I just dropped the price of
the permaculture playing cards
for a wee bit.

 

 

uses include:
- infecting brains with permaculture
- convincing folks that you are not crazy
- gift giving obligations
- stocking stuffer
- gambling distraction
- an hour or two of reading
- find the needle
- find the 26 hidden names

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Justin Quay
Posts: 3
Location: Lexington, SC
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Hi everyone,
   I am looking for information on the tractor features I should look for when I purchase ours for the farm. We are going to be ally cropping about 5 acres and I want to get a tractor that will beat serve my purposes. I will be building swales, clearing underbrush, light logging, pulling a 3 tine subsoiler (keyline plow) and moving materials like mulch, compost, stone and fire wood. I would like to be able to tow a 1/4 ton trailer also.
I would like a tractor capable of using both a front end loader and a small backhoe in addition to three point PTO implements.
What horsepower, brands, models and other specs should I look at. Our soil is sandy and the land is flat.
Thanks for the help.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3363
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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That sounds like more than one tractor.
 
Deb Rebel
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I can say we own a Kubota BK2200 and it's too small for some of that. An L4400 maybe.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I think that pretty much anything between 25 and 55 HP with a front-end loader, a 3 point hitch, and a back PTO aught to work. Then choose implements to match the HP of the tractor and the task being done... I'm very partial to Jon Deere, and diesel engines. 
 
Drew Moffatt
Posts: 144
Location: New Zealand
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Have you read "You can farm" by Joel Salatin?

It's got some pretty useful information.
I've worked for numerous farmers who wish they had just gotten another 25 horsepower.
90HP goes a long way and gives you a lot more options when it comes to implement width or working width and lift capacity.
Kubotas are ok, you definitely get what you pay for.

 
Peter Kalokerinos
Posts: 95
Location: Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia
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Tractors in my opinion are a waste of money, especially on a small site like that. They're the jack of all trades, master of none.

We've been tossing around ideas for this and a track loader does most things a tractor will do and many things much, much better. Plus they do less damage given the lower impact track v big tire on a tractor.

They tow better, have a vastly superior loader and ergonomics, you can fit front hydraulic slashers, mulchers etc etc. It just doesn't have a PTO so implements are more expensive. But day to day, a small track loader will serve you much better in my opinion for what you've described.

We're getting a big ~5t 100hp track loader. But they're the same price new as the equivalent tractor and the smaller ones seem equally priced. The secondhand market for track loaders (at least in this country) are better because as you can sell it to construction, forestry, agriculture sectors.

But as I say, check the implement cost. But all that aside, a better more versatile machine in my opinion
 
Drew Moffatt
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I've never worked ground with a trackhoe before but I can imagine it's a chore. Sandy soil ought to be less prone to compaction issues and if it's just a small operation there will be less pressure to get going when the conditions are less than ideal. Compaction won't be an issue unless you drive on the beds anyway, wheelings/tramlines are the only place where wheels ought to be if you can help it.
 
Travis Johnson
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I take a little different approach to tractors than Andy in that I try to do more with less. Around here we call people "Kubota Farmers" because they buy way more tractor then what they really need. I have hundreds of acres and yet I have a 25 HP Kubota and it suits me just fine. Everything you describe my Kubota can do with relative ease and efficiency.

Take for instance a job I am doing right now, converting a 10 acre field from corn back into grass ground. It takes me a bit longer to plow it with my 25 hp tractor and a 2 bottom plow versus using a 185 hp tractor with a 7 bottom plow, but in the end the same tasks get done and the same field is turned into grass...just take a bit more time and fuel. Its the same with the loader...mine can only pick 1000 pounds or so, but a tractor twice its size cannot pick 2000 pounds, so a tractors size is not proportional to the work it can do. The same for logging, it is not about size or horsepower, its about traction and technique. You would not believe how my small Kubota can sneak between the trees to log, places big tractors just cannot go.

