 4-wheel tractors. Earth tools maintains a somewhat neutral position on Grill vs BCS tractors (they sell both) and will criticize the BCS attachments when there is a better or less expensive options. I purchased mine from my local (awesome) dealer new, but am a big fan of Earth Tools and the many instructional videos they have made available. Currently we plan for the following implements for our market garden: Berta 34” Flail Mower, Berta rotary plow (still debating single vs dual), and a 36” R2 Rinaldi Gear-Driven Power Harrow.
 
James Whitelaw
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Richard Cleaver wrote:We use a twin-wheeled BCS 740 walk-behind diesel, on 20 acres to make hay, dig swales and ditches, plough, chip wood, mow, grade, and move tools and stuff around the site on a trailer.  This is all great but my favourite bit is the 0.13 gals p/h



This! One of the things I dislike about the idea of having a full size tractor is then I am dealing with full size fuel stuff. Go on the tractor forums and you see all sorts of strategies for moving or storing fuel, so not needing to keep a lot around is good for us. Ethanol free is available nearby. That and I finally found a fuel can that works reliably w/o spillage.
 
James Whitelaw
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Travis Johnson wrote:I really like the idea of electric tractors. It really is a place where battery weight can work to the advantage of the tractor designer. Not only is there just shear weight, but that weight can be placed exactly where it would work the best for weight transfer.

But there is another place that I feel electricity has a place on a tractor, and that is upon powering implements.

I design and build a lot of my own implements, and one thing I try and do to make that feasible is to get rid of gearing gearboxes, chains, pto-shafts, etc. The world is engineered for electric motors, so there are a ton of options. My tractor is too underpowered for this, but it does have a front PTO driveshaft. If I was to couple a 3 phase generator into the PTO shaft on the front, what a tractor that would be! Instead of running shafts and gears and chains to drive various components, there would just be wires going to directly attached electric motors. If that sounds crazy, consider just (1) pto shaft will cost $200, now add in $600 right angle gear boxes, chains, sprockets, etc.

Now I say 3 phase because a person can directly control three phase motors better so there would be no need for gear reductions. Not only would the cost be less to build implements, they would be better. No more being left with one speed for various parts of the implement. Nope, a farmer could have a control box on the tractor and on-the-fly increase or decrease every speed on the machine to best match field conditions. And not just that, the speed of each motorized part would be independent of the tractor rpm.

The only problem I have run into so far is the size. The smallest 3 phase PTO generator I can find is 31 KW which takes a pretty good sized tractor.



There is a PTO powered generator available for the walk behinds that would be awesome for using power tools in remote or difficult to access locations. Power rating: 5200 watt continuous / 6000 watt surge, 120 / 240 volts AC. Equipped with a 20 amp 120 volt duplex recepticle (two plugs) and a 30 amp L-14-30 120 or 240 volt 4-prong twist-lock recepticle, two circuit breakers and a volt-meter.
 
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