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  1. #1
    Member SmokemanGRP's Avatar
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    Feb 2008
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    37
    Location
    SE Arizona
    Tractor
    Kubota L3800HST

    Default Another Newbie Looking for Advice

    I need some advice on selecting a tractor. I have never owned one but I have been doing a lot of online research and now understand most of the terminology (FEL, hydro, synchro-shift, MFWD, live PTO, etc). I know I need to consider the size and weight of a tractor, not just the horse power. Most people I've talked to tell me to make sure I don't get one that's too small, it might eventually get the job done but it will be hard on the tractor and more likely to break down.

    Usage: We purchased 36 acres in southeast Arizona and hope to build a home there in the next year or two. I believe my usage for a tractor falls into two categories; construction and maintenance. During construction I need a 900' dirt driveway, a culvert so the driveway can cross a 5' deep wash, a 800' x 52" x 24" power line trench, septic leach line trenches and a 3/4 mile walking path that meanders around the property. Once the construction is completed I need to maintain the driveway and walking path, plant some trees, we'll probably have a garden of maybe 1/8 acre. We will not have a lawn but I'll want to keep the brush away from the house for fire safety; most of the properly we want to leave natural. There are trees along both washes. I do not plan on removing many of them, if any, but I'll have to haul out dead limbs from time to time.

    I think the construction tasks would require a bigger tractor than the maintenance tasks. I could hire someone to do the construction tasks then purchase a smaller tractor for the maintenance. On the surface the ground looks pretty soft. But one of the residents, who owns a JD 410 backhoe, says he wouldn't recommend a 3 point backhoe because he frequently encounters cleache (sp?) when trenching.

    The property is very flat with the exception of the two washes running thru it.

    2WD vs 4WD: Some say I'll need it, some say I won't. Since this is a $2,000 - 4,000 feature I could save some money if I don't need it but if it turns out that I do I'll be stuck, in more ways than one. One guy said I'd be more likely to need 4WD with a smaller tractor, less likely with a larger one; but what is smaller and what is larger?

    Hydro vs Gear Trannies: My research seems to indicate that a hydro is most beneficial for FEL work, a gear for mowing acres. My buddy who owned gear tractors years ago says that's all I need; my uncle-in-law who has a kubota hydro says he wouldn't consider a tractor without it; "that is the best thing that they came out with, it gives you the ground speed you want; you can have 1800 RPM for a brush hog and ground speed of 0 to 3 mph". I like the idea of a hydro and the $1,000 upgrade isn't a show stopper but do I completely exclude gear tractors?

    SCUT vs CUT vs UT: This has been the most confusing portion of my research. There seems to be a very fuzzy line between these categories. Where I live there is only one dealer, Mahindra, and he has zero new inventory. He did have a used 4110 that their brochure calls "compact" but he called "full sized". He had a used 3215 which their brochure also calls "compact" but it was much smaller than the 4110.

    As another example, I was researching a JD 4400 today and read a post on this forum titled JD 3720 vs 4120 where someone stated "my new 4120 is much more stable than my 4400 which is similar in size to the 3720". I was under the impression that the JD 4000 line were all on a beefier frame than the 3000's.

    As yet another example, the pictures I saw today of JD 4400's with a FEL looked like a decent sized tractor. But the ones without a FEL looked more like a lawn tractor.

    I'm really sorry about this long post but I wanted to provide enough information to explain where I'm at. I think I need to decide on a HP and weight (frame size) range then somehow determine which of the thousands of models fall into that range so I can concentrate my search on those models. I'd appreciate any comments, suggestions and recommendations. Thank you.

  2. #2
    Elite Member woodlandfarms's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
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    4,482
    Location
    Los Angeles / SW Washington
    Tractor
    PowerTrac 1850

    Default Re: Another Newbie Looking for Advice

    IMO...

    That major work you need will be best handled by someone with a dozer and someone else with a back hoe. It is not to say you could not do the jobs with a regular tractor, but between the wear and tear and the time it takes to get it done, it might make more sense to rent the machine that works best for the job or have someone do it for you. The walking trails you could handle with a CUT/SCUT but I would leave the road, foundation, culvert and power trench to the pros.

