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  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jun 2005
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    4
    Location
    San Juan Islands, Western Washington
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    none

    Default seeking advice on selecting a utility tractor

    I've been toying with the idea of buying a tractor, and would like some advice on selecting the right one. It seems that the "right" tractor is one that is suited for the particular situation

    Can you educate me some more and help steer me in the right direction? Here's my situation:

    I have 15 acres of land on an island in Western Washington. We're on a mountain, but the land is more flat than steep. About 10 acres is forested, and we'll leave it like that. The other 5 acres is total 2 acres rough field/3 acres uneven with grass, brush, rocks. It would be too generous to call any of our property “lawn”. We haven’t built our house yet, and we will likely cut down a few more trees to let some sun into our building site. When that happens, I’d like to be able to move the logs (about 14-16” diameter, fir and cedar) to get them milled into lumber. We're in the "banana belt" and get very little snow.

    The previous owner had cleared some land mainly by cutting everything down and pushing it off beside the woods. We’d like to clean that out (brush, stumps, logs).

    We have a lot of clean-up to do. I want to move and grade dirt, move logs, move rocks, dig trenches, tackle mountains of woody debris. We have some brush we’d like to clear out, but it’s mainly on uneven terrain; while a tractor could certainly drive over it, maybe the best bet here would be a handheld brushcutter.

    For moving small logs and rocks, what are the pros/cons of a backhoe with a thumb vs. a loader with a grapple, with regard to both cost, lifting capacity and intended application? Is it possible to retrofit a backhoe attachment with a thumb?

    We also have several large man-made ponds that should be cleaned out (cattails, irises). A backhoe attachment seems to make sense here.

    Renting a tractor doesn’t seem to be an option to me because no one on the island rents (or sells) tractors, and the nearest rental yard is 2 hours away by ferry.

    When all of this clean-up is done (maybe a few years from now), I want to have the option of being able to sell the tractor quickly without losing my shirt, so good resale value is important.

    Also, we hope to end up with about 2-3 acres of nice field, and I was thinking about a lawn tractor to keep it mowed. Is this realistic, or should I just hold on to the larger tractor?

    A PTO-driven chipper would also be very nice (a neighbor has one) and some day my shoulders may give up swinging an ax, so a PTO-driven log-splitter could be welcome. At least I’d like these as prospective options.

    With my limited knowledge, it seems that
    a) I could use a utility tractor, with a loader and backhoe minimum, maybe a rotary cutter to keep the thistles and broom under control until grass comes in
    b) 4WD, diesel, maybe 23-34 hp, kubota/Deere/? (we have Kubota, Deere, New Holland, etc. dealers about 2 hours away)


    Am I on the right track? Can you help me narrow in on size? And what about transmission types? My reflex is to buy used, but I could be talked into buying new. Is there some kind of a Blue-Book for tractors available on-line? I could probably spend up to $20,000, but less is always better.

    Finally, I understand CUT, SCUT, FEL, HST, etc., but what is “ROPS”? Maybe I should be reading Muhammed’s book.

    Thanks in advance for any advice.

  2. #2
    Super Member Bob_Skurka's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
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    7,503

    Default Re: seeking advice on selecting a utility tractor

    My initial thoughts are that you have 5 acres of property that you intend to work plus another 10 acres of property that you intend to pretty much leave alone, or only occasionally play in.

    Initially I was thinking of a roughly 35hp tractor, but the more I think about it I think something closer to 30hp would be better for the long run because while you have what sounds like quite a bit of heavy work, you also will end up with 5 to 6 acres of land that you will be working and a 35hp+ tractor will be large at that time. On many tractors going up to 35hp or more bumps up the frame size to a larger frame. I would hesitate to suggest the larger frame size when you really are going to end up with 5 acres that you really will spend most of your time on. I would also suggest, especially since you are new, that a tractor with a HST transmission will be easier for you to learn to use. They are quicker when doing FEL work also.

