Do You Need a Tractor For Your Acreage?

So you did it.

You found the piece of property you can start building your dreams on. You may have been waiting for this moment for a long time.

But what now? How will you manage your land?

I was there not that long ago.

We were so caught up in the idea of having land of our own that we didn’t stop to think about how we would manage it. We didn’t have a plan. And we quickly realized that we were in over our heads when things started adding up.

We needed to invest in the proper tools to take care of our property. And we needed a plan.

You may be wondering if you really need to buy a tractor. I understand why this question would come up. I thought the same thing. Tractors are expensive to buy and expensive to keep running. You’ve got to have a place to store them out of the weather. Is all this worth the effort and cost?

My experience says yes. Emphatically. Our life simplified exponentially when we invested in our tractor, and I don’t regret one penny I’ve put into it.

If you’re on the fence about buying a tractor for your acreage, here’s a few things to consider.

Moving straw for the pigs would be impractical without our loader

Will you raise animals on your land?

We raise pigs and chickens, and both require bulk food, bulk bedding and bulk cleanup. Having to move bales of hay by hand, especially in the winter, would be ludicrous, if not impossible on some days. And loading manure into a wheel barrow just stinks (literally lol).

Maybe you’re not thinking about getting animals right away. We weren’t planning on raising pigs, and then the opportunity fell into our lap. You never know what you might be open to in a year or so. But if you think there is a chance you might have animals in the future you’ll want to buy a tractor.

Forks on the loader are a necessary tool on our farm

Are there woods on your property?

Sure, you can cut and haul wood without a tractor. I’ve done it for years. But once you apply a tractor to the equation you’ll realize how much more productive you can be in less time. Whether its loading wood in a bucket, logs on forks or utilizing the PTO to run a chipper, a tractor is a must have to properly manage a wood lot of even moderate size.

The tiller makes work in the garden efficient, especially with stubborn soil

A copilot in the garden

We use a smaller tiller for most of our gardening needs, but sometimes its crucial to bring in the big guns. Our 72in tiller saves so much time in early spring when we need to prep some of the garden plots. Again, it’s about efficient use of time for us. It used to take me all day to prep a garden plot for planting, but with my tractor it literally takes a few minutes.

My rotary mower gets the most work from spring to winter

Got fields to mow?

Honestly, this might be the single most chore that has given my tractor it’s highest return on value. Managing the fields would be impossible without our rotary mower. We’ve worked hard at converting the mistreated fields from weeds to lush orchard grass. Timely mowing (keeping weeds from going to seed) and strategic tilling have been a big part of that plan.

Pumpkin harvest made simple with the loader bucket

All the things we don’t think about

When I was first considering a tractor, a couple coworkers tried talking me off the fence by reasoning that once I had a tractor I would find excuses to put it to use. I didn’t really understand what they meant, but I certainly do now.

It seems like every year I find new reasons to use the tractor. Whether its loading pumpkins, pulling tree stumps out of the ground, lifting heavy fencing, grading a driveway…or whatever might be the chore at hand…my tractor has become a coworker to me, giving me the ability to accomplish more things by myself that would otherwise require additional helping hands.

It may not be clear now how you will use a tractor, but if you have land I guarantee you will put it to use.

No matter the season there’s always something to do on the homestead

Tractors work hard every season

Seasons matter when it comes to managing your land. All four seasons. So you’ll want to invest in a tool that will be as practical and effective in during the winter months as it is in summer. Think mud, snow, rain and shine. A skid steer can do some of the things a tractor can do, but if you invest in the right horsepower tractor with the right attachments it will outshine a skid steer in its seasonal versatility any day.

Our oldest boy test driving the John Deere

What kind of tractor do you need?

Maybe you’re on the fence, but you’re not sure what kind of tractor you need. The decision comes down a few simple things: money, how much land you have to manage, and personal preference. But here’s a couple things that might help you decide which decision is right for you.

Things to know about buying new

  • Often you can find zero percent interest and long term warranty
  • Maintenance will be less money up front
  • It’s easier to acquire the attachments you need (tiller, forks, etc)
  • Upfront and total cost will be higher
  • We find less stress in purchasing a new tractor

Things to know about buying used

  • Lower purchase price – you can usually find a good deal
  • Maintenance cost will be much higher
  • Will require the skills to fix issues yourself or someone you can help
  • Hidden costs – unseen wear parts, past abuse

My suggestion for the perfect acreage tractor

  • Buy one size bigger than what you think you’ll need. Trust me, you’ll thank me if you do.
  • Get a loader than can be quickly detached. Some of the smaller utility tractors have fixed loaders, and they can be a pain if you need to get to the engine.
  • In addition to a loader (which is a must for any acreage), I strongly suggest getting a good utility bucket, forks and a tiller. If you’re buying new you can often add these to the financing (only an option for me if its 0%).
  • 50-60hp is adequate for most basic acreage chores.
  • Make sure the tractor has a live PTO and 4 wheel drive
Most little boys dream about driving a tractor

You can probably tell by now that I’m pretty convinced that a tractor is a necessary tool for any acreage or homestead. I’ve learned from experience and hard knocks, which seems to be true with just about anything I do.

Before we bought our John Deere 4052, we bought a used Deere 4020 (love this tractor but was too big for basic homestead chores) and a used 1953 Ford Jubilee (too small). Both tractors served a purpose, but each tractor’s ability was too narrow for all of the needs I’ve described above when compared the abilities of the 4052.

What’s the point? Before you go in, have a plan. Know what you need. And make the right investment the first time.

I know, I know, I know…tractors cost money and for many of us it’s a hard purchase to justify. My suggestion is to sit down an make a plan for your acreage (seriously, this is so important). Think about the things I’ve already mentioned, and think about other challenges you’ll face, or things you want to do, on the homestead. Does a tractor fit? Will buying a tractor save time, manpower, the need to hire outside help?

I suspect that a tractor will probably make sense once that plan starts taking shape.

Be well.

2 Comments

  1. When we bought our property it was 7.6 acres of vacant land with a partial driveway. Half of it was overgrown with trees (some dead ash) and scrub the other half old farm field. Our first investment was two pair of lopping shears that we began using to cut down scrub. Our next investment (and probably our best) was our Kubota tractor with bucket. tiller, brush hog and rear blade. We had 0 interest financing and because of all we were able to accomplish with it I was always happy to make the monthly payment. We have used it for everything you mention and more. 8 years later she has been fully paid off for a few year now and is still serving us well.

    1. I can’t imagine trying to take care of our fields and land without a tractor! It makes my head hurt thinking about it lol.

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