Compact tractors - what's the latest?

We have a mid 70s Ford 4000 that has been a great tractor for us. I believe it’s 65hp which is more than we need, but it was a great buy 15 years ago and has done well.

I mow the pasture - currently have a 5’ bush hog and do NOT want to go smaller as I don’t want to take longer to mow

I drag the ring - currently it’s a metal drag with teeth, and I have to flip it teeth down to drag, then flip teeth up to smooth, and I’d really like to get a different drag so 1) I don’t have to do that and 2) I can get into corners and 3) I don’t drag grass/gravel into the ring and footing out (ie I’d like to lift it, at least on wheels). I also use it teeth down to drag the pasture, and that would remain a necessity. It’s about 200lb.

Hubby would like something that can also mow the majority of our hard and fence line. He loves the idea of a model you can drive on top of the mower and attach to the belly. I don’t personally want that as I couldn’t mow the corners of the pasture, but if the tractor can also pull the bush hog then it doesn’t matter.

A FEL attachment would be a lovely bonus.

I don’t even know what category of tractor this fits in. Compact? I assume maybe not sub-compact?

What else do I need to consider?

I’m not sure what category it’s in, but I do all of that with our 35hp Kubota tractor with a front-end loader. (The FEL is not an attachment I can swap out like the brush hog and drag, it is permanent.)

We had a smaller one with a belly mower, but again that was permanently attached. We traded that tractor for a zero-turn mower. We’re happy with that combination.

Other things to consider… if you can, get a tractor with a hydrostatic transmission. The clutch pedal kills my left knee.

The rule of thumb for bush hogs is 5 hp for every foot of width, iirc. So that gives you a place to start.

I’d consider who the most responsive dealer in your area is for service. It sucks when the service center you need is crappy. And if you get a newish tractor, you’ll probably want it serviced by the dealer.

We’ve got a JD 2320 and it does everything you want–drive on belly mower, easy change FEL, bush hog, arena drag–but isn’t quite the 25 HP for your bush hog. We run a 4’ with it. The next size up in the series would cover you just fine.

You feed rounds, right? How big are they, if you’re looking for this to move them? And how high do you need to reach to unload? That might drive your needs higher.

Ditto Simkis remarks. For our JD 2320 we have a 4’ bush hog, box blade, lawn rake, auger & FEL but our place is small. I can push and manipulate round bales but can’t lift them.

runs to look up hydrostatic transmission

Thanks! That’s great info as a minimum

I do, but they are offloaded into the barn and I peel-n-wheel so using a spike or anything to move them isn’t necessary

There’s no real vertical reach needed - no hay loft or anything

any diesel engine small tractor above 25HP rated will also have to use DEF that is why many models will be rated just under 25HP

If you are looking to use the tractor to unload from your truck, that’s vertical lift.

If you were, for example, looking to have a semi of rounds delivered, stacked two high, and planned to use the tractor to unload, that’s a great deal MORE vertical lift.

Another reason for vertical lift is loading a dumpster over the side.

Just depends on what you need. It’s an awfully large machine that can unload off a semi stacked two high.

I would NOT want a hydrostatic transmission. You lose a lot of the motor power with that transmission. We rented one with a brush hog for cutting a newly purchased field that was unmown for 20 years. It just had no OOMPH going thru that weed coverage, though it was bigger at 35hp. That tractor had a high and low range, but only forward and back in gear selection. We rented in case we found “surprises” in the fields, did not want to damage our tractor. I was quite surprised as how wussy it was for the size of it. After that experience I would not buy a tractor with a hydrostatic transmission.

My small tractor was 25hp, clutch, just breezed thru the second cutting to make weeds shorter, by down shifting to gain more power.

So many times going to low range, lower gear, you can do amazing things with that tractor even if it is smaller. I mow using a 5ft finish mower on pastures or 5ft brush hog on the field edges with old brush stubs. Tractor manages both easily. We use a 6ft landscape rake on it, moves a lot of brush or dirt for smoothing things, breaking hardened mud, sheet ice in paddocks so horses can go out without falling down.

You might want to consider buying a finish mower over a lawn deck. Mower fits any tractor with a PTO. Getting the right finish mower let’s you adjust it easily for height on the grass and it can mow quite closely to a fence. My mower is an older Ford with corner wheels, just walk around it to change height in about 2 minutes. But other models can be quite nice too. I think the finish mower has really improved my pastures by keeping the cutting height constant, no scalping or high spots like a brush hog can leave. Hinged pulling arms to the 3pt hitch let the mower wheels stay on the ground despite the ups and downs tractor goes over. Get a mower with a side chute to spread the cut grass, not creating windrows behind it. The cut stuff then dries fast in the spread layer, disappears.