    You say you have JD, kubota, & NH reasonably close I will limit my choices to those 3 brands, but other brands would also be suitable. In some areas the big 3 brands have a reputation for being priced higher than other brands. I have not found that to be reliably true, in all cases, and I have seen wild price swings in one region between dealers fo the same brand. So it will be in your best interest to be serious about your negotiations when you go in, if a dealer smells a casual shopper, they may just quote list price so they can concetrate on selling to serious buyers.

    For JD they have a very nice machine that I believe is being phased out, so you might be able to get a deal on it. The 32hp 4310 is REALLY nice machine, offers quite a bit of power in a nice size. I'm not sure what the newer replacement version is.

    The 33hp New Holland TC33DA is also an extremely nice tractor, it has a great FEL for visibility and ease of use and a fairly small footprint so working in the woods or mowing the lawn are both easy tasks.

    The Kubota 32hp L3130 (with the 723 loader) is a little bigger and heavier, it is a beast in terms of lift capacity on the FEL and the 3pt hitch.

    ROPS = Roll Over Protective System (or Structure). Basically it is the roll bar on most tractors. It can be fixed or folding. It also applies to a tractor with a cab that replaces the roll bar, the cab itself must be designed to protect the driver during a roll over.

    I think a TLB with a rotary cutter, and perhaps a heavy duty landscape rake would be a good start for property clean up.


  3. #3
    Gold Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Posts
    465
    Location
    Northern California
    Tractor
    New Holland TN70S

    Default Re: seeking advice on selecting a utility tractor

    I had similar work to do, and I went with a New Holland TN70S with cab, Bradco 611 Backhoe, 84" HD Loader, and 84" HD Box Blade. While it's probably more power than needed, I can't overstate how nice it is to have that power and weight. I'm a believer in buying so that I can't possibly outgrow something - and the TN series is a great machine in the small utility class. With SuperSteer, you can maneuver that thing into and out of some insanely tight places.

    Regarding the Backhoe vs. Loader w/ grapple, there are pros and cons to each. The backhoe is a godsend when you have to do things like trench and dig. When you add a thumb to it, it's an absolute hoot to precisely move big rocks, trees and stumps around. The downside is that you can only move stuff as far as the backhoe will swing and reach. With a loader grapple, you can grab stuff and drive off with it - which is a nice thing if you have lots of junk around that just needs to get moved from one place to another. So, if you need to do trenching and you might want to do something like build a wall out of boulders, the backhoe with thumb is a great thing to have. If you have a ton of brush that you want to move fast, then the grapple is great. If you have both - well, you know the answer to that.

    Drive a few of them around, see what feels comfortable, and think seriously about the work that you'll have to do. With a tractor that's big and powerful enough, and equipped properly, you might be able to get away without having to rent a construction-grade machine for your house-building - and that will save you some big hassles, especially since everything needs to be ferried over to you.

  4. #4
    Veteran Member RedRocker's Avatar
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    Apr 2004
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    2,115
    Location
    Lewisville & Montague County, TX
    Tractor
    Kioti CK30 HST, dual remotes, FEL.

    Default Re: seeking advice on selecting a utility tractor

    CK30 HST.

  5. #5
    Epic Contributor Soundguy's Avatar
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    Mar 2002
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    Central florida
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    ym1700, NH7610S, Ford 8N, 2N, NAA, 660, 850 x2, 541, 950, 951, 2000, 3000, 4000, 4600, 5000, 740, IH 'C' 'H', CUB, John Deere 'B', allis 'G', case VAC

    Default Re: seeking advice on selecting a utility tractor

    5 ac to immediatly work in.. and 10 more that you will hold... those 10 ac are 'futur' uses for your tractor.

    Loaders are nice... sounds like you deffinately need one... cost is justifiable. A backhoe is also nice if you will be doing alot of digging... but they are pricey.. 4k and up.

    Rough cut mower... 4wd deffinately.. not so much for the mild grade.. but for the loader use. You may also -want- hst or shuttle.. though gear is fine.. and probably 1k cheaper.

