*NECESSARY Farm Equipment? Please help!

Hello fellow equestrians,

I am in the process of purchasing a farm. It is on 21 acres, but not even half of that is actually cleared pasture. I apologize for my ignorance here. I’ve been riding my entire life, have worked multiple stable hand / working student / groom / and assistant trainer positions. However, owning land is all new to me. Many farms I have worked at have used different equipment / have different systems.

My main question is:
Is a tractor REALLY a necessary purchase? Would I be better off with a zero turn (for efficiency in the pastures) and a mule (to pull the chain harrow to drag the arena / moving hay etc)? As far as manure management, I can just dump the wheelbarrow into the dumpster and pay someone to take it away. Thoughts? What equipment do you have at your facility? I’m looking to save as much money as possible by purchasing the least amount of equipment.

Thank you in advance!

JumpersNDressage

Yes.

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What is your reasoning? As far as mowing small pasture, I’ve heard a lot of people say the ZT cuts mowing time in half, maneuvers easier, etc.

Since you are not sure, why not first check around if some farmer or a stable has extra machinery and would do custom work for what you would use yours?

There are people here with a skid loader or tractor with a shredder, flatbed trailer, etc. that will come by do work for others, mostly evenings and weekends.

After you have a better idea of what you want, buy your own.
Or buy on a guess now and resell/trade for more suitable stuff later?

Is not only if you need, say, a tractor, but which size and with what implements.
If a tractor, get the biggest you can afford that is small enough to fit where you will be working.

Not an easy question to answer.

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At my place a tractor is absolutely a necessity. I do all of this horse stuff on my own, so I move hay bales, dump manure, drag poles, and clear snow with my tractor. My arena groomer is attached with a three point hitch, and I leave it attached until the snow falls and I switch to a blade. I use my tractor every single day.

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Yes a tractor is necessary. We have used ours to:

  1. Build our barn/outbuildings by ourselves.
  2. Clear fallen trees.
  3. Move around our portable fencing.
  4. Seasonally clear the manure from the pile by the barn and relocate it to the back of the property.
  5. Move hay.
  6. Till, seed, and mow pastures.
  7. Spread sand and road base.
  8. Dig trenches for water drainage.
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If you mean can you get by without one, probably - but it will be very slow and tiresome doing almost everything by hand. A front end loader, a brush hog, and a box scraper would be my at-minimum implement/attachment suggestions. You will then be able to move, clear, and mow most things in a timely fashion without breaking your body.

I only have a couple acres and our tractor gets used nearly every day.

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I can’t even imagine having property, especially of that size, without a tractor. You do a whole hell of a lot more with it than mow. How are you planning on dealing with manure if not using a front end loader to pile it or fill a spreader? There are ground driven spreaders out there, but PTO driven spreaders are often preferred. How are you going to drag your arena? Spray and fertilize your pasture? Move downed trees or clean up trees you’ve dropped? Dig post holes? Move large bales of hay (or stacks of small bales)? Deal with snow?

Etc etc etc etc. A tractor is SO versatile. A zero turn is very good at mowing, but not much else. There’s so much more to farm management & maintenance than mowing.

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Let’s not forget pallet points.
With a pallet on those points you can carry supplies every place, lift someone high up, pallet points will move bigger bales, posts.

Just spent this morning time with the bucket adding dirt to low places around gates and in runs, around tanks, scraping/leveling rough spots around barns so water runs off, don’t stand there making a muddy mess.

The regular trash disposal people that left a metal bin here they come empty weekly also have other bigger ones for horse manure.
Ask your local trash company what they offer?

We spread our own mostly with our own spreader, but also have a compost pile for when spreading is not right, too muddy or frozen.
We spread that pile later.

If we know more, what region and weather, which kind of horse keeping, etc., may be able to narrow needs.

Totally agree–pallet forks or bale spears configured like pallet forks are a necessary tool here, too.

I was surprised when the fence guy brought pallet forks with the auger, but man–he could pop rocks right out of the ground with those suckers. We have bale spears instead, but we often use them as you would pallet forks, and they’re also pretty handy on those buried rocks! Learned a new trick :joy:

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How much time do you have? Will you have a full time job in addition to managing this property? We only have 2.5 acres and it is doable without a tractor, but I save a boatload of time with the tractor… more time for actually riding!

