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Wild About Tractors - Mowing

9/7/2010 10:31:49 AM

Tags: Horsepower requirements, cutter size, mowing requirements, what to consider when purchasing a tractor, Billy Clark

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.....



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Post a comment below.

 

Billy Clark
9/9/2010 9:41:20 AM
I wouldn't recommend an 8 or 9n for the backhoe for sure. It would certainly drag logs and scrape a little dirt. Some of these models also have the annoying feature that the lift doesn't operate when the clutch is pressed. Not a big deal for mowing or plowing, but blade work and even clearing operations that might require back and forth motion(forward and reverse) can be a burden. These models also generally have a single stage clutch, which means the pto and the wheel transmission run through the same clutch. The problem with this is that when one moves, the other moves, and when one STOPS, so does the other. It also makes it hard to stop or change directions, like backing up when mowing because the rotary cutter acts like a big flywheel and keeps turning when you press the clutch. There is a one way ratchet device that can be placed between the cutter shaft and the tractor to help somewhat with this problem. If you're talking about a small lot, only a couple acres, you could make do with an 8n, less the backhoe, but for serious work, and if you plan to use the tractor regularly I would recommend looking at the Ford 3000-4000 series. The 3000 is a good solid 34 pto hp workhorse. They can be found in gas or diesel models, with or without power steering, and most have a 2 stage clutch. Around here you can find a pretty decent one for $4000-$5000, maybe slightly less. The 3600 is a slightly newer and more up to date (not modern or new) version with about 40hp.

Jerry Ward
9/8/2010 8:29:09 PM
I have a Ford 2N (which is the same as a 9N) and mowed about 3 acres with a 5' brushhog for years. It did quite well in brush, but as the brush started to look more like a lawn it really started to bog down if I let the grass get too long. The real question is do you have more time or money? Spending more money will get you a tractor that saves you time in mowing. When I got more money I did buy a larger tractor (1964 Ford 4000). But I am not sorry for buying the 2N, which I still have. If you are looking at the old Ford’s I would go with an 8N over the 9N or 2N, the brakes & clutch are much easier to use on the 8N. If you plan on mowing with it don't buy a pretty one. You’ll pay much more for it and will just scratch it up mowing, especially in the brush.

TODD REECE
9/8/2010 6:57:28 PM
I'm waiting for that OTHER story!!!! In the market for a used tractor, and I see the 8 or 9n's teasing me... I haven't done anything more than look at some, haven't even inquired about their capabilities. I am looking to have a tractor to help clear land that I am purchasing (drag logs, scrape/ landscape with scoop or bucket, and have a backhoe possibly.) will a 8 or 9n do this?










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