All photos by Monica White
Time loves to be wasted. From that waste there is no salvage.
- Henry Ford
Tractor attachments can be the key pieces of equipment that can add value and time saving factors to both large and small scale farm and homestead operations. Whether you're a new homesteader just starting out or an experienced land owner, chances are the use of a tractor and its attachments are likely to be very beneficial to you.
Given the vast majority of attachments on the market, you may be wondering which attachments are the most useful to your property. The answer lies not so much in the attachments' function, but in the specific job(s) that the attachments will be used for. For example, will there be digging, lifting, moving or land grading?
It makes sense to identify the overall goals of the property first. Next, determine the short and long-term tasks needed to reach these goals. From there, a general work overview should start to materialize. The work overview should point to the specific jobs that are needed of the attachments.
It would serve a new property owner well in becoming acquainted with the basic tractor attachments on the market. While established land owners may wish to stay abreast of new attachment advancements which may help streamline their current and future operations.
Those considering an attachment purchase should do their homework. Acquire specific knowledge of attachments based on comparisons made between manufacturers, models, maintenance and any special features or finance options offered. As with any specialized purchase, owners should be careful not to over or under invest in their attachments.
Since no two properties are the same, it's reasonable to expect that no two owner's tractor's attachment needs would be the same either. For example: Two properties may have the task of distributing gravel in common. However, one property may need to distribute gravel for a small, narrow garden path, while another may need enough gravel to cover a small network of interconnected roadways. It then makes a significant difference in the type of attachments that each would use for their property. Even the seemingly common task of cutting grass, is actually a very property specific job. Consider that each property may have different types of grasses and acreage to be cut or cleared. Again, the work needed, dictates which attachments would be used.
Following is an unofficial list of the 10 most useful tractor attachments used by both beginning and experienced homesteaders and landowners.
The list is broken down by the first five most useful attachments, followed by, what many would consider to be the next five most useful attachments to have around the operation, if needed.
A tractor loader increases a tractor's versatility exponentially by loads, with its various attachments. In addition to scooping, hauling, dumping, and picking up loads of materials, there's countless attachment combinations which can be used on a loader to accomplish many different jobs. The loader can even have forks added to create an effective forklift to move and store materials more efficiently by an organized system of stackable materials secured on pallets.
Grooming Mower or Rotary Cutter
A grooming mower is used to cut and maintain refined lawns and groomed landscape areas. Whereas a rotary cutter is used to cut and maintain rougher grass areas, such as large lots and pasture acreage that's not going to be heavily featured.
To get an honest day's work for an honest day's pay out of your tractor, few attachments will out do the box blade attachment. The box blade can be relied upon to tackle any number of jobs. If you have jobs that require grading,leveling and scraping around your homestead, a box blade scraper is your attachment. Also, a durably built box blade fitted with slots and scarifiers, can make child's play out of tilling and plowing chores. It acts as a ballast or counter weight when used with heavy front and rear loader attachments, as well as be used as a forward or backward scrape blade.
Because a box blade is such a highly used attachment, every consideration should be made to the quality and durability of the attachment's design. When purchasing a box blade, look for strong steel plating in the blades, adequate steel reinforcement at the weld points and a strong, sturdy steel frame.
The quality of hinges is worth inspecting, as well as the way that shanks are attached to the box blade. For example, if the shanks are attached by metal brackets vs being inserted into slots, it will make them prone to being broken off, should they happen to catch on to ground roots, rocks, or other ground debris.
Horse power and the overall size of the tractor should also be considered with this type of tractor attachment combination. A box blade should extend slightly beyond the back tires' overall width.
Try to opt for scrape blades that are removable and reversible. As well as box blades that have strong reinforced plating on the sidewalls that will provide added load support. Additionally, offset slots are helpful when using with scarifiers.
Acting as a land groomer, the rear blade is an attachment that will grade, smooth, dig and level ground areas needing precision land refinement or may also be used for snow removal. Quality rear blade frames and pivots are made of heavy tubular steel and some are made of formed channel construction for long-term durability. Some top quality rear blades have the ability to be hydraulically controlled. Allowing precise angle control of the rear blade with just the flick of a switch within the driver's compartment.
If you have goals which require that the land be leveled and smooth, such as roads, trails, horse paddocks and other land smoothing applications, then a good land plane should smooth the job out nicely.
5 Tractor Attachments Considered to the Next Most Useful
For all areas, during winter months, which require snow removal, a snow blower attachment will get the snow cleared off right away. You may need a snow plow for heavy and solidly packed snow removal jobs
Post Hole Digger
If fencing or other applications requiring deep post holes are needed to be dug, a good post hole digger will eliminate much of the manual labor, by getting the job done more efficiently with the use of this powerful attachment.
To get gardens and other impacted soil areas prepared for planting, a rotary tiller break ups hard, unworkable earth. A good rotary tiller will aerate and till the soil well, making it soft and more receptive for new planting.
Landowners often have the need for storing and moving stacked materials in bulk. With the use of pallet forks, many jobs and bulk materials can be moved, loaded or implemented immediately with the use of forks. In a pinch, even bales of hay can be moved with the use of forks.
When the need is to get a large amount of substance spread over large areas, a spreader will bring this chore down to size. Be it spreading seeds over ground or salt over snow, a durable polyethylene or other quality finished spreader will work most effectively to spread the most volume, without rust or contamination.
Read all operating manuals before use and adhere to any safety warnings while using the attachments.
Tractor Attachment Care and Maintenance
After using attachments, address any repairs or maintenance issues as soon as possible, before next use. Allow a dealer or professional maintenance for any areas beyond the scope of your knowledge /or ability. Keep attachments and auxiliary parts as clean and debris-free as you possibly can after use.
Storing Tractor Attachments
Aim to store attachments in as accessible and at a safe level as possible for the size and shape of the attachment. Ensure added flexibility and adjustability is included in the storage area(s) to allow for the weight/size of the attachment(s) to be stored in its current and future use.
When to Consider New Attachments
Replace attachments when they are no longer safe, malfunctioning or when the current performance is causing inefficiencies. If newly manufactured attachments come on the market, it's a good idea to consult with other new owners and read reviews to find out how the majority of new owners are faring with the new equipment. You may also wish to schedule a demonstration or familiarization session before committing to purchasing the new attachment.
Monica White is a freelance writer, member of the Georgia Air National Guard, and an avid runner and cyclist who loves the great outdoors and all things DIY. She divides her time between Tampa and her central Florida property, where she's growing a self-sufficient homestead. Connect with Monica on her outdoor lifestyle blog, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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