Well, given that you're going to need your tractor serviced, it might be
worth starting with local ag/grounds-care machinery dealers and talk to
them about the products they sell/support.
The Rolls-Royce of compact tractors is Kubota (Japanese made
http://www.kubota.co.uk). Their biggest tractor is less than 100hp,
which is small-medium by ag tractor standards.
There's a lot of stuff coming out of China (e.g. Jinma
http://www.jinmatractors.co.uk) which is good value, but not best
Some of the main ag tractor companies have compact tractors on their
line card, but often only a limited range or even just one model.
Tractors are fundamentally classified by the engine power. Compact
tractors crossover large garden tractors and small agricultural tractors
and have a power range of (say) 15hp to 50hp.
Implements are classified by their PTO power, i.e. the number of
horsepower that must be available at the power-take-off on the tractor.
The PTO power of a tractor is always somewhat less than the engine power.
Generally speaking, as the engine power goes up, so does the physical
size of the tractor. It can be very misleading to research tractors on
the web, because you don't get a sense of scale. You do need to go and
see them for yourself - agricultural show season is starting, so go and
visit a few over the summer.
So, basic features of tractors are:
2WD or 4WD - compact tractors are 2WD in the main.
Three-point-linkage - This is the mechanical/hydraulic system at the
back which allows you to connect implements and raise/lower them.
PTO - Power take off - this is a drive shaft at the back, which is used
to power implements.
There are a number of variations of PTO, viz the shaft diameter, number
of splines on the shaft RPM. Standard speeds are 540 RPM and 1000 RPM.
You sometime see 540e or 1000e. The "e" stands for economy and means
that there is extra gearing so that the engine RPM is lowered, fuel
consumption is lowered, but available shaft HP at the PTO is lowered
Aux Hydraulics. For powered implements such as hedge cutters, you will
need auxiliary hydraulic circuits at the rear of the tractor. These are
sometimes referred to as spools or spool valves and will usually be
double-acting (see below).
Power loader. Your tractor will need mounting points and hydraulics for
a power loader. Note that there are two sorts of hydraulics, single
acting and double acting. Simple power loaders have single-acting
hydraulics (power to raise the bucket, gravity to lower the bucket).
Double-acting hydraulics power the bucket down. Note that if you only
have single-acting power-loader, you can only scrape along the ground
surface, you can't "dig in" and you can't use the power loader to raise
the front wheels (like a JCB does for stability).
Front weights. If you're having a heavy attachment on the back then you
will need to make sure that you can have ballast weights on the front of
the tractor. Otherwise, at the least the steering will be very light,
and potentially, there will be a front-to-back overbalance risk.
ROPS. All new tractors must have a roll-over-protection system fitted by
law. If you buy a used tractor for personal use, you don't have to have
one, but if you let anybody else use the tractor, you're liable under H&S.
Mowing. There are loads of different ways to cut grass, including
pasture topping, flail mowing, rotary, cylinder, etc. You will most
likely find that your ride-on is the better product for mowing your
lawns and that a compact tractor which is big enough to operate a
hedging attachment is going to be too big for the lawns (unless you've
got a large orchard or paddock which just needs rough-cutting).
I suspect that if you have significant hedge-cutting works to do then
you will need to firstly find a hedging attachment which is up to the
job and then find a tractor big enough to handle it.
The smallest Bomford hedge-cutter needs 15hp PTO, so you're into a
20-25HP tractor which is a minimum of £6k for a Jinma or £10k for a
Kubota - plus £2k for the loader, another £1.5k for a hedge cutter, £750
for a mower.
Finally, hedge cutters use flails which will chew up and spit out the
larger woody stuff in the hedge.
These can create a mess and flying debris, so you should make sure you
have appropriate public liability insurance in place before you go hedge
Good stuff, mind if I copy that into the wiki Dave?
> Finally, hedge cutters use flails which will chew up and spit out the
> larger woody stuff in the hedge.