If you were looking to power a big round baler or other high demand PTO powered units it might be a different story. They key thing to remember is, a tractor only puts implements into motion and that is where the cost comes in. A farmer is far better off to spend less money on a smaller tractor and take what they save and buy more implements they can pull behind it, and thus accomplish more tasks, then buying a bigger tractor and having less attachments for it.

Today the waters get even more muddy because of environmental laws. Any diesel under 26 hp is exempt from stringent emissions laws, so to combat that, all tractor companies have begun to power their tractors with 26 hp engines. It is getting ridiculous. A sub-compact often has the same horsepower engine as a much larger framed tractor than what even mine is. In other words what used to have a 35 hp engine, now has a 26 hp engine just to skirt around the emissions laws. So just looking at a tractors size is misleading. Therefore getting a smaller tractor is going to net you just as much available work as a bigger framed, under-powered tractor. A farmer can skirt around that issue somewhat by going with a standard tranny instead of a slosh-drive, but I think you might benefit from a hydrostatic unit because you don't have many acres and are not going to be doing field work all day, which is taxing on slosh-driven tractors. (Hydro's really rob horsepower out of a tractor).

As for brands...I have a Kubota and it has held up well in 18 years/2500 hours with only a fan belt, battery and four wheel drive giving me grief. Kioti are almost identical and come off the same line as BobCat tractors. Mahindra look good, but I have never bought one, just be wary on off-brands as parts can be non-existent. My neighbor found this out when he bought a Beleraus a few years ago. He got it cheap, but broke a housing and only got 7 months of life out of it...an expensive tractor indeed.

Which leads me to John Deere. I have John Deere's and I love John Deere's, but I do not recommend buying them. Why? They have two major flaws. They are WAY over-engineered. Kubota and the like are simple, and thus easy to work on myself. John Deere are not. Period. Drop the mic. Over. The drop down spider gears of the 4 wheel drive are hydraulically pressed in with many seals and will cost $900 to rebuild. I rebuilt mine on my Kubota for $250; no press needed. This kind of leads to the second issue. Parts for John Deere are extremely expensive. I mean way out of proportion expensive. A shim, a piece of flat steel with 2 holes drilled in it was $90!! I was like, no way, and made it myself. They build good stuff don't get me wrong, but they overly build tractors and their parts are expensive.

The final point is this too. Don't be afraid of used. Their are many good tractors out there that are used, and tractors have long service lives...measured in decades not years. For only five acres, you really don't have to get a new tractor, a used one will serve you just as well. Even new tractors break down.
 
Peter Kalokerinos
Posts: 95
Location: Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia
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Andy Moffatt wrote:trackhoe


Not a trackhoe aka excavator. A track "loader" ie a bobcat on tracks
 
John Weiland
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Travis Johnson wrote:
Which leads me to John Deere. I have John Deere's and I love John Deere's, but I do not recommend buying them. Why? They have two major flaws. They are WAY over-engineered. Kubota and the like are simple, and thus easy to work on myself. John Deere are not. Period. Drop the mic. Over. The drop down spider gears of the 4 wheel drive are hydraulically pressed in with many seals and will cost $900 to rebuild. I rebuilt mine on my Kubota for $250; no press needed. This kind of leads to the second issue. Parts for John Deere are extremely expensive. I mean way out of proportion expensive. A shim, a piece of flat steel with 2 holes drilled in it was $90!! I was like, no way, and made it myself. They build good stuff don't get me wrong, but they overly build tractors and their parts are expensive.


