Yes, I am wild about tractors!
Since this is a new blog, I thought I would make a sort of introductory post.
I am a 43 year old hobby farmer from the mid south US who works a full time job or two in order to support my outdoor country lifestyle. I have owned several tractors over the past 15 years of personal farming, as well as having driven a number of larger ones when working for a commercial size operation several years ago. I enjoy tinkering with things, and fixing what's broken. To that end, many of my tractors have been “rescue” projects, purchased for smalll amounts because of their need for repair or restoration. I also operate a “Tractor for Hire” business on the side.
In my experience, when purchasing a tractor one must consider mowing requirements, and everything else will sort of fall into place. Mowing requires the most attention to horsepower (hp) vs. size, or width. We will be referring to power take off (PTO) hp, not engine hp as up to 20 percent of engine power can be lost through the driveline.
If you intend to mow the yard with a finish mower you can probably make it just fine with 25-30 hp or less as long as your mower isn't more than 5 ft wide. If the yard is larger, or a wider mowing width is desired, you might consider moving up to the 30-40 hp range. Now, if you intend to cut heavy grass (as tall as the tractor) or brush (yes, bushes and even small trees up to 2 inches or more can be cut with a tractor and bushog) you will be glad you have at least 35hp and 40-50 would be better. This will handle a 6 or 7 foot cutter. A 30-35 hp tractor will operate a 5-6 ft cutter, but the load should be mininal such as grass that is mowed on a semi-regular basis, or you must mow in a lower gear. If you want a cutter over 7 ft it will have more than one set of blades and more than one gearbox which naturally compounds cost and maintenance.
For perspective, I use a 43 PTO hp tractor and a 6 ft cutter in my business, and there are times when the load is quite significant and the tractor barely adequate. I have cut trees up to 3 inches, but it is hard on the equipment. Under the best of conditions I can mow up to 3 acres an hour with this setup, but when the conditions are less than ideal, it can be as low as 1 acre an hour. I also use this tractor for plowing and hay making operations. My last setup was a 34 pto hp rig with a 5 ft cutter — adequate, but at times trying when attempting to make production.
It all hinges on time, money, and efficiency. Larger tractors generally cost more money, up to a point, but if you have plenty of time on your hands, or only need to chop down the less than a 5 acre field in the back say once a year, you can eek by with a compact 25hp tractor and a 4ft cutter. Just remember how many 4 ft strips are in 5 acres.... You don't find many people saying, "I wish I had bought one just a little smaller."
Now, I wouldn't necessarily recommend running out to you local dealer and purchasing a brand new tractor with equipment. There are PLENTY of good, used, and inexpensive older models still working every day, but that's another story.....