We have six acres in pasture. I can’t imagine not having a tractor.

Here is the thing. No matter how much excellent advice is given…there is a learning curve. An Adjustment curve. Be ready and willing to buy and Sell equipment. What is working this year…may not be what you need five years down the line. What everybody says you need, may not be what you need.
That being said. Is a tractor necessary? No. Is a tractor the most versatile piece of equipment 99% of the time? Yes, almost certainly. You can: run a mower, unload large bales (assuming a big enough tractor) and stack them, you can drag the arena, move the manure, etc. A tractor is basically a mobile power unit with hydraulics. You can attach almost anything to a tractor: back blade, box blade, brush hog, manure spreader, seeder, sprayer, etc.
Zero turn mowers are overrated by the way. They are incredibly expensive and unless your pastures are just perfect, expect your maintenance costs to be high. Also…they can’t do anything else. Are they excellent? Yes…if you are buying a well maintained horse facility in a land of no rocks, no trees, and no horses that like to make stud piles!
I’m presuming you are smarter than I…I have two post WWII tractors for the main power on the farm, it makes hydraulics Interesting.

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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.

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We bought 26 acres last year and use about 13 acres for horse pasture. We wound up with a 36hp Kubota with a front loader, brush hog, and grader; a 13hp Husqvarna lawn mower; and two weed whackers. The tractor was obviously a large purchase, but at 0 down, 0% interest for seven years, it was absolutely 10000% worth it. We use it a ton.

Yep. We have a 6’ brush hog for our tractor and it takes four hours to mow the five acre section of the pasture. It’s not completely flat and bumpy, so speeding around like one does in a lawn is not comfortable or conducive to the long term maintenance of equipment.

I assumed OP meant “mule” as in one of those side by side ATVs with the little dump bed :grin: but they aren’t cheap, either!

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Yep, our finish mower is 60", and it takes about 5 hours to mow the 7-ish acres of actual pasture. It might go faster if it was a less-used, more uniform shape without areas we have to go more slowly. You cannot go as fast in a pasture as you can on a smooth lawn.

The other thing about a ZT - not sure how many of them allow you to raise the mowing height to 5-6" which is what most pasture grasses need.

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LMAO!! If I’d seen Mule I might have gotten LOL! That’s hilarious!

So I looked up Mule, and there a couple brands. Kawasaki was one. At $12k, you’d be SO MUCH better off with a sub-compact or even compact tractor. Spend $15-20k for a tractor that can do SO much more than any ATC

While it would be fun, hitching up a four legged mule every time you want to drag the arena would not be very efficient!

I have seen used Mules or the equivalent for $5-8k, with the lower end being the beat up old ones that probably need some maintenance/mechanic knowledge investment.

A tractor, say a 2-or 3-series Deere with a front end loader, bucket, and pallet forks, particularly if your 21 acres will be a boarding and training facility, A tractor pulled mower or a belly mower will be more comfortable for mowing than a zero turn mower, largely due to the bigger diameter tires. A suitable new tractor with a mower will be ballpark $30K and up.

If you have a gravel driveway to maintain a tractor is essential, but of course you can always hire out things like driveway maintenance and moving dirt, fertilizing, and spraying. But in the long run you will save money by having a tractor and doing pasture maintenance yourself. You’d eventually want to acquire a PTO driven fertilizer spreader and a boom sprayer - together maybe $1K.

Zero turn mower would be a nice addition to the tractor, especially for mowing areas while the tractor is busy or configured for loader work. A commercial grade one with a suspension is best, if you can justify another $12K or so. But you can’t move manure with a ZTR, and it isn’t close to ideal for arena dragging.

A UTV like a Mule or Gator, preferably with a hydraulic dump bed also is nice for mucking stalls and moving manure, and for dragging arenas. Once you get one you will realize all the time and steps you save doing things like grounds maintenance, fence repairs, and simply moving things from point A to point B. New about $10K and up.

After the big ticket items, don’t forget budgeting and acquiring all the small stuff. That’s an almost endless list of things like manure forks, shovels, brooms, storage cabinets, blanket hangers, cross ties, fans, etc.

I went through building and equipping a first barn just a few years ago, and this is just my opinion, based on personal experience.

And manure management is a critically important consideration. Will you be using a commercial dumpster, a manure spreader (another $ few thousand) or composting?

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