Was waiting for Travis to weigh in first and will second this sentiment.  I have Deere 19 hp and a Kubota 32 hp (L3200)....both with front end loaders.  Both hydrostatic drives and front wheel assist.  The Deere (JD4010) is the go-to tractor for my wife....it's small, maneuverable, and gets into tight spaces for cleaning out animal stalls, hauling buckets, etc.  It also sports the snowblower for winter clearing.  The Kubo is the "mower"....brush and finishing....and the major hauler and puller.  I will say that I like the engineering the loader better on the Deere than on the Kubota....the Kubota's bucket is a bit farther out in front of the tractor than the Deere*, so is a bit more "tippy" under a load when no ballast is on the 3-point hitch.  That said, like Travis mentioned, Deere "sticks it to ya"....in repairs and parts.  Knocking on wood right now, mine has been free of repair and I try to keep it well maintained.  My dad has been less lucky and his JD4400 has cost him as much in repairs over the 20 year life of the tractor as the original purchase price of around $14K.  Almost all of that was electrical problems that prevented the unit from starting,...otherwise some hydraulic problems as well.  Nevertheless, the smart thing Deere did was to put Yanmar (Japanese) engines in their smaller tractors and those are nice, reliable little engines for sure....Yanmar America may still offer tractors here in the US (haven't checked lately), but I suspect they come with a pretty good price tag (these would NOT be grey market).

*Edit added with photo:  Note the distance from the loader bucket to the front wheels between the two units.
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Dan Grubbs
Posts: 551
Location: northwest Missouri, USA
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It wasn't long ago that I was on the hunt for a tractor. I studied brands and horsepower matched to my uses. I spoke with old timers and those who were a bit more modern. I watched Craigslist and eBay daily. I attended farm auctions and even came close to winning two tractors I bid on but they got out of my price range. I have a 1948 Ford 8N, a respectable little old tractor. But, I am not a mechanic and didn't grow up working on machines. My aptitudes are elsewhere. I needed a more reliable tractor that could handle 3-point equipment and a solid front-end loader. I was growing frustrated in my search for just the right used tractor when my wife finally chimed in. She spoke what I believe was good wisdom to me.  I was doing so many chores on our 15-acre homestead by hand that it was gonna age me faster than I already am (I'm 55). My wife said, "You know, with one injury from you doing the work by hand, we will spend more in medical bills than the cost of a new tractor." I'm a cheap guy, but this spoke to me. I finally decided to buy new. The warranty was important to me because I don't have the mechanic sills I'd like to have. I spoke to owners of all the major brands that had dealers in my area (Kubota, Mahindra, John Deere). It quickly became apparent that those who had loyalties that were rational (not emotional) were leaning orange, not red and not green. In our area for homesteads and small operations, the Kubota, especially the L-series, has become the tractor of choice for those looking for performance, value, and reliability. I ended up selecting the Kubota L2501 with hydrostatic transmission with matched loader and extended warranty and I couldn't be happier with my choice. I have about 23 hours on it since the middle of January and I don't have any complaints once I got used to the "feel" of using the FEL on different kinds of ground and on different slopes. There was a manufacturer's rebate allowance so I basically got a five-foot brush hog (rotary cutter) for nothing. When I reported my final price delivered to some of the people I had talked to they were shocked at how affordably I got my tractor. The comparable John Deere was about double in price. The only regret I have was not having the dealer put in the beet juice in the back tires. Beet juice, I understand, has better qualities than water or other liquids that can be used for weight in the tires.

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Deb Rebel
gardener
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We have two acres and bought a used (938 hours) Kubota BX2200 with box blade, mower deck and front end loader. We added a set of pihrana teeth to the edge of the loader bucket. It's a nice go to tractor but a bit small, we bought a separate towable excavator with three buckets. (to keep it weighted we often leave it hitched to the tow pickup). We wish the Kubota was a little bigger, to get some fluids for it we have to go to the nearest dealer (50 miles one way), but. We give it the hourly servicing that it needs and it is approaching 1300 hours and doing well. We have had to put some hydraulic hoses on it and a cylinder on it somewhere (don't ask it was about $300). Luckily the mister is a mechanic. It is hard to tip, if nothing else put the loader on it, the box blade on back, put some weight on that blade and if it gets tippy, lower the bucket. I refuse to admit to him I know how to drive it--any time you know how to operate some machinery or equipment or use a tool, it becomes WORK. Heh. Five years and loving our orange. That is why for what was listed for chores it would be expected to do, to go for the L4400 (a friend has one and it's a nice sized little orange.)  Used on a tractor depends on how it was built and how it was maintained. As a kid decades ago we ran a lot of John Deere B's (we had three of them) and as of the late 70's you could still buy parts off the shelf for ones back to 1934. The last generations of JD, they did all this electronic stuff to them and you have to literally have their mechanics work on them to reset the codes and software or they don't work. Forget that. At least Kubotas you can still work on.  (edit, fixed a spelling error)
 