It is a Kubota, maybe 20 years old with 4WD, FEL, though not the quick attach model. Picks up 800#s and not an ounce more. Ha ha I pull an 8ft wide, 8ft long chain drag with teeth down, no problems. Turning the drag over is too hard, so I use a large older tractor tire for smoothing surfaces. It does a good job with all that sidewall on the dirt. It also pulls discs easily to cut up packed ground in pastures. Smoothing out hoof marks, opens soil slightly for over seeding and fertilizing. Discs are older, one is a one-piece model, 5ft wide, that you can lift entirely off the ground for moving with the 3PT hitch. The other elderly disc is a 7ft wide, hinged model, which I like because it covers more ground each pass, turns sharply when needed. Being pull-only, you do have to pick it up with the loader to go across the pavement, no 3pt hitch. Fills stalls with sawdust daily, moves loads of stone, gravel, dirt to where you need them.

Husband has used to clear trails, both pulling and pushing good sized fallen trees out of the way. People are quite astonished at all the things it can do, despite being somewhat small. Lot of power with the gear ranges. It is our go-to tractor though we have bigger ones. Just so easy to use!

Get loaded rear tires if tractor does not have them. Beet pulp juice is the newest fill, safe for the enviornment if it leaks out, does not rust out the rims like chloride does. No juice in the front wheels, it will tear up the transmission. Only drive in 4WD when working, it wears out the front tires faster pulling the tractor along in daily driving.

It was kind of funny when we started tractor shopping. We asked many horse folks about their various makes, HP, model choices. Everyone was quite willing to sell us their tractor right then, except the Kubota owners! Most were going to die owning that Kubota! Only willing to sell if they wanted to change tractor size larger or smaller. Now we know why!

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What is DEF?

We unload manually

Thanks for that added info!

So 25hp does well enough for a 5’ mower?

What I have is actually a finish mower, I forgot about that. I was going very generic

Get out - beet pulp liquid??


Yeah, but do you want to continue to do that :wink:

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HAHAHA same here. The tractor, zero turn mower, and the RTV are all Kubota. They were all bought used, the local equipment guy has been great about finding things for us at estate sales and such. That’s also how I got my Newer Spreader, he called and said he found this strange looking thing and sent a picture. Sold!

Yes, you will lose power with the hydrostatic transmission. Tractoring is hard work, you have to decide what your body can take. I think I’m aging out of being able to bounce around on the thing all day and hold that clutch, plus we’re pretty much done with heavy brush cutting on our place (or will hire out any further clearing.)

24 and under are exempt from needing an emission reduction system. From 25-74 you don’t necessarily need an SCR/DEF to meet the Tier IV emissions requirements. Some manufacturers use EGR+DPF rather than SCR/DEF. We’ve been looking at skid steers and many clock in at 74 hp to be able to use the EGR+DPF. :grinning:

For anybody wondering what in the world that alphabet soup means:

We went with 35hp, and it’s doing everything we ask of it. While I can’t lift our 6ftroundbales, I can easily drag them to where they need to go.

Highly recommend getting a set of forks that clamp on to the FEL. Super cheap (I thnk $150?) and incredibly useful.

The backhoe attachment felt like a luxury splurge but it really has been worth it. We’ve used it for drainage ditches, transplanting trees, pulling out stumps. Today we pulled out an old concrete sidewalk that was 6" thick, and reinforced throughout with 1" rebar (like, were they expecting to land a 747 on this damn sidewalk??).

Give serious thought to the tire tread you choose. Turf tires have very little traction-- fine if you’re just pulling a mower or moving pallets of mulch around. But not suitable if you are going to be doing regular FEL work, pulling logs, dragging roundbale in the snow, etc. The Ag tread is the most aggressive traction–but it can tear up your turf. The industrial tread is a hybrid between ag and turf. We got the ag tread and are happy with it – especially for how it handled this winter’s major snows. Our neighbor got the industrial tread and got stuck in the snow several times.

We did not get our tires filled, since that would compound the abuse that the ag tires inflict on the turf. Instead I am making a DIY ballast box.

The Deere i-Hitch system is very slick and makes changing implements a snap. But, you’re going to pay $100-200 more for every implement you buy, to get the i-Hitch compatible versions. We decided to just get better at changing implements. :woman_shrugging: That said, hooking up a PTO mower requires patience and strength. First few times we did it, it was so frustrating and I thought maybe we’d made a mistake not going with the JD. But as with everything, we learned and got more efficient. Now it’s a 5-min task, no big whoop.

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Re: hydrostatic, I think there’s a learning curve that a lot of people don’t realize. It’s common to think that pushing on the pedal more would mean more power. But the more you press on a hydrostatic pedal you essentially shift it into a higher gear and have less power for pushing/pulling.

I finally figured this out with our lawnmower when using it to aerate the lawn - to go up hills I’d want to floor it but would wind up barely making it. Once I learned to back off and be gentle with the pedal it would skip right up them.