    I'm torn over size. Generally when you do dirt moving.. bigger is better.. however in your case.. something more nimble may be fine... I'd say int he 3X hp area. big enough to move some logs... could run a 6' mower.. but a 5' is probably easier to get around with... decent loader weight with a 30hp tractor attached to it.. etc. And still big enough for 'extra' tasks if you develop more of that 10ac forest..

    Soundguy

  6. #6
    Epic Contributor MossRoad's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
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    22,513
    Location
    South Bend, Indiana (near)
    Tractor
    Power Trac PT425 2001 Model Year

    Default Re: seeking advice on selecting a utility tractor

    Welcome to TBN! [img]/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img]

    You may want to consider a large used utility tractor or TLB to get the big jobs done fast, then sell it and get a compact utility tractor to do the regular upkeep. That's what we did and I never regretted it.

    Let's say you find some large used machine in decent shape for 10 or 15K, you do a couple years of work with it then sell it for a couple thousand less than you paid. In the big picture, you come out ahead VS hiring the work out or renting.

  7. #7
    Veteran Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
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    1,076
    Location
    Cooke County, Texas
    Tractor
    JD4320 with TNT, electric diverter, cruise control and air suspension seat.

    Default Re: seeking advice on selecting a utility tractor

    I think you should contact LarryD via a private message. He has a TC33 and also lives in the San Juans: LarryD


  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jun 2005
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    4
    Location
    San Juan Islands, Western Washington
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    none

    Default Re: seeking advice on selecting a utility tractor

    Thanks to everyone for the great feedback. A point has been raised that I hadn't considered before, but now I think may be the deciding factor: footprint and agility. I look around my property and I realize that a lot of the work I want to do is under and between trees. A compact tractor will fit in there, but size could definitely be a limitation.

    Thanks also for naming names, and models. It really helps a newbie like me get headed in the right direction.

    Kioti looks like a nice machine, but the nearest dealer is 4+ hours travel time away, one-way. Still, it's worth at least a phone call after I learn some more.

    I'm also going to look at the option of buying a brute initially for the heavy work, and then backing down in size once the big jobs are done. Eventually, I'm going to be "done", and I just can't afford to have my money sitting in a tractor that I won't be using much.

    What I seem to be hearing from everyone is a minimum of 30hp, 4WD, HST strongly recommended, loader/backhoe/mower.

    I'll take this info and run with it. Thanks a lot.

  9. #9
    Bronze Member
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Posts
    78
    Location
    Grand Forks, ND
    Tractor
    JD 3320

    Default Re: seeking advice on selecting a utility tractor

    "Eventually, I'm going to be "done", and I just can't afford to have my money sitting in a tractor that I won't be using much."

    My first suggestion is to borrow a tractor if you can. I was able to borrow a friends for years. In fact, I used his tractor more than he did. Do you think that is why he moved away?? [img]/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif[/img]

    If you must buy, trust me, once you spend some time on your tractor you won't regret the cash you have tied up in the equipment. You can accomplish many tasks with a tractor. In addition, tractors do not depreciate as quickly as an automobile for example.

    However, in the end a tractor does cost something, but often the improvements to your land/home more than outweigh the costs of ownership. Also, if you own a business they can be great take write offs.

    Good luck

  10. #10
    Epic Contributor Soundguy's Avatar
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    Central florida
    Tractor
    ym1700, NH7610S, Ford 8N, 2N, NAA, 660, 850 x2, 541, 950, 951, 2000, 3000, 4000, 4600, 5000, 740, IH 'C' 'H', CUB, John Deere 'B', allis 'G', case VAC

    Default Re: seeking advice on selecting a utility tractor

    One other option.. Get two tractors [img]/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img] Don't laugh yet.

    Instead of getting a fully decked out mid 30's hp unit.. back down to a 30 hp unit.. and consider also purchasing a large ag tractor. They generally have poor resale.. but are big brutes. for instance.. you can buy 80-150 hp Fiat/allis, Ford 8000, case 1xxx series in the 4000$ range all day. Get one of those and a scut/cut and you will be set.. the big brute for the dirty stuff, and the nimble lighter tractor for the work.

    Soundguy

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