> These can create a mess and flying debris, so you should make sure you
> have appropriate public liability insurance in place before you go hedge
There used to be a device which was basically a large circular saw
blade on a hydraulic arm and could cut through all sorts of woody
growth as the tractor drove forward. Made a marvellous job but the
tale goes one blade detached in use and travelled nearly half a mile
before embedding itself deeply into a tree. Obviously not a thing to
stand in front of!
There are a number of variations of PTO, viz the shaft diameter, number
of splines on the shaft and shaft RPM. Standard speeds are 540 RPM and
You sometimes see PTO speed of 540e or 1000e. The "e" stands for economy
and indicates that there is an extra gear in the drive train which
reduces engine RPM (and therefore fuel consumption) at the expense of
reduced available horsepower at the PTO.
Useful stuff although quite expensive at
Some useful safety advice here about hedge flails
> There are a number of variations of PTO, viz the shaft diameter, number
> of splines on the shaft and shaft RPM. Standard speeds are 540 RPM and
> 1000 RPM.
One thing to watch out for on older tractors is whether the pto is "live"
and runs independently of the tractor transmission clutch or not. Running a
pto device that stops whenever you declutch , especially a mower, is not
here we go...
headings can be sorted out later.
> Where can I find out about compact tractors?
At your local dealer. Ours is a palce called Rafferty Newman and they
supply quite a decent range.
> I'm thinking about buying
> one, since it now costs Â£500 to get my hedges cut,
Errm... it's not going to cut your hedge. Not without spending as much
as the tractor cost on getting a boom-mounted hydraulic flail.
> plus I have a
> number of other jobs (mending the drive - about 1/4 mile of gravel,
> moving large quantities of compost & mulch) that it would be handy for.
> I'd like one with a bucket on the front (I've now discovered these are
> called "power loaders") and some means of mounting a flail on a hydraulic
> arm on the back (dunno what these are called really). It would be nice
> if it could operate a mower too, then I could sell the ride-on to help pay
> for it.
You need something with a PTO, that's all of them. Most of the mowers
sold in the UK are absolute rubbish, with parts made of bent tin and
tinfoil. I have a flail with forged hammers for my 50hp crawler tractor.
I also use it to cut the lawn which it does impressively well giving a
close turf finish. If cost me £2000 for the flail.
At the back you'll only get a category 1 four point linkage so any
equipment needs to be suitably light to use on a category 1.
> I can find plenty of dealers on the web, but the terminology means nothing
> to me, so I don't really know what I'm looking at.
For what you describe, you probably want a compact + power loader + back
hoe. That will run to about £7000 to £10,000. A flail/mower will cost
you about £2000 and hydaulic boom mounted flail for cutting the hedge
You need spool valves to control the hydraulic equipment and you'll need
at least three of them. As many as you can get really.
It's worh taking a course at your local agricultural college. They're
not too expensive and you learn basic safety procedures and how to
fit/remove accessories. Given that I've got a tractor and I'm fairly
used to it by now, I'd happily come up your way to give some advice if
Well done, and thanks again to Dave for a really useful and comprehensive
summary. I have a little Ford 1220 with a topper on loan. Main downside is
that it is pretty slow and limited in capacity. I've just had a local farmer
chain harrow and roll our (rented) three acres for less than £50 using a
standard sized 2wd, and that would have taken me the best part of a day on
the little Ford (even if I had the harrow and roller). Best prices seem to
be in local farm sales. A fair amount of stuff on eBay where you will find
SH dealers posting as well as private sales.
> The Rolls-Royce of compact tractors is Kubota (Japanese made
> http://www.kubota.co.uk). Their biggest tractor is less than 100hp,
> which is small-medium by ag tractor standards.
Hmm I'd say Yanmar were also good. IMO the best of the compact tractor
range are Goldoni, but they're not that common in the UK.
They're very well thought through though and unlike most compacts will
take flotation tyres if one wishes to do the least damage to the land
and increase stability on steep slopes.