    4wd is always nice, helps the resale sometimes, but is not necessary given the fact your land is flat. HST is very nice for maintenance work. The line between SCUT, CUT and UT is just a symantics issue. Don't even think about that and just buy a tractor that will do the job for you.

    Not seeing pictures of your property make advice harder, but what I hear you saying is that the acreage is not going to be maintained, just stuff around the house and a walking trail. If that is the case I think you would be just fine with a smaller tractor ( 20 to 30 HP... JD 3000 series, TYM 273 sized. You say the property is flat but that is a relative conversation. In southern AZ my experience has been that it looks flat on the surface, but the ground is hugely uneven. That may make a 4wd more appealing to you. Also, the rainy season, how does it effect the ground?

    Anyway, take your time. One of the coolest things I did was rent a tractor for a week or a weekend. Just having it on the property for a few days told me all I needed to know before I opened my wallet.
    Power-Trac 1850, grapple, hoe, 90" mower, 72" box blade

  3. #3
    Epic Contributor Soundguy's Avatar
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    Central florida
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    ym1700, NH7610S, Ford 8N, 2N, NAA, 660, 850 x2, 541, 950, 941D, 951, 2000, 3000, 4000, 4600, 5000, 740, IH 'C' 'H', CUB, John Deere 'B', allis 'G', case VAC

    Default Re: Another Newbie Looking for Advice

    I would hire the construction work out.. IE the trenching and septic field. The culvert issue can be done either way... This saves you from buying a backhoe that may only get use donce.. and cost 4000+$.

    36ac.. you don't mention amount of trees, and how much you mow/ how often.

    i fthere is a decent amount to mow.. I'd get in the mid 40's hp range.. this keeps your footprint small-er.. but gives you some power.

    If you will be doing lots of loader work, consider 4wd and HST tranny... 4wd makes a loader much more usefull.. HST makes a loader much easier to use.

    As was stated.. a 2wd gear machine would get you buy if you don't have lots of loader tasks year round..

    If you had a CNH dealer nearby.. I'd look at the TC 45/48 series machines.

    soundguy

  4. #4
    Member SmokemanGRP's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    37
    Location
    SE Arizona
    Tractor
    Kubota L3800HST

    Default Re: Another Newbie Looking for Advice

    Thanks for the info, guys. I suspected that hiring out the construction work would be advantageous, but needed the confirmation. I'll check out the models you suggest.

    Woodlandfarms,

    The property has a couple gently slopes to it but seems to be very even, with the exception of the two washes. I guess 4WD would help crossing the washes. The rain from the summer monsoons seems to run off and/or get absorbed pretty quickly; I haven't noticed it getting muddy.

    Soundguy,

    There are trees along both sides of the two washes but none on the rest of the property. I don't think I'll be doing any mowing. We typically get a little rain in the winter and again at the end of summer so once I eliminate all vegetation around the house I should be able to keep that area clear with a blade and some Round Up.

  5. #5
    Silver Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
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    207
    Location
    Redmond, WA
    Tractor
    JD 2320 w/200cx loader w/53" bucket

    Default Re: Another Newbie Looking for Advice

    Don't get a 2WD tractor. 4WD is better for loader work and the first time you're stuck in the mud you will kick yourself. Do get the rear wheels loaded with ballast. Not sure why a gear would be preferrable for mowing. All the current Deere tractors have cruise control (recommended) regardless of transmission type. I have used both types. I would not go back to a gear tractor again. Hydro is the way to go. I have a Deere 2320, but I would get something bigger for your property. I got small because I have a forest to navigate. Deere changed the numbering system of their tractors recently. You can compare 2x20 to 3x20 to 4x20 (these are referred to as the "twenty series"), etc. There is no relation to 4400 - it's an old number. There's also the "five series" which are their intro models at each level (eg 2305). You didn't say how much you can spend. You could get a 3520 with the larger hoe and do a lot of trenching yourself - or just rent an excavator for that part and save $7000. Add a tooth bar to whatever you get and you will be able to dig pretty well. kubota is also good, but the only one I've used is a B21 and it's too small and has a rigid metal top which tends to get dented in the woods (slight lean towards a tree at the wrong moment and crumple - did that many times).

