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Landscape Tractor for swales

 
Posts: 282
Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
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I have an acreage that I want to install swales. I have been considering purchasing a used Case Contruction King (480D) with a bucket and a gannon blade. I have clay loam soil. My concern is will the gannon/box blade be sturdy enough to move the soil or do I really need something heavier like a Cat5 or Cat6? This is 103 acres, so we are talking miles of swales before it is all over.

The upside is I can get a good Case CK for less than $10k. I don't think I could even get a small dozer for twice that. Also I can use the bucket around the farm, where I don't think I will have use for a dozer once the swales are in. Thoughts? Anyone have experience with a gannon box blade for swales?
 
gardener
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Location: Central Texas zone 8a
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I'm not familiar with any of your terms, but....

If the box blade can be angled it should work. While I don't have miles of swales, I did mine with a 28hp tractor using the front bucket only
 
pollinator
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Location: Bothell, WA - USA
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That's a good tool for the job, even with pretty hard or rocky soils. You have a good tilt on the box and probably some short ripper teeth if you need them.
It might take a few passes to get what you want. If it's close to what you want, I would recommend making the lesser sloping side of your swale the width of the bucket..
The Case CK is a far more versatile tool than a dozer -- it will probably earn it's place long after the swales are laid..
 
steward
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I prefer a plain old adjustable scraper for making ditches/swales... The Gannon box scrapers that I have seen don't have any provision to adjust the angles of the blade. They are more for leveling ground that is already close to level.

My plain old adjustable scraper blade has three adjustments. You can swing the whole blade left/right in relation to the tractor. You can adjust the tilt of the blade, in other words, the height can be much higher on one side than the other. (The Gannon box, and many modern scraper blades don't have this capability, which I think is critical for building swales.) And you can adjust what I'll call the bite or drag... In other words, how easily the blade sheds dirt. In other words, one side of the blade can be much more forward than the other.


 
Jack Edmondson
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Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
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Thank you all for the replies. I have spent the last 2 days on the property. The scope of the change is daunting, but I am getting a better feel for what needs to be done. I will be doing some more research on the specifics of the tools, as I shop for specific equipment. Wish me luck.
 
Author
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Location: South Carolina
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I agree with Joseph, the adjustable rear blade is better than a box scraper and a tractor is ultimately more useful farm tool than a dozer. The box scraper holds the soil and makes it difficult to evenly distribute to form the downhill berm. You'll need rippers with the rear blade or a chisel plow, disc harrow or tiller to loosen the soil first to make it more effective.

Another alternative is to use a disc harrow. Remove all the blades except for one gang facing a single direction and it will then loosen and side cast soil. Travel so the soil is thrown downhill and it will form a berm in a few passes. The disc harrow can then be reassembled and used for tillage operations so it becomes more useful if you don't need a rear blade later on. Whatever you do make all slope angles shallow and the base wide so you can use the tractor to maintain them later by mowing or cleaning out the base.
 
Posts: 292
Location: SW Missouri
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You might consider just hiring the work out. I would never try that kind of acerage with a tractor....its just silly.

A dozer and a man who knows how to run the dozer will be a life saver.

You'll put so much wear and tear on a tractor not to mention 20 times the hours.
 
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Location: North-Central Idaho, 4100 ft elev., 24 in precip
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If you're looking to get all of your swales done at once then Eric is right on with getting the work hired out.  If you plan on doing incremental work overtime, making small changes, observing the results, then moving on from there then get the tractor.  I've had pretty good success making swales with a 2-bottom plow.  It really works to make the swale and berm quickly....a lot more effective than my gannon box.  The box scraper should be plenty sturdy enough to move the dirt around, but you'll be left with quite a bit of hand/bucket work to get things tuned up.
 
master pollinator
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As others have said, hire it out or buy a bulldozer. Another great idea is just to rent one.

I am a bulldozer kind of guy and have my own so I am biased, but I could not farm without one. I have a bit more than 100 acres, but its tractive effort is 19000 pounds and sips diesel with its 43 hp engine. My Kubota, sips even less, but its tractive effort is only 2700 pounds with its 27 hp engine. There is no comparison between the two, but work well together. The tractor is fast and nimble, where as the dozer is slow and power. The difference really though is in how they are designed.