Bryant RedHawk
garden master
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Justin Quay wrote:Hi everyone,
   I am looking for information on the tractor features I should look for when I purchase ours for the farm. We are going to be ally cropping about 5 acres and I want to get a tractor that will beat serve my purposes. I will be building swales, clearing underbrush, light logging, pulling a 3 tine subsoiler (keyline plow) and moving materials like mulch, compost, stone and fire wood. I would like to be able to tow a 1/4 ton trailer also.
I would like a tractor capable of using both a front end loader and a small backhoe in addition to three point PTO implements.
What horsepower, brands, models and other specs should I look at. Our soil is sandy and the land is flat.
Thanks for the help.


For building swales (FEL or BH), clearing underbrush (bushhog), Light logging (3 pt. lift arms or skidder) any tractor with 25 hp. and up will do nicely on all but the steepest terrain. For a 3 tine subsoiler you will need a bare minimum of 70 hp. to pull that implement with all three tines attached. A keyline plow will need 30 hp and up if you plan on using that to form your swales with.

Instances of oops should have bought bigger will happen most when you start wanting to rip up ground with that subsoiler, those take 30 hp. minimum for a single tine. Most farmers that use subsoilers with three to four tines will have a 90 hp.+ tractor so they don't bog down. 
Here is a handy reference guide for subsoiler hp. selection how much power for subsoilers

The best rule of thumb for choosing a tractor is to pick the hardest to pull implement you want or might need in the future and go at least one step above the requirements for that implement, that way you won't be grossly underpowered.
I have a friend that wanted to use a three tine subsoiler with his 50 hp. JD, the resistance on the pull broke his rear axels, the implement even had a sticker saying you needed 40 hp. per tine used. For a three tine that would equate to 120 hp. by MFG recommendation. Wow! that is fairly good sized tractor.
I also know farmers with 400 + hp., 2 tires per axel side tractors that use those to pull 4 tine subsoilers through their fields. They don't have any breakage or bog downs, but those are "serious" tractors they use, they also pull 16 foot wide harrows and so forth with those beast.

If you have a good tractor sales person, they are not going to try to oversell you on hp. they want you happy and they know what power is needed for most all if not all of the implements.
any tractor of 25 hp. and up can offer a backhoe that attaches to the 3 pt. and pto. If a tractor doesn't have a pto, it isn't built for farming, that is a "garden" tractor.

Brands that are good is a subjective usually; John Deere, Massey, Kubota, Mahindra, New Holland, International Harvester and Case are the "usual" brands seen on the big farms.

Redhawk

BTW, I have my eyes on either a Massey or Kubota 4WD in 40 hp. range for my hilly farm. I will be getting a FEL, BH and box blade to start with for implements.  I can't even think about a subsoiler because large rocks in my soil would require at least 200 hp. just to move through at one mph.
 
John Weiland
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Just adding the clip below....and this should NOT be taken as an exclusive endorsement of Kubota, but just to say that 60 month, 0% financing is what I used on mine.  Many of the major manufacturers are offering similar incentives on new equipment if this is the way you are inclined to go.  If nothing else, it can be used as you negotiate the price for the unit you finally settle on.
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Kyle Neath
pollinator
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I spent a good chunk of my last summer researching a general purpose tractor for my property, aiming for timber + road work + some earthworks + lifting heavy stuff. I spent a lot of time talking to a bunch of the geezers out in the hills here, and came away with a few pieces of advice:

  • Buy as big as you can afford
  • If you've got a local dealership, go for that brand (all tractors need maintenance & repairs)
  • 4WD will double the effective power of your tractor
  • If you have ANY hills, ROPS is mandatory


  • I'd also think a bit about moving it. How much can your truck pull? Will you be hiring someone to move the tractor when it needs to be moved? One of the reasons I ended up going for a bigger backhoe was that my truck isn't capable of towing anything other than a too-small tractor. Since I'll always be paying someone else to haul it, there was no need to focus on weight.
     