So while you may lose some power with hydrostatic transmission, it can also be exacerbated by bad habits. LOL

JB, the beet juice for loading tires is true! We got a flat tractor tire years ago, chloride leaked out the split side. Nasty stuff, ugly mess. The tire service came to fix it. He was the one who explained about chloride and rusting out problems because we had to get a new tractor tire and rim. The old rim would not hold a seal on the tire. Our present tractors all have beet juice in the tires.

We do have the farm tread on the tractors, and find it really helpful, most dry times, summer, it does not leave marks on the turf. Turf is thick, older growth stuff that gets fertilized yearly. Shod hooves galloping do not leave marks in summer either. That spring discing I do, chain drag after, helps remove the tire marks and winter hoofmarks. With my turf, the ground might look a bit rough for a short time after discing and dragging, then rain gets the cut pieces grass going well, dirt lumps smooth out for a nice dirt surface under the grass the rest of the summer. It seems that grass needs cutting into pieces, dirt cut open slightly, to flourish better. Water can get in the dirt easier, not sheeting off in heavy rain, no erosion. Like gardening, breaking older grasses apart makes them grow better. My discing is more making cut lines of slicing the dirt and turf. NOT turning pasture into a plowed field look!

Yes the smaller tractor handles both mowers easily. I did get a set of Pats quick hitch ends for the 3pt arms. They are very helpful ln hitching things, though they make the arms longer. You have to watch to not drag them on the ground if there is no implement on the tractor. I just carry a drawbar on those empty arms now, so they don’t drag or swing to rub on the rear tires. Drawbar (flat heavy steel piece with holes the length of it, a long peg on each end to fit in 3pt arm’s holes) is also very handy for pulling things instead of using the hitch bar under PTO (hitch bar may ALSO be called a drawbar, gets confusing!). I find the added arm length with using the drawbar, along with a short piece of chain thru the pulling ring on the chain drag, to allow much tighter turns without drag hitting rear tires.

Keep things lubricated like the PTO buttons or locking collar, to make getting the driveshaft on or off MUCH easier. Same thing with turnbuckles that allow arm on 3pt to extend or shorten as needed. Do check those now slippery turnbuckles, partway into a job, to make sure vibration has not changed their adjustment.

The finish mower should have more than one rotor holding the blades. This allows a finer cut with those sharp blades, grass is not torn or shredded during cutting so it can recover faster. Just seems to make for better growth in my pastures. With mowing often, I have very few weeds, no need to use the sturdier brush hog to get things cut. I LOVE the side chute! Really not much in clumping to smother grass in a heavy growth time. Cut grass dries fast, goes down to act as mulch in protecting plant roots from sun heat, turns back into nutrients for the grass to use. Experts say leaving the cuttings on grass is like a free extra application of fertilizer! I cut pastures high, never shorter than 5 inches, plants recover faster with less leaf removal.

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We do have a drawbar, it’s what I hook the chain link drag to, so we’ve got that covered.

I do mow high - I have all the spacers that will fit on the finish mower to keep the height up.

Snow is an issue here for maybe a week a year, though it WOULD be nice to be able to use the tractor to get hay to the field instead of pulling a wheelbarrow, or pulling hay piled on an old blanket, out into the field. Most tractor use today is Summer mowing, ring dragging, and the occasional box scraping the driveway.

Re: offloading round bales. It’s pretty easy to do manually. A “nice to have” would be to be able to stack 2 bale on top of every 2 for more compact storage in the hay shed and less in the barn, but that is really a true nice to have. And right now I’m still lucky to have a round bale supplier close by, which may not always be the case.

So can we talk brands? I mean, Kubota seems to have a great reputation. Particular models?

It sounds like 35hp would let us do almost anything we want.

We’ve got the LS model 235HST. We compared the equivalent size machine in Holland, Deere, and Kubota. The LS is a great tractor but the knock against them is there aren’t as many dealerships. We happen to have a dealer right nearby. With JD, you can’t turn around without bumping into yet another dealership, so you have less risk of future service hassles. Of course, that redundancy in dealerships is baked into the higher price you pay.

Just to be clear, you will not be able to (safely) stack rounds with any 35hp. If you want to do that, you’re looking at a 50hp tractor minimum.

Really depends on your local dealer service centers. You can get a thousand recommendations here for Kubota, but if you need to service it at the dealer, and that service is shit, you’re going to regret that purchase.

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I LOVE my 3901 with a hydrostatic transmission! We bought ours new last year because lets face it, my hubs cannot work on farm equipment. FEL and a 5’ brush hog (could have easily handles the 6’) all for $25K.

Have a Kubota L3901 and love it - Bought new and got the 20% discount for being a USEF member

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