A tractor pulls...

A bulldozer pushes...

In swale building, a bulldozer with a six way blade is a dream. The sizes you listed are pretty big and not really required. A D-4 Cat or John Deere 450 are plenty big enough. You need the big ones for stump pushing which requires weight to literally hold the tracks to the ground. With swale building, a smaller dozer is fine. In fact they are often better because they have a 6 way blade. It is incredibly useful, BUT weaker then a 4 way blade. That is why on the bigger machines they only have 4 ways. You NEED a 6 way!

I built swales in a 40 acre field this summer, doing about 1/2 a mile in 4 hours with a small John Deere 6 way dozer. I use the bigger dozer for the land clearing I do, which as I said, takes 180 hp and far more weight.

I doubt you won't find further uses for the machine, but if you don't, sell it and you'll be further ahead. Just be sure to check the dozer well before you buy it as they are maintenance heavy. There is no such thing as a cheap crawler; you'll pay up front, or in undercarriage parts. But a good used smaller sized dozer in really good shape should only set you back $15,000-10,000 dollars. They are worth every penny of it.

 
Eric Hammond
Posts: 292
Location: SW Missouri
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I have been looking everyday at craigslist for track loaders/crawler loaders. Its just so silly that if I want to take a pile of dirt from over there to a place 20 feet, its such a monumental challenge and virtually impossible. However a track machine can literally do it in a minute.  And it seems in permaculture I'm always wanting to try this and then try that....changing my mind constantly.   I built 100 feet of swale with a little smooth bucket skid steer with tires and it was rediculous. Took two days. I could have done a better job with my tractor.

I think for even a 5 acre property it might be a good investment to have a track machine.  But then if you ever want to move it you need a big truck and a big trailer
 
Travis Johnson
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Yes, transportation of equipment is an issue, but a good 1 ton truck with a gooseneck trailer can move them around easily though.

I had a tracked loader myself and liked it, though I sold it soon after I bought it due to some stuck valves. They would be sweet with a multipurpose bucket (blade, bucket, clam shell), but because their grousers are triple bar style; required for frequent turns and work on hard surfaces, they load up with snow since they are so short and are useless. In Maine they are modified with a home made snow type grouser, but its more work then single bar grousers like bulldozers have which are pretty tall and get more traction.

Around here you can find them anywhere. I considered a few back in Feb when I was looking for another bulldozer and could find several in the $3500-$6000 dollar range, but eventually went with a 6 way bladed bulldozer for $10,000. It was more money but had brand new tracks and the thought of not having to pound pins sounded good to me. Unfortunately I still did when I busted both my idlers! Drat!!

The good thing about dozers is that they are simple machines. With just a basic wrench set you can tear the entire thing apart and put it back together, and their components, while rather heavy, are simple in design. I like that.

The interesting part is, I bought mine primarily for logging prior to bulldozing the stumps with a much bigger bulldozer. What I found however is that I actually use it very little. Its primary use is to make logging trails for my farm tractor, that machine sips diesel fuel and gets out just as much wood per day. But instead of fighting my way through limbs and brush, pounding my tractor over stumps, cradle-knolls, and rocks; I push that stuff out of the way in only a few minutes time and get far more work done without beating myself up. I even used it to build a nice access road to a hardwood stand that has never been harvested. You can tell that by the red soil which is iron in the soil rusting from where it is finally being disturbed. They say the settlers here were amazed when they came from England where grass grew a measly 2 feet tall to New England where it grew over a mans head. It will be interesting to see what this virgin soil does once it is cleared and put into farm production. The reason it was never harvested however was because it was difficult to get to, but with my bulldozer I was able to build  1/2 mile road into it that you can drive a car down. Yeah I love bulldozers.

 
Watchya got in that poodle gun? Anything for me? Or this tiny ad?
dry stack retaining wall
https://permies.com/t/85178/dry-stack-retaining-wall
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