Selecting the right tractor the first time can save producers money in the long run

Tractors come in all sizes, but what is the right tractor for your farming operation?

Because tractors are a big investment, potential buyers are cautioned to know exactly what they plan to do with tractor before heading to the dealership.

Ruben Downing, a salesman with S&H Farm Supply in Lockwood, Mo., said knowing what you plan to use the tractor for is the first step in getting the right piece of equipment.

“Generally, what we try to figure out what they want to do with the tractor,” he said. “What is that tractor’s job going to be? Will it be brush hogging, loader work, feeding round bales of hay, running a mower or disc? Most of the time, guys with the bigger horsepower tractor know what they need; they’ve been doing it for a while. The hobby farms are a little harder to figure out sometimes because you have to know how much land they have and if they are going to run a baler at sometime, or just have a brush hog.”

Knowing the performance expectations of a tractor before actually buying one will also help producers save money in the long run.

“The biggest thing we run into is the amount of horsepower needed to run certain types of equipment,” Downing said. “You have engine horsepower, then you have the actual PTO horsepower, which are two different things. Generally the PTO power is about 10 percent less than the engine power. Some people might want to buy a little 30-horse tractor and run a 10-foot brush hog; well, that’s not going to work.”

He added just because a tractor is equipped with front-end loader doesn’t mean it can lift anything.

“On some of the smaller tractors, loader capacity isn’t big enough to pick up a big round bale of hay,” Downing said.

Downing said producers should have a long-term production plan laid out to address not only current, but future tractor needs.

“We get a lot of people who have just bought land, or inherited it from an uncle, grandfather, father and who have been away from farming and think they need a tractor,” Downing said. “We’ve had people buy something and was going to work out fine, at first. Then two years down the road, they want to go a different direction with a tractor that might not be paid for and have to trade it in. They’ve lost some depreciation on that tractor, so it’s not worth what you paid for it, of course, and you have to trade it in for something else you want, and then you’re going to be out more money. It’s like buying a car and you don’t want to have to make a payment on something you can’t use.”

It’s important to ask question of dealers, and to even test drive tractors, if possible.

Potential buyers are also cautioned to know what tractor will work best for the implements they have or plan to buy.

“Sometimes you inherit equipment, but you want to make sure it’s going to work,” Downing said. “If you don’t have any equipment, look at a tractor first.”

He added that many dealers offer “packages” that include things like a trailer, cutters, front-end loaders and other equipment, which can insure that all implements will operate properly with that specific tractor. Downing also said packages such as can actually be a better deal than buying each item individually.


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