Tractor or skid steer? Just bought 150 acres.

   / Tractor or skid steer? Just bought 150 acres. #1  

Aden2112

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Jun 21, 2024
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Tractor
None - in the market
I need help figuring out what to buy!

Please tell me what YOU would do! And how YOU would approach this project.

We just bought a 150 acre farm (all crop land). All of it is rolling hills - nothing terribly steep, but not flat either.

In the next year or so, I need to:
1. Cut and grade an entrance from the road (about 50 ft of wooded area next to the road). Need to install culvert, etc. for road access.
2. Grade and install a 1/2 mile long driveway. Everything except the entrance is through the middle of a field - rolling hills - with 1 extra culvert needed
3. Grade a 60'x120' pad for our barn.
4. Clear 2.5 miles of fence line that is currently extremely overgrown honeysuckle (think 50 years of honeysuckle growth)
5. Pound about 1200 5-6'' round posts into the ground (quoted over $70k just to pound the posts, so I'll be doing this myself.)
6. Standard maintenance of pasture - so mow about 150 acres

We plan to hire someone to come in and seed hay - so roundup and a seed drill. We plan to hire that job out to someone who knows exactly what they are doing. Currently all weeds, so will hopefully be pasture and hay fields by this time next year.

But the big question:
Do I buy a tractor or a skid steer (with tracks, so a track loader)? And buying one thing - keeping it for a year to complete all of the above jobs - and then selling it and buying something different - is something I am willing to do.

Budget of about $35-40k, including any needed attachments.

I can buy a track loader for about $30k, a bush hog for $4k, and a post pounder for $4k - and be comfortably under my $40k max. Going this route means I wouldn't be able to harvest my own hay, etc until I sell the track loader and buy a tractor. And bush hogging 150 acres with a track loader is going to be rough.

Alternatively, I spend $30k on a newer 60-70 hp tractor with a loader, $5k on a post pounder, $5k on a bush hog - and be right at my max. I would probably need to rent a bulldozer or track loader to do the driveway, etc - which would be about $2000/week. No idea if I can get it done in one week or not, but my guess is closer to 2 weeks.

And it might actually be better if I buy a cheap dozer ($10k?) and sell it when I am done with it. Then buy the tractor after I sell the dozer.

I need help making a decision! Any and all advice appreciated!
 
   / Tractor or skid steer? Just bought 150 acres. #2  
In the next year or so, I need to:
1. Cut and grade an entrance from the road (about 50 ft of wooded area next to the road). Need to install culvert, etc. for road access.
2. Grade and install a 1/2 mile long driveway. Everything except the entrance is through the middle of a field - rolling hills - with 1 extra culvert needed
3. Grade a 60'x120' pad for our barn.
4. Clear 2.5 miles of fence line that is currently extremely overgrown honeysuckle (think 50 years of honeysuckle growth)
5. Pound about 1200 5-6'' round posts into the ground (quoted over $70k just to pound the posts, so I'll be doing this myself.)
6. Standard maintenance of pasture - so mow about 150 acres

IMO
#1: hire out (get it done quick and right)
#2: hire out (get it done quick and right; figure out how to maintain it later)
#3: hire out (get it done quick and right)
#4: depending on time and dollar budget; either hire (masticator) or DIY (either tractor or CTL)
#5: you're buying an attachment either way for this, but either works
#6: tractor

Tractor for many other tasks; CTL may well come in handy as well.
I think the real answer lies in the "what else are you going to use it for" section.
Be prepared for "both" being a very valid answer lol
 
   / Tractor or skid steer? Just bought 150 acres.
  • Thread Starter
#3  
IMO
#1: hire out (get it done quick and right)
#2: hire out (get it done quick and right; figure out how to maintain it later)
#3: hire out (get it done quick and right)
#4: depending on time and dollar budget; either hire (masticator) or DIY (either tractor or CTL)
#5: you're buying an attachment either way for this, but either works
#6: tractor

Tractor for many other tasks; CTL may well come in handy as well.
I think the real answer lies in the "what else are you going to use it for" section.
Be prepared for "both" being a very valid answer lol
While I would love to hire out the first 3 jobs, we are stretching our budget to make this farm purchase possible. All of these jobs are going to need to be done with cash on hand - the barn build will be financed. And with the down payment for the farm and expected expenses, I simply can't afford to hire it out. We got it quoted - and just by DIYing the first 3 jobs alone, I am saving over $30k.

And you are 100% right - the real answer is the "what else" question.

A year from now, I will 100% need a tractor for the "what else," but I am really looking at the short term for now. Long term, I need a tractor. Short term, I don't know. Maybe the short term and long term answers are the same?
 