  6. #6
    Epic Contributor Soundguy's Avatar
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    ym1700, NH7610S, Ford 8N, 2N, NAA, 660, 850 x2, 541, 950, 941D, 951, 2000, 3000, 4000, 4600, 5000, 740, IH 'C' 'H', CUB, John Deere 'B', allis 'G', case VAC

    Default Re: Another Newbie Looking for Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by ScottK
    Not sure why a gear would be preferrable for mowing.
    I believe that statement has been made in the past in ref to the fact that 2 otherwise equal machines, one with HST, one gear, the gear tractor will be slightly more efficeint with hp and a sold locked gear setup.. IE.. less hp loss.. even if it is fractional.. IE.. 1-2 hp.. etc.

    I believe the same comment is made on ground engaging work like plowing.. etc.. for certain sized machines.. etc.

    Soundguy

  7. #7
    Gold Member
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    258
    Location
    Ohio

    Default Re: Another Newbie Looking for Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Soundguy
    I believe that statement has been made in the past in ref to the fact that 2 otherwise equal machines, one with HST, one gear, the gear tractor will be slightly more efficeint with hp and a sold locked gear setup.. IE.. less hp loss.. even if it is fractional.. IE.. 1-2 hp.. etc.

    I believe the same comment is made on ground engaging work like plowing.. etc.. for certain sized machines.. etc.

    Soundguy
    I think it probably boils down to the definition of 'mowing'. I'm a complete newbie as well, but the problem with gears for me would be the fact that the stuff I'll be mowing is going to be extremely variable, from wet marshy areas with heavy wet grass to partially shaded areas with brush and other garbage. It seems the ability to tweak the speed without tweaking the throttle or shifting would be very useful (not to mention being able to more easily deal with areas that aren't even remotely square in shape).

    That's my impression anyway. It seems to all boil down to a style thing either way, so i gave up trying to 'win' the argument in my mind.

  8. #8
    Silver Member putt_putt_green's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Posts
    199
    Location
    South Central MI
    Tractor
    JD 3520

    Default Re: Another Newbie Looking for Advice

    I'm not sure about other brands of tractors, but with my shuttle shift JD3520, I can adjust the throttle with my foot too. So if you were going to brush hog a bunch of heavy stuff, you can step on the foot pedal and give it some extra oomph. Lift your foot off, and it goes back to what I have the hand throttle set to.

    Gear tractors are naturally quieter and more fuel efficient because one gives the tractor more fuel when more power is needed. With HST, the throttle is set to max power that is needed and the amount of available power going to the wheels is adjusted.

    Now if the mowing is going to require adjusting gears all the time, a hydro would be more practical. Keep in mind that with a synchronized gear tractor, the tractor and be shifted on the fly (without stopping or slowing down).
    Putt Putt Green
    JD3520 : canopy, loader with toothbar, hoe, boxblade, 2-14 plow, tiller, and pallet forks.

  9. #9
    Epic Contributor Soundguy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another Newbie Looking for Advice

    I think you may be confusing mowing efficiency as in fuel to hp, with mowing ease/practical efficiency.. IE.. speed up / slow down.. etc.

    If you have an obstacle course to mow.. yeah.. I'd go HST... If you have an open 40ac to mow.. I'd go gear and not loose that 1-2 hp to the hst, vs putting it to the ground or the blade.

    soundguy

    Quote Originally Posted by jcims
    I think it probably boils down to the definition of 'mowing'. I'm a complete newbie as well, but the problem with gears for me would be the fact that the stuff I'll be mowing is going to be extremely variable, from wet marshy areas with heavy wet grass to partially shaded areas with brush and other garbage. It seems the ability to tweak the speed without tweaking the throttle or shifting would be very useful (not to mention being able to more easily deal with areas that aren't even remotely square in shape).

    That's my impression anyway. It seems to all boil down to a style thing either way, so i gave up trying to 'win' the argument in my mind.

  10. #10
    Elite Member
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    Jul 2006
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    4,227
    Location
    South Central OK
    Tractor
    Kubota Grand L-4610HSTC

    Default Re: Another Newbie Looking for Advice

    I have about 39 HP HST. In theory I lose a little power in the tranny but not enough to base a decision on. I have operated gear tractors. If I didn't have an FEL and plowed or otherwise dragged ground engaging implements all day then I could consider a geared tractor...maybe. I am spoiled by the HST and have no desire to have otherwise if I were going to do much maneuvering. Not saying you can't do everything you need with a geared tractor, just that I have no desire along those likes based on my experience which may not be typical.

