Welcome! Log In Create A New Account


Tractor sizing

Posted by Ethan Gouge 
Tractor sizing
December 18, 2016 08:39PM
My farm (and value of my time) has grown to where I have outgrown my BCS two wheel tractor and am looking for a full 4 wheel farm tractor. I'm hoping the forum can give me some advice on horsepower, size and specs of a tractor for orchard tasks. Given my terrain 4x4 is a must, and in following haphazard mulching and composing, a front loader will be required. Farm specs: 3 acres raspberry/ blueberry production, 6 acres of m111 apple trees nearing fruiting age, 10 acres of woods that will need to be cleared for future apple plantings. Size of orchard could reach 20+ acres. All tree planting so far have required mechanical digging of holes due to size and proliferation of rocks so a backhoe option could be useful. How helpful is a flail mower to this biological apple growing? Thanks!

Roan Highlands Farm 6b, Roan Mountain, TN elevation: 3200 ft.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/18/2016 11:47PM by Ethan Gouge.
Re: Tractor sizing
December 20, 2016 02:54AM
Edited for brevity

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/30/2022 05:44PM by Chris Vlitas.
Re: Tractor sizing
December 20, 2016 04:23AM
Great info, thanks. I hadn't figured maintenance to be that costly. You've got me thinking twice about a backhoe, I've got a good excavator guy who has dug my tree holes and otherwise it would just be for creek maintenance. What Kubota model? Were there any maneuverability considerations on your farm to factor in tractor size and turn radius? What type of transmission does it have? With that Pac Tank full is there any rear hydraulic lift considerations or counterweight considerations up front? At what tractor size would this be an issue? I know the hp to width ratio for a brush hog is around 5:1, what about for a flail mower? Can anyone chime in on the necessity of a flail mower for scab control, vole habitat, building fungal duff, etc? We only get a few good snows every winter so snow cover is not a factor in orchard habitat.

Roan Highlands Farm 6b, Roan Mountain, TN elevation: 3200 ft.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/20/2016 04:31AM by Ethan Gouge.
Re: Tractor sizing
December 20, 2016 06:35AM
Edited for brevity

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/30/2022 05:44PM by Chris Vlitas.
Re: Tractor sizing
December 20, 2016 08:02AM
Ethan , I started off at Hillview with a massy fergusson 135 diesel . Two wheel drive . Because of the steepness of the place we put 18.4 x16.1 tires on the back filled with calcium . Little bugger could damn near climb trees . But she could also get me stuck in simple places and when your by yourself thats a challenge . So like you I went for a 4x4 , Kubota L4400 .

I was told that I could do the same thing wih the tires make it more stable but that wasn't the case . Power wise she strong enough to do all that I want ( 45 hp) but on my slope she's tippy as hell , especially with a load on the front . She can lift that bin of apples but to sharp a turn will lift wheels and I have rolled her once already . Not an experience that I recommend trying smiling smiley We turned the wheels inside out to give her a wider stance and it did help a bit . Not sure how much bigger I would have had to go for stability but then it wouldn't fit under the trees , we run 15 x15 ft spacing .

If anyone is using a trailer behind the tractor concider putting in a hand operated brake actuator for trailer brakes . Its a little easier on the heart .
Re: Tractor sizing
December 21, 2016 06:16PM
Good info,

Lets dig into the mower question some more. This might warrant a separate thread. I get that bush hogs are all purpose and heavy duty. I also think a sickle mower would be a good option early in the season for laying long grass down for a mulching effect. Flail mowers are have a internal drum that spin many (20-50?) small y shaped blades. It seems this would be a great tool for general orchard mowing (cleaner than a bush hog), but would really shine for fall clean-up. Specifically, it would chop fallen apples leaves better than anything except maybe a finish mower, thus helping reduce scab, as well as finely chopping grass to cut down on vole habitat and chopping healthy prunings left in the isle ways. Can anyone that runs one vouch on that? Also, I did a little research to answer my question; flail mowers need a little more HP but not excessively so, due to the number of blades and more complex machine, you could expect more maintenance. So the question is are the orchard benefits worth running one of these guys over a brush hog or finish mower?

