Buying a tractor is a big deal. Whether you’re diversifying your crops, buying new land, or simply sick of using a wheelbarrow, the decision to invest in something this big haunts even the most seasoned of farmers. But don’t lose heart. With the right equipment, anything is possible. So before you run off to the dealership, here’s how to choose the right tractor for your needs.
What will my tractor do?
If you’re in the market for a tractor, chances are you already know exactly what you’re going to use it for. But choosing the right tractor is more than just fulfilling one specific need on your property. As a long-term investment, getting the most out of your equipment will mean choosing carefully based on some important criteria.
Consider today’s demands vs future needs
When looking to buy a new tractor you shouldn’t just be looking at what specific tasks you’re hoping to get done on day one. Look at all your outstanding farm work - consider your future needs as well as the present demands. When investing in the future of your business, it’s always good to look ahead. Balancing out these needs will help you determine exactly what kind of tractor you’re after. That means looking at your plans. Maybe you’re considering diversifying crops or buying more land - if so, what is the land for? What role will your tractor perform in 2 years, or 10?
How much land am I working with?
Choosing the right tractor will depend on how much acreage you’re working with. It’s not just land size that affects your decision, it’s the kind of terrain you’ll be working on too. If you’re unsure on how to choose a tractor size, look at your acreage and at the kind of terrain you’re working on for a good indicator.
On the smaller side: hobby farms and homesteads
If you’re in charge of no more than 20 acres of land, you can probably get away with a subcompact tractor for moving, gardening, landscaping, and smaller jobs around the home. Subcompact tractors are a bit like a miniature bull terrier: smart and eager, yet small and resourceful. The Kubota BX and B series are prime examples of small, high-performance tractors that can easily complete general maintenance and upkeep on your hobby farm.
How to choose the right tractor for diverse farms
If you’re operating a for-profit farm, consider a more powerful tractor that will fulfil a wider variety of needs. Depending on your crops, the ability to till, seed, fertilise, and harvest while also being able to complete routine maintenance jobs will be an important consideration. The more acreage and the more diverse your crop mix, the larger and more powerful your tractor fleet will need to be. You would find this tractor in the L to M series range.
How to choose a tractor size for orchards and vineyards
Orchards and wineries would look for a powerful, yet light and narrow tractor to operate effectively between vineyard rows and carry out specific tasks such as trimming, pruning, waste removal, and harvesting. The Kubota M8540 narrow has been a very popular orchard and vineyard tractor over the recent years due to its narrow body and signature bi-speed turn system making for a light and smooth run that minimises the ground disturbance. If you’re chasing a larger tractor for your orchard/vineyard Kubota has recently released the M5 Narrow tractor that offers more horsepower while maintaining the narrow frame.
For larger farms and landholdings
As soon as you step into the world of haymaking, crop tillage, seeding, and harvesting, a few more factors come into play. It comes down to scale and efficiency. When caring for large areas of land, your number one priority is how to get the most out of your investment over the long term. Fuel efficiency, horsepower, and tyre tread become important factors when operating at scale. Long hours out on the field in the wrong machine can become very costly.
Consider your tractor management systems
Tractors are key assets to anyone who uses them. And upkeep and maintenance are important in ensuring their viability over the long term. Talk to your dealer about maintenance plans that suit your needs and timeframe. Choosing the right tractor isn’t just about how to minimise labour costs; it’s a key component of your business model.
How much horsepower will I need?
Take a detailed look at the kinds of work you’re hoping to get done and match up your jobs to the appropriate level of power. Buying a tractor isn’t like buying a car. More horsepower doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better choice. Be careful not to overshoot on the horsepower. Getting a 170 horsepower tractor for pruning and mowing will be costly and ineffective. Generally, a compact tractor with a broad range of capabilities will fall between 40 and 80 horsepower.
And what about attachments?
Be it mowing, mulching, seeding, or tilling, it’s about matching your tractor’s power, size, and grip with the right equipment for your land. It comes down to compatibility and efficiency. Always consider the size and scale of the job and choose accordingly. Beware, most modern attachments require a three-point hitch system - ensure your tractor has this or you might find yourself spending on modifications.
Boya Equipment stock a large range of Land Pride and Great Plains attachments, seeders and spreaders so be sure to ask one of our salespeople for more information.
Will I need 4-wheel drive?
Most likely, yes. Especially if you’re working in muddy or wet conditions. Having the extra grip is crucial if you’re up against even the slightest bit of terrain or sand. The same goes for tyre tread. Consider the kinds of surfaces you’ll be travelling over - if it’s cultivated land or grass having a lighter, less invasive tread will be necessary to minimise disturbance to the soil and compaction. If the terrain is rugged and diverse, go for a more industrial tread for better versatility.
What safety features should a tractor have?
Safety is critical at all times, and ensuring both the tractor and driver are up to speed on safety protocol is a must. If you’re buying a used machine, watch out for faulty equipment, especially the rollover protective structure or ROPS for short. The main cause of injury is when a tractor loses balance on the job, this can have devastating consequences. Having the necessary precautions in place, such as a seatbelt, canopy, and lights are all critical in ensuring your's and other people’s safety.
Still got questions on how to choose the right tractor? Speak to the experts at Boya Equipmernt and find out what tractor is best for your needs.