Tractor Suggestions for Florida Orange Grove

   #1  

RocketManJeff

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Sep 22, 2019
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Hustler Super 104
Greetings! I am a long time reader, first time poster and am here for some advice. Please pardon the long post, but I hope that the details will help garner the most helpful responses.

I own about 15 acres of orange grove down in sunny Florida. For the past several years I have used a Hustler Super 104 (large zero-turn mower) to cut the grass around the trees and in the pastures. Recently, unfortunately, the mower was involved with a mishap and I am now searching for a replacement. While the Hustler got the job done, there were definitely pros and cons with the machine that make me want to research replacement options before spending the money.

Things I liked about the Hustler:
- Massive productivity with the 104 cutting deck
- Very maneuverable. Grown orange trees have trunks around 6-8
- Contouring deck really helped get an even cut. For those that do not know, orange groves often have drainage depressions cut between rows of trees to avoid flooding in certain places.

Things I did not like about the Hustler:
- Did not like tall grass. While I understand that this was a finish mower and not a bush hog, it got bogged down rather easily. Florida grass grows very think in the summer months and oftentimes I would have to cut very slowly to avoid wearing the belt down quickly.
- Like most zero turn mowers, it gets stuck on muddy slopes. While my land is mostly flat those drainage depressions are tricky at times. In the summer months we get rain almost every day, so waiting for the property to simple dry out usually is not an option.
- Limited use - it only cuts the grass and can pull a cart.

For my upcoming purchase I would like to consider something a little more capable. This has led me to consider units from Ventrac, Steiner, and Power Trac. I know from reading other threads here that it is apple and oranges between the Ventrac/Steiner units and a Power Trac. I am attracted to the added hydraulic capabilities of these units (primarily the Power Trac) and what additional work I could do with these machines.

I plan to see/demo all three, but my question to the collective brain trust here (aside from general advice) is if there is anything I am missing. While none of these machines are zero turns, I am hoping that the articulating chassis will still give me enough maneuverability to get around my trees, yet the 4 wheel drive will help immensely in the traction department. While I am naturally hoping to spend as little as possible, my realistic budget is low to mid 30s. Any input will be much appreciated!

Thanks,
-Jeff
 
   #2  

3Ts

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First, what is your plan for the 15 acres of orange trees? It sounds like you are treating them strictly as ornamental. If you are treating them as a crop and plan to harvest them and sell the oranges, you'll need something different that just for mowing. I have no experience with the brands you mentioned so I can't help you there, but others on this forum can.

If the oranges are a commercial crop, you'll need a sprayer and 15 acres is a little much for a hand sprayer, and the air sprayers take a good sized tractor to run the pump and fan. Unless you contract that out.
 
  
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#3  
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RocketManJeff

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Sep 22, 2019
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Hustler Super 104
Thanks for the feedback! Yes, thus far I have always hired in or rented the larger equipment as needed and plan to keep on doing so. I really just need something to cut the grass as the number one job, but to clarify, like the idea of hydraulics for things like a bucket loader, post hole digger, etc, - not the heavy duty hydraulic implements that would be found on the much larger machines working large farms. Thanks again!
 
   #5  

Lowrider2120

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Dec 14, 2016
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North Idaho
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Kioti ck3510HST SE Cab, Kubota BX1500D
Something else you can consider is an offset mower. It may get you in closer to the tree than the other options you're considering, depending on how the trees are pruned. One example, and there are others.
Ventura TRIN Offset Ditch Bank Flail Mowers -- Iowa Farm Equipment

I grew up in the 50's and early 60's in Central FL working a family 32 acre grove with a shiny (sorta) Ford 8N and a 6' bush hog, home made harrow, chain link drag with chains on the back. It was back when you could buy dynamite at the hardware store so when freeze killed a tree my Dad put a half stick under the stump and we pulled the tree out of the hole with a chain and pulled it to the burn pile. The old Ford did everything that got done. Back then you had to use what you had to get it done. When my dad retired the property was sold to an undercover lawyer working for Walt Disney and it's probably a parking lot today...best I can tell. Been back once since 1967...place is full of Yankees now.
 
   #6  

flusher

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Sacramento
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Getting old. Sold the ranch. Sold the tractors. Moved back to the city.
I grew up in the 50's and early 60's in Central FL working a family 32 acre grove with a shiny (sorta) Ford 8N and a 6' bush hog, home made harrow, chain link drag with chains on the back. It was back when you could buy dynamite at the hardware store so when freeze killed a tree my Dad put a half stick under the stump and we pulled the tree out of the hole with a chain and pulled it to the burn pile. The old Ford did everything that got done. Back then you had to use what you had to get it done. When my dad retired the property was sold to an undercover lawyer working for Walt Disney and it's probably a parking lot today...best I can tell. Been back once since 1967...place is full of Yankees now.

I bought this 1964 MF135 diesel tractor from an olive grower. He lowered it with those large rear wheels (16" diameter rims, 18" wide tread) and shorted the front axle spindles to keep the tractor level. Used it to disc, mow and spray his 15 acre orchard. A low cost solution to your problem.

MF135 Steve stump.JPGMF135 stump2.JPGMF135 stump1 (1).JPG

Good luck
 
   #7  

bretth24

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Bobcat E36
The 135 should suit you fine depending on how many hours a day you plan on using the tractor. I would buy newer however as you'll prefer to have something more dependable for the long-term when it comes to a property larger than a few acres. Honestly if you went to a local dealership and compared pricing points per size I'm sure you could find some solid options. Even if that was too expensive you could always shop around on Craigslist. I see reasonably priced rigs all the time around central FL when I'm down visiting my folks. If you needed financing to help pay for the tractor overall I could help point you in the right direction as well. Either way a 135 should be a good fit for what it sounds like your current needs are.
 
  
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RocketManJeff

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Hustler Super 104
Thanks for the input so far! It's been a busy past week for me, so sorry for the lack of response. The offset mower option definitely looks interesting. Trying to think this out in my head, would it be possible to set the "offset" out to the point that the effective cutting radius is zero, similar to my zero turn?

I appreciate the other suggestions as well. I happened to visit my local Kubota dealer today to check out their offerings. I was shown the L3301 and L4701. Both are within my price range. My concern though when sitting up on both of them is the lack of visibility in the front compared to my zero-turn, as well as it being potentially cumbersome with a mower on the back. Am I just overthinking this and will I acclimate in time, or should I be shopping for something more nimble? I'm demoing a Ventrac next week on my property and plan to visit the Power Trac factory for a demo there as well. Thanks again!
 
   #9  

3Ts

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would it be possible to set the "offset" out to the point that the effective cutting radius is zero, similar to my zero turn?
That depends on the tractor turning radius and how much offset you can get out of the mower. So, I can't answer this directly.
 
  
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RocketManJeff

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Hustler Super 104
Thanks 3Ts, I'll definitely keep this in mind. I'll be very curious to see what I think of the Ventrac and Power Trac units, but going the Kubota route definitely seems to be a possibility. In addition to the L Series, it looks like the MX Series is also within my budget. Something like the MX5800 seems extremely capable and well-liked here. While I'd give up a degree of maneuverability with a larger unit, it's definitely a more "standard" solution compared to a niche tractor and would be able to run a larger mower. I'll certainly keep this thread updated. Thanks again!
 
 
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