We ignored the advice from our farm friends about buying a two wheel drive tractor for our small horse farm. To this day, they still tell us it’s a waste of money but we think otherwise. Our east Tennessee land gets pretty muddy and it only takes a little bit of rain to make it slick. If we planned on using this tractor any time other than when it was completely dry, we would have been out of luck with 2wd. 4wd isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity where we live and our 4WD Kubota with locking rear differential is serving us well. Here’s a short video (1:24 minutes) showing some examples of why we needed a 4wd tractor:
One of the first things we wanted to or needed to do with our new tractor is to move hay and it’s one of the reasons we used to justify having a tractor. Our round bale experiment was successful and now we feed mostly round hay bales to our horses throughout winter. Until now we’ve been pulling our car hauler full of round bales into our muddy pasture and then pushing a round bale off as needed. Now that we have a four wheel drive tractor, it was time to put it to work. But we needed one more thing: a hay spear. Unfortunately our tractor doesn’t have a quick-disconnect bucket. We could buy a hay spear implement for the arms but it would be a pain to unbolt and remove the bucket each time we needed a bale. While we do plan to convert our arms to use a quick-connect system, it’s a bit of a hassle up front. We’d need to buy a system and then have someone weld a bracket to our bucket. For now, we’ve opted to use a spear that connects to our bucket. We found a nice used setup on Craigslist that attaches in a way that spreads the load across a good portion of the bucket to minimize bending and yesterday we got to test it out. I’ll need some practice but it went well (see pic). At 800 or so pounds, having a bale up high like that makes the tractor a little unsteady. I left the bush hog on the rear for counterweight and lowered the bale when I cleared my trailer.
Once we have it down, I think the process will be smoother using a tractor. Do you have any experiences (good or bad) with a clip-on hay spear?
It is with great excitement that I introduce the newest addition to our farm – a tractor! If you’re a regular reader, you’ve heard us complain about how much harder a lot of farm jobs are without a tractor. Moving hay, moving manure, keeping the pasture trimmed so the weeds don’t take over, digging holes for fence posts and lots more. I imagine some day soon we’ll begin to wonder what life was like before a tractor. So let’s look at what we got and why:
We’ve been looking at compact tractors for a while. We knew we didn’t need a very big one but even with only about 9 acres we knew we needed something powerful enough to be able to handle the following tractor implements: bush hog, post hole digger (auger), front end loader (FEL), hay spear, box blade/grader and a PTO-driven chipper/shredder. We needed four wheel drive because this property has some elevation and in its current state is full of slick red clay mud. And we wanted something reasonably priced and reliable. After checking with a few friends who are local farmers, we made a shortlist of manufacturers: John Deere, Kubota, Massey Ferguson and New Holland. Not that other manufacturers didn’t make good tractors but the ones on our list had a lot of good reviews from people we knew and all of them have local dealers. That last point is pretty important, as we’ll need parts and service eventually and we’d rather not have to drive to some big city when that happens.
We didn’t really need a brand new tractor. For the size we were looking at (40-50 horsepower), new tractors were running $25k-$35k. So we scoured Craigslist, eBay and regional tractor buyer periodicals. Then it just so happened a friend of ours saw a used Kubota for sale. We made a call, saw it in person, tested and walked away with a fantastic deal on a four-year-old, garage-kept, well-maintained Kubota L5030 with a front-end loader and a heavy duty bush hog. The seller even delivered it.
This all happened in no small part thanks to Mikki’s dad. Her parents moved to Tennessee this fall and her dad in particular has taken a liking to the horses and the small farm. We had planned on saving up and buying one this year but thanks to Mikki’s dad we were able to park this tractor in front of our barn this week. Thanks!!!
So next up we need a hay spear to move round bales. We had been dragging a trailer into the pasture and rolling them off one at a time by hand but we got the trailer stuck once and almost had to leave our truck out there once when the ground was particularly slimy. We’ll need a quick attachment system but for now will get by with a hay spear that secures to the bucket. Suggestions would be appreciated.
Here’s a short video walk-around. You can see the horses checking it out. They’re very curious about the new orange “horse.” I’ll talk a bit more about our first tractor in upcoming posts and have added a category on the menu bar for tractor posts. If you have any suggestions or advice for us, please share!