    Deb Rebel
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    Objective size: Kubota L4400 and the BK2200... a friend has the larger one, and I sort of put 5'5" myself in the shot. I do agree, if you think you're going to break ground, you're going to need a lot larger tractor than you think. The L4400 is a 45+ Hp tractor so should be able to drag a single tooth subsoiler. Our BK2200 isn't up to some things, though we have a friend with a larger tractor and we bribe him with air filters, diesel, fluids, and cash to come use his 55 hp blue thing to come till our big garden.

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    L4400 as it sits
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    Front of L4400 with 5'5" me against it
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    Without me in front of it
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    Business end of the L4400
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    Our BX2200
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    Me in front of the BX2200
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    Spouse, our tow behind Excavator and the BX2200
     
    Tj Jefferson
    pollinator
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    I cannot agree more with Bryant and Travis. You cannot do everything with a small tractor. Make a spreadsheet list of the tasks you want to do and list the required engine size along with it, then sort by engine size. Work your way down the list and see what you can live without. I decided based on my wish list and price point that I couldn't justify anything other than a small tractor. I will say the small Kubotas are almost the same price as the slightly larger ones, and the fuel efficiency difference is marginal. They are both very efficient.

    Subsoilers and plows take some serious HP, and you may be able to do some of the tasks with a smaller engine, but it will take you a very long time. A 30+ HP tractor can probably pull a single subsoiler in soft soil (depending on how deep you plane) but if you have compacted soil you are going to have to make an awful lot of passes. You may find it is more reasonable to just pay someone to bring in a monster and do it right, deep and fast.

    Travis is a big bulldozer fan because they have fantastic torque and a smaller engine is more efficient. If you are mostly doing subterranean work, that seems really smart, they have better frames for dragging. I have made swales with my 35HP and it can be done, but working on a hill is very dangerous. Lots of interesting stuff here. Also a general rule of thumb is a rotary cutter requires 5HP per foot of width at the PTO. A 26 HP tractor will put out ~19 at the PTO, meaning you are not going to have a full-width cut behind you, since you will have a 4' implement. I will say around here the standard is an middle age 30ish HP tractor with 26-28 HP at the PTO. Marginal for a 6' mower but will run most small-scale PTO implements like Woodmaxx chippers, backhoe attachments and the small seed drills. My neighbor has a 15YO Deere and it looks to me like a Yanmar engine (very similar to my Kubota). It is a very tough machine.
     
    Bryant RedHawk
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    I forgot to mention that in my two year hunt for the just right tractor I have found that buying used today means saving perhaps less than 2k over buying brand new.
    Then there is the issue of warranty to add on and what sort of use/ abuse did that used tractor live through previously.
    For me, that removes the used market from consideration, why would I want to save 2k by buying something with hours of use and the probability of needed replacement of hoses and other rubber parts.
    In the hp. range I need, it is smarter for me to take advantage of the MFG. deals going on and have a new tractor that only I have taken care of.

    In the past, it was not this way, used tractors went for realistic prices compared to the new tractors.
    Today people seem to think that 600 hours and 5 or more years old doesn't affect the resale value much at all.

    It is a sign of the times, people want the use of a tractor but then think it doesn't depreciate like a car, but consider how a tractor can be abused by a previous owner, I don't want his abused machine for the price he thinks it is worth.

    Redhawk
     
    John Weiland
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    Bryant RedHawk wrote:...consider how a tractor can be abused by a previous owner, I don't want his abused machine for the price he thinks it is worth.