   / Tractor or skid steer? Just bought 150 acres. #4  
This budget seems to assume there won't be any unexpected repair costs incurred.

The less expensive way both in time and dollar outlay of keeping 150 acres cut is to find someone to cut the hay with their own equipment. Some guys will do the work to improve the hay fields provided they get a long term arrangement to recoup their time and money from the hay produced.
 
   / Tractor or skid steer? Just bought 150 acres. #6  
What I would do is go with a tractor. It wouldn't even be close for me. I have a lot of experience with a skid steer but never owned one. I have multiple friends who own or have owned them, including my next door neighbor, and I'll admit they are great for a lot of jobs. And horrible for others. What I've found is the maintenance can be expensive and I'm assuming you're buying something older based on your price estimates. You need to budget for some maintenance. As an example, I had to replace the tracks on my 6 ton mini excavator a couple of years ago and the tracks alone were over $3k. Same or similar tracks as on a skid steer.

I can do all of the jobs you listed with a tractor but I can't or wouldn't do all of them with a skid steer. But that brings up another point - taking care of 150 acres with a 60-70 hp tractor is going make for some long days. I realize you're working with a budget but if you could figure a way to get a little bit bigger tractor and a batwing mower you're going to be much happier. That said, I pull a 15' batwing with a 75hp Massey so it's doable. But I'm only mowing about 40 of our 90 acres.

Anyway, you asked what would "you" do, and that's what I would do. Go with the tractor.
 
   / Tractor or skid steer? Just bought 150 acres. #7  
Something different. Rent an excavator in the 10 - 14 ton size (easier to operate than a mini excavator as the reflexes are a little bit slower).
In New Zealand we would do all the track and building pad and apron area with an excavator.
The culvert would be put in then the track would have the topsoil stripped and windrowed alongside the track, then go back and do a cut and fill to level the subsoil and run in rotten rock(or local equivilent) and level with the digger and track roll. Use the truck to spread gravel (all pass inch - and -a- half).
For the barn pad and apron strip off the top soil and stockpile for reinstatement. (Leave enough space for the subsoil fill). Shape the high side of the bank to GUIDE RUNOFF AWAY, BEFORE you start your barn. Also any interceptor drains are easier to put in with a digger before you lay your barn slab or footings. Don't go smaller than 10 ton as the reach is to short.
In a previous job for a house earthworks contractor, making your road access, track and house/barn pad describes my job.

Back to the conventional side of things. Go for a tractor. In NZ the volume market is the 90 - 120 hp range and you can get a good moderate hour tractor with 4x4 loader, 3rd service (grapple, bale clamp etc) and minimum 2 SCV, 3 or 4 are better as this helps to future proof the tractor (equipment trend is hydraulic). Also look for loader suspenion or front axle suspension as this helps reduce shock loads on the loader. Due to budget I have 3rd sevice, loader suspension and 2 SCV on an open station 100 hp tractor with a shuttle g/box.


A digger will also beat a tractor and bobcat to clear the fence line and you can cut a line across a hillside to make ramming the fence posts easier. I recommend a pick to pull the tree out with minimal ground disturbance and a weed bucket to clean things up. Be sure to have wire cutters when doing the fence.

NOTE as your skill increases there WILL be mission creep.

Some food for thought.
.
 
   / Tractor or skid steer? Just bought 150 acres. #8  
While I would love to hire out the first 3 jobs, we are stretching our budget to make this farm purchase possible.
Alarm bells are ringing. This should be a warning sign telling you that this farm purchase is a bad idea. You can't afford the lifestyle you want. Mow 150 acres? WTF, you are sunk before you even begin. YOU can't afford to maintain 150 acres of park land. You can't afford even the fuel and maintenance costs for the equipment you want let alone break downs and repairs buying older equipment in your budget.

Run Forest, Run!
 
   / Tractor or skid steer? Just bought 150 acres. #9  
Since most of my work is loader work I considered a skid steer a few years ago.

The reason I didn't buy one;
You shouldn't leave the operators seat unless the bucket is on the ground. If you work alone this is a big deal. (There are plenty of dead guys that will agree.)
They are a PITA to get in or out of.
Vision is lousy especially if you can't turn your head like an owl. A camera will help a little but is no substitute for clear vision.
They tend to be noisy compared to a tractor.
 
   / Tractor or skid steer? Just bought 150 acres. #10  
You do not mention climate - Alaska? Florida?
What do you want to do with it? Farm radishes or redwood trees?
I've several hundred acres of what could be termed "rolling farmland on which I act as a "tree farmer". My input is hire the trees to be planted and harvested and wait for creeping suburbs to raise the value enough to sell at a hefty profit.
 
 
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