> another £1.5k for a hedge cutter
I'd be surprised. The last hedge cutter that I had a quote for was
£13.5K. Second hand Bomfords at £2.5K are worn-out rusty dogs usually
with weeping rams. All of the hedgecutters that I'm aware of need more
than 50HP, usually 70HP and they need a suitably heavy tractor to
operate them. They're not suitable for compacts.
I see McConnel make a lightweight hydraulic cutter - £11,000 ) +VAT. It
still needs 30HP+ and a tractor weighing over 1.5tonnes.
A cutter bar hedge trimmer might be more appropriate. They work with
tractors down to 20HP but they still cost - £8K + VAT.
> £750 for a mower.
At that price, it's going to be crap IMO. I'd budget closer to £2K. I
also suspect that not long after purchase the purchaser will start to
wonder if they should have bought a a combi-collector mower that can
vacuum up the sweepings then hydraulically tip them onto the compost.
Increase the price to about £3K for one of those.
If age is not an issue, some of the David Brown range might suit. No
longer manufactured but there is a lively spares trade up around
The PTO clutch on the 880 series is two stage on a foot pedal. Around
40hp 3cyl. and reckoned to be an easier starter than the 4cyl. fergie.
The 1210 is 67hp and has a separate lever to engage the PTO.
I can't add much to Dave's excellent piece except to say 15hp sounds a
bit low for a hedger. I use a McConnel which has a PTO driven 2 stage
hydraulic pump and mounts on the DB1210 I doubt it would be happy on a
Getting a contractor to do your hedges may not be that expensive
particularly if you are not constrained by the cross compliance rules
prohibiting hedging prior to 31st. July.
> I can't add much to Dave's excellent piece except to say 15hp sounds a
> bit low for a hedger.
Yes, the smallest Bomford model is very much a baby hedger for a baby
I wouldn't disagree that you would want to go for something bigger for
even semi-serious hedging.
I see it is category 2 linkage and the 15hp is quoted as the minimum
A tractor width flail topper would require more than that anyway.
Huge ought to be warned about the propensity of flail hedgers to eat
Best of both worlds, eh?
You need to poke around the DEFRA website.
Basically, you the taxpayer, financially support EU farmers through the
common agricultural policy (review 2012).
I don't know how this works elsewhere but our government takes the view
that there should be some return other than cheap food for this handout.
As a consequence we have regulations which are targeted at environmental
protection, often pandering to the lobby group currently having the ear
of our masters. Clean water, clean air, protected soil are obvious
ambitions. Hedges now have their own protective legislation but there
are also codes of practice which discourage trimming during the main
nesting season for birds. Exceptions are allowed for amenity access and
highway safety reasons but generally hedges should not be trimmed
between mid February and the end of July.
There is a raft of rules enforced by threat of fines (a reduction in
payment) under the heading of *cross compliance*.
> generally hedges should not be trimmed
> between mid February and the end of July.
Which is entirely reasonable (you can get your hedges done by mid-
February) and not the same as "before July", implying a ban from 1st
Jan to July
Food is zero rated so there are few taxable outputs. VAT on inputs is
reclaimed as for other businesses.
>> Hedges now have their own protective legislation
>Yeah, there was frantic activity to grub up as many as possible before the
>legislation came into effect a couple of years ago.
Perhaps. There is an arrangement whereby our government deducts 5% from
the entitlement to fund environmental schemes. This is repaid at
12ukp/acre to those joining the basic entry level scheme. Planting new
or gapping up existing hedges are ways of earning enough points to join.
Have you considered registering your land?
I was thinking that hedging contractors are looking for *pre-season*
work and might be cheaper/willing for what sounds like an awkward job.
There is actually much more as the RSPB would prefer fruit/berry bearing
hedges to be rotationally trimmed every 3 years and then as late as
possible in the Winter.
> On 2009-04-27, Tim Lamb <t...@marfordfarm.demon.co.uk> wrote:
> > Huge ought to be warned about the propensity of flail hedgers to eat
> > wire fencing:-)
> Ouch. I can imagine what happens. And the joy of fixing it.