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/02/2017 03:21PM by Michael Phillips.
Re: Tractor sizing
February 09, 2017 09:19PM
I own 3 orchard tractor :

One 75 hp FIAT 4 x 4 (my main spraying tractor for years)
One 55 hp New Holland (2WD chores tractor)
One 85 Kubota M8540 Narrow. (the new kid in town)

The 55 NH does all the mowing but is challenge a bit with heavy jobs with the shredder (I have a Votex and a Kuhn). Also, you need counterweight in Front. Drop that clutch a little fast and you will the tractor pop a wheelie. Good choice of transmission ratio for all jobs 16 speeds

The Fiat is strong, durable, tough as nail with the exception of all things electrical. Also noisy as hell. It has a Alo loader that I hate : autolevelling is more a pain in the lower back that anything elsewhen trying to pick up apple bins. And you can't use both function of the loader together.

The Kubota is a lot newer (altough I bought it used with only 200 hours on it). The cab is very quiet roomy (no middle bump); engine is powerful; Transmission is very limited (8 speed). The roof is cheap thin plastic and will break apart if you hit a low brach (ask how I know). The hydraulic shuttle is a God sent if you plan to use a loader a lot. The front axle makes the wheels turn faster in sharp turns and that works well. The ride is harsh because it does not have radials.

The 50 HP tractors are borderline in my opinion. You quickly run out of power or weight. Ballast in rear tires makes a huge difference. Loader wise, make sure you like the geometry of your loader. The Alo does not roll back enought to pick up rock with a rock bucket. Look at loaders on backhoe to see the difference. I don't know why we can't have the same geometry on farm tractor...

Last but not least, I also own a compact Komatsu track excavator (old but strong). Don't bother with the backhoe on a tractor. They are too short, too weak, and in the worst case scenario, can break your transmission casing in half. Farm out that work....

Keep us informed! smiling smiley

7 acres in Oka (Qu├ębec)
Certified Organic Orchard
Sunrise, MacIntoch, Spartan, Cortland, Empire,
Re: Tractor sizing
February 10, 2017 04:04AM
Why the high horsepower on your spray tractor?

If you were to stock your tractor shed now with what is currently available (new and used), how many would you have and what would they be? Assume farm revenue must pay for the tractors.

Roan Highlands Farm 6b, Roan Mountain, TN elevation: 3200 ft.
Re: Tractor sizing
March 23, 2018 05:27PM
I'm in the same boat. I'm looking to purchase a tractor for a 3+ acre apple orchard with plans for an additional 2-3 acres in berry bushes and additional fruit trees. My orchard is pretty steep in places and is a rehab orchard 10 years untended (so lots of brush to come).. I've searched on craigslist for tractors for about 6 months now, not finding much suitable or for a reasonable price. Right now, I'm considering a new Kubota MX5200 or MX5800 4WD. My plans are eventually to run a flail mower with hydraulic offset, root grapples, bucket, fertilizer spreader, sprayer.

I'd like to go with something smaller/cheaper but based on this, I don't know if I can or should.

Any suggestions welcome.

The Farm at 84, Jericho, VT
Newbie smiling smiley
Re: Tractor sizing
March 23, 2018 07:27PM
Bonnie , I have the Kubota L4400 ( 45 HP ) It seems to have all the power I need . If your place is as steep as mine my concern would be stability . I haven't been able to find wider lower profile tires that I would like so have made a rear counter balance that does help . For the balance I've made a set of short forks ( 3pt hitch ) cut a strong pallet in half , 42" wide x 24" long put some sides on her and fill it up with a set of tractor chains or a number of old batteries . No tipping issues if I have the mower or the backhoe on ( but still very careful smiling smiley )


Hillview Heritage Farm
Zone 5*in British Columbia
Re: Tractor sizing
March 25, 2018 05:05AM
Having sufficient horse power is rarely a concern with the 40-70hp class tractors, especially with a 4x4 model.

I sharpened my pencil and opted for a Kubota L3430 (29.5hp at the PTO) 4x4 unit when my need arose and it has worked well for me with hills, heavier loads (I have a heavy duity front end loader), flail mowing with my FALC 1600 and more. If you can get a good purchase price on a 40+ HP unit, it is well wroth considering . . . but if you are thinking you are going to be buying a new (or harvest return unit) just dont go lower than 30HP (or 29.5 as I have done) and I think you will be fine.

Francis has a nice team of tractors and plenty of horsepower to do his work! I like it!

Lastly, I did add liquid balast to my rear tires and that has helped with stability, but no matter how you slice it . . . going up and down hills in a tractor will get each of us pucking up like little else in our day to day in the orchard :-)

I bought my tractor in 2005 and I used a tractor forum in cojunction with my resaearch that really helped


Good luck!

Gopher Hill Apples
Zone 8 in California
Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.

Click here to login