IMHO, yes. But this doesn’t mean you need a 50hp tractor
What is your pasture like? If it’s nice and smooth now, it won’t be after a few years of horses running on wet ground. A ZT capable of holding up long-term over rough terrain isn’t cheap.
Mules require feed and hoof care and vaccinations and dental work and get hurt - cost adds up. Not to mention, good mules aren’t cheap to buy.
Not all the best dragging can be done at slow speed. What would the hay be put in to be moved around?
You can - it costs money, not all locations have a service for that, if yours does you’d need to price the fees. My horses are in for breakfast, and occasionally for bad weather, so manure removal isn’t large. What there is, goes behind the barn into a compost pile (which is also where all kitchen scraps go), and I use it to supplement garden and flower beds. 3-4 horses’ worth of manure gets me enough compost once a year.
We bought a '75 Ford 40000 for $4k when we moved in 20 years ago. It came with a finish mower. That served us well for years to get the pasture mowed, get the ring and pasture dragged, and when we got a box blade, to get the driveway “refurbished” and get some snow “plowed”. I got a 500lb capacity spreader which I use to seed and fertilize the pasture. We had a riding mower for the bulk of the yard and outer fence mowing, and a push mower for some finesse work. We’ve gone through 3 riding mowers
We’re in the process of looking for a new “all in one” tractor, as the current riding mower just died. Right now, for $15-18k we can get a sub-compact Kioti with a front end loader and mid-mount mower that can pull the finish mower for the pasture, and then mow the yards. We’ll have a smidge more finish work to do with the push mower, but the mid-mount mower is 54-60" (I don’t remember) so the time to mow the bulk of the non-pasture will be cut a LOT
It likely won’t work with our box scrap and spreader, as its arms won’t be wide enough, but if we do this Kioti, we’ll sell those and get a smaller size of each.
We’ve never really pined about not having a FEL, so not all farm setups really need one. Yes there are things that would have been made easier, but rarely have we just cried about it.
There are way, way more things that you could imagine to get done on a farm that size (ours is about 8 acres of actual working property) than a ZT could ever do, and a good ZT is already 1/3 the price of a decent sub-compact tractor.