The worst substance that I have accidentally flailed is plastic water
pipe, the black stuff usually buried undergraound for providing a mains
supply to the house. Our builder threw about 10 metres of the stuff onto
our land - the grass grew up and I couldn't see it. When I mowed it
wrapped around the flail bar and melted. That took two days of
dismantling and cutting with a bread knife to get the flail back in
> > Errm... it's not going to cut your hedge. Not without spending as much
> > as the tractor cost on getting a boom-mounted hydraulic flail.
> Yeah, I know. The farmer cuts the bits adjoining his field with one. And
> does my verges if I can rush out and talk to him in time. But I still have
> to cut the insides and the hedges entirely contained within my property. And
> the tractor he uses is *way* too big to fit into my garden!
Wel, as I mentioned in another par tof the thread almost every
boom-mounted flail cutter is going to be too heay for a compact tractor,
and you're looking at the thich end of �10k for one that works properly.
There are cutter bar trimmers which look like an oversized electrical
hedgetrimmer, they're powered either hydraulically or via a mechanical
linkage from the PTO. They're cheaper but less capable, having much less
manoueverability than the boom types. Stiull they should be able to do
both a vrtical and horizontal cut and they will be much neater than
flail which tends to spliner branch ends.
Somethign else to think of where you are going to house the tractor +
accessories. I measured each item and drew up a floor plan for a new
barn designed to let me stack the accessories two deep at one end of the
barn. We have a rotovator, flail mower, ploughs, harrows and tipping
boxes. I regard that as a fairly minimal set of tools.
> > It's worh taking a course at your local agricultural college.
> Now that's a good idea that hadn't occured to me.
The one local to us, Sparsholt, offers a weekend course that was
certainly worth attending. They provide everything and it's a good way
to get some experience before purchase.
I think as someone else has said you get a choice when you buy between a
new Chinese make or a second-hand good quality Japanese. Given your use,
I'd probably specify turf tyres otherwise it won't be long before any
lawn is a bog. I'd also, if I were you, look at having one with the same
sized tyres all round, but the only ones that I know like this are the
iso-dyametric range made by Goldoni the Quasar:
and the smaller Euro/Maxter/Cluster models:
Although tiny, these models are real farmyard machinery with a decent
complement of double-acting spool valves and a decent PTO. The Quasar is
probably too big, although as you can see from the images it has the
useful feature of having two PTOs, one forward, one rear. This is a
*really* useful feature for lawn work.
Goldonis are incredibly popular in the USA as yard tractors and in
California for tending vines. Less so here, but I think one of the
dealers is out your way (the other is a few miles down the road from
Nearly, Essex: http://www.bsg-supplies.com/
There's more detail on the Euro range here, for some reason BSG have
renamed them the "Quad" tractor:
Worth checking because of the range of tools, which will fit all
> Sounds like it would be easier to buy a smaller house ...
A (very) second-hand tractor and the new tools for use with it ran me
the thick end of �30K and then I had to pay another 40K for the tractor
shed/barn to house it.
It's not cheap by any stretch of the imagination and it indicates why
contractors want �500 a go for hedging. A lot of that money will go on
the lease payment they make on the machinery.
That's how most small farmers fund this sort of equipment BTW, they have
to sit down and create a business plan for the cashflow. At present my
neighbour isn't taking a wage from his farm (he can pay his kids
however) since the lease paments eat up every penny made from the farm.
A twitch in produce prices will see him either in profit or bankrupt.
I am not aware of any hedges here (Herts) being grubbed up in advance of
the legislation. Undoubtedly there was an opportunity to amalgamate
small fields and remove inconvenient ditches.
>> Have you considered registering your land?
>What, as agricultural? No. It's 'just' garden.
Pony paddocks can be registered and claims paid:-)
That sums up UK farming for the last 15 years or more, surely - unless
you're one of the really big landowners. Depressing business to be in...