    There is no law against varying the throttle on a HST tractor. Some folks who are not familiar (or particularly good at) operating the HST think the ONLY way to go is at one fixed throttle setting and do everything with the HST. Sometimes it may seem that way and at others definitely not, depending on the situation. Running the tractor at PTO speed and then varying the HST is NOT having the tractor develop max power all the time nor consuming max fuel. Load factors into fuel consumption.

    Running at PTO RPM (or whatever % of that you desire) and then varying the HST to vary ground speed is not particularly wasteful. RPM alone does not produce power or consume max fuel. If you are in a mid or lower range producing say 2000-2400 RPM while mowing and get into wetter or denser grass you can just let up on the pedal a bit and RPM (and cutter blade speed) will stay about the same with the tractor going slower. When you get to easier cut grass you can push on the pedal a little more and go faster. The cutter blade runs at the speed you need it to cut well and the forward speed of the tractor is easily modulated with the HST pedal so as to not overload.

    Can this be done with a geared tractor? Well, not really as you don't have essentially infinitely variable gear ratios. You pick one closest to your need (none may actually be quite right) and if it bogs down you can give it more throttle but that isn't a great solution since more throttle moves the tractor through the grass faster which increases HP requirement and you stay just about as bogged. You can shift down but then in maybe 10 ft you may want/need to shift back to original gear. Shifting over and over is not convenient.

    If the work demand is not consistent you will have a hard time trying to match the RPM and tractor speed to match the job requirement with geared tractors. With a hydrostat it is just a little raise or lower of your toes and a glance at the tach until you get the "feel" and go by sounds without needing to look down at the tach. I'm not saying lots of people haven't mowed for years with gears. I am saying if the conditions vary like grass moisture, density, height, or the ground is even slightly sloping then uphill vs downhill such that it is a "shifting exercise" every time you change direction, then I assert I will gladly "waste" a HP or two for the convenience of the hydrostat which allows me to continuously vary my tranny ratio as is required to actually fit the requirement instead of shifting from one compromise ratio to another.

    This is not intended to challenge every gear tractor person to a duel to the death. I believe I stated the truth honestly and fairly. Again, I'm not saying a geared tractor won't mow, drag a box blade, or do anything else. I am saying they excel at lots of more uniform tasks and in variable tasks or tasks with lots of maneuvering the HST is superior.

    If I were a row cropper, I'd have a geared tractor. I need versatility and am willing to sacrifice a HP or two and a few spoons full of diesel per hour for all the benefits I get.

    We pilots don't wear parachutes because we expect to need them but in case we need them. There isn't anything a 2wd tractor can do that a 4wd can't do as well or better. The reverse is NOT TRUE. 4wd can be a terrific insurance policy, not always needed every day but darned handy when you need it. Your needs may vary but... I have NEVER heard anyone complain about how they had 4wd and wished they didn't. I have heard many complaints about someone being told they didn't need 4wd and then later regretting not having it.

    Can you tractor without 4wd? Sure, but... in general a 4wd tractor will do about as much as a 2wd tractor with 50% more HP (not an exact ratio, varies by situation but a decent generalization.)

    You may keep a tractor for several years or even decades. You may regret at your leisure what you decide in haste. Except for a virtually unnoticeable HP loss, a tiny fuel penalty, and slightly more service and maint expense over the life of the tractor, what, if anything is the down side of HST? 4wd?

    I live in a highly variable climate, south central Oklahoma. I spray ag chemicals. I feed cattle in all weather, I work outside in all conditions. I have a cab tractor with heat and air and it was worth every penny of the upcharge to my wife and I. (Knowing I was going to be spraying she insisted on the cab over my original objections but I have come to think it is the best argument I ever lost!) If you are in a situation where you can avoid inclement weather and postpone jobs if it rains or is hot or cold or windy or dusty and you don't spray dangerous chemicals AND you like the exposure then by all means save your $ and skip a cab.

    Pat
    Never wrestle with a pig (however titled) as you just get dirty and the pig has all the fun.

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