    Redhawk


    Yeah, I think if someone is pretty knowledgeable about what to look for, a used purchase might make sense, especially if that informed buyer can point to repairs that will be needed and can talk the price down accordingly.  I've always wanted a skid-steer loader and feel the same way with new being desirable but waaayyyy out of my price range.  Used units are abundant, but have been hammered by construction crews and the rental market. On top of that, I wouldn't have the first clue as to how to avoid purchasing a lemon in a used skidsteer....there could be any number of things wrong that I would miss and end up spending $10K on a boat anchor.   That said, with respect to a small tractor, we did score pretty well with a grey market Yanmar F15D for $5K....no FEL and no live PTO and a standard shift, but front wheel assist, 19 hp rating, 3 speed PTO, and pretty easy to work on.  But we were even less knowledgeable then as compared to now and could easily have ended up in the hole.....just one not as deep as with more expensive equipment.

    Ooops....Deb R., do you like you Kwik-Way backhoe?  It was a pretty nice alternative to a 3-pt hitch unit and does quite well in the clay of our region.  Kind of wish the reach was just a bit longer, but still.....
    YanDeereCompare.jpg
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    Deb Rebel
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    It's okay and we've gotten our use out of it already, including doing things like attaching it to a pickup and hanging it at the edge of our pond, literally, and using the bucket to airlift waterlilies out onto the bank (someone in pond loads bucket then operator swings it to the side and it is gently unloaded on the bank.... etc)

    We had to have it delivered to the feedbunk/feedstore on south end of town as that was only place with loading dock, so lots of people seen it, and half the town showed up (I swear) in the next two days with jobs for us to do with it. I looked up the liability insurance and said the first one to pay for that, we'll start digging. Free that isn't, and they went away.

    For trenching, for digging small ponds, and for going after our plumbing (frost line here is 2 1/2 feet so plumbing is like 4 feet down), it has been very good. The widest bucket is 12". It does take a lot of hydraulic fluid, like 15 gallons. That hurt to fill it. It has sprung one leak, we had to go 125 miles to a specialty shop to have that fabricated and had to refill 9 gallons of that fluid. We usually use it attached to the Kubota with both bucket (down) and box blade on or to the hitch of a pickup, to weight it so it won't tip. It has an option for hydraulically or manually deployed stabilizer feet at the bucket end, go for the hydraulic. Some assembly required but not much. There is a pinch point if swiveling the bucket totally over hard (left I think) that we reinforced and try not to roll it max over on that side. Trenching, just a few feet deep. It will not do a deep trench maneuver to lay conduit or deep piping. That you will have to lay the ground open to do.

    As someone mentioned, used tractor prices are unreal. We purchased our Kubota in late 2012 and it was a pretty good price, though we had them hold it, did one incredibly long day drive to go look at it (sit on it and start it, have someone walk around and look for sprays, drips, and belches) then bought it. Today we would get just as much if not more for it and (I was corrected, we are close to 1500 hours on it, so have put over 500 on it since we got it) it has half again the hours.
     
    Justin Quay
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    Thank you all for the input!
     
    David Rogers
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    I watched Craigslist and have a Ford 4000 with FEL for $7000, a Ford 3000 with FEL and 14' reach backhoe attachment for $4500,  Ford 8N in trade for labor, but engine had to be rebuilt ---$4500, 2 Farmall Super A one with alot of attachments  $1000 AND the second for $2500 but with a 2" tool bar and I can cultivate either 1 row or 2 row and the
    engine is offset so I can see what I am cultivating.  I have a ATV sprayer on the back, so I can foliar spray and cultivate.
    and a J I Case 311. bought for 850 40 years ago.

    I can't stand the smell of diesel exhaust. 

    The 4000 has loaded tires and are 18" wide. tractor weighs close to 9000#.  We log with it, have a Farmi winch.  and we live in the mountains.  and it has done us well.
    We cut our roads so I go straight up the mountains.  I have 5 feet between the wheels so 8' OD.  The 4000 was built in 1967 and it is the newest of my tractors.  They
    built them well back in those days.  the Super A's could be as old as I am---70,

    We have put electronic ignition on the 8N and going to do it on the 4000.

      Don't buy a tractor and dealer is 200 miles away.

    That's how I see it.

    Dave Rogers in the Adk Mts.
     
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