How to Select an Old Tractor for your Small Farm

When it comes to taking care of a small farm, having the right equipment is key. And for many people, that means getting the help of a useful tractor. Old tractors can be found for a fraction of the price of new ones, and they still get the job done. 

In this blog post, we will teach you how to select old tractors for small farms. We'll cover everything from size to horsepower, so you can make an informed decision and take care of your land without ruining your budget.

Activities That Require A Tractor

While there is some work you can finish without needing a tractor, truth is, most tasks on your land will need a powerful machine to help save you time.

Below are some of the most common activities on a farm that requires using a tractor.

  • Haymaking - It won't matter if you are creating square bales or round bales, a tractor is going to be required to help with raking, baling, wedding, and hauling hay bales around.
  • Planting - Planting and even harvesting crops will need a tractor to help with various tasks. This can include tilling the land, planting seeds or seedlings, and even spraying herbicides or pesticides.
  • Front End Load Work - Hauling manure, feeding animals, snow removal, and moving material are activities made easier with the use of a front end loader on a tractor.
  • Tillage - Picking out stones, plowing, and disking are just a few activities you'll need help with on a farm.
  • Brushhogging - The constant battle to maintain your land and property lines will require the use of a brush hog, which is essentially just an attachment to a tractor.
  • Pulling Wheel Wagons - Large 2-wheel or 4-wheel wagons help store hay, move firewood, and a variety of other uses. However, these can be difficult to move around without the help of a tractor.
  • Working in the woods - Wooded properties often need thinning and selective logging. Tractors help carry logs, haul firewood, and even carry maple sap.

What To Consider Before Buying

Even used tractors can be expensive compared to some of the other costs on a small farm. Before pulling out your wallet, take the following considerations into mind so you can make sure your tractor aligns with your needs.

Functions Of A Tractor

There is no shortage of errands on a farm. To help make things a little easier on yourself, make a list of the current activities you need to be done on your land.

Now, consider what tasks or projects you will be working on and how many of them can be done with the help of a tractor.

Ideally, you want a tractor to do as much as possible on a small farm. You won't be able to buy another machine anytime soon, so you want to get the most out of your investment.

Fitting Your Budget

The amount of expenses for a small farm quickly adds up.  If you are on a tight budget, you may have to get creative with how you acquire a tractor. There are three main options for getting a tractor for your farm:

  • Buying a new tractor
  • Buying a used tractor
  • Buying a tractor that needs work

Buying a new one is not always the best option and can often be out of the price range for most starting farmers or homesteaders.

Purchasing a used tractor is often a more reasonable solution for small farmers. You can find decent models for a fraction of the price.

To save even more money, you can look for a tractor that needs some work. While this will require an initial investment to get the tractor up and running, it can end up being cheaper in the long run.

However, you need to be careful when selecting a tractor that needs repairs. Make sure you factor in the cost of repairs, as well as your own time and labor. It may be more cost-effective to buy a used tractor that is in better condition.

Size Of Your Tractor

Don't be swayed by the large, fancy tractors you see online and in catalogs. While these powerful labor machines can do a lot of work, they are probably too big for what you really need.

A small to medium size tractor is often more than enough for most small farms or homesteads. Not only will a smaller tractor be cheaper, but it will also be much easier to maneuver around your land.

To get an idea of what size tractor you need, consider the following factors:

  • The size of your property - A larger farm is going to require a bigger tractor to get the job done.
  • The type of terrain - If you have a lot of hills or rough terrain, you're going to need a tractor that can handle it.
  • Your budget - Obviously, the bigger the tractor, the more expensive it is going to be.

The Ideal Tractor

Years of experience in the fields working the land is the best teacher for learning what an ideal tractor looks like. Use the tips below to guide your buying decision so you get the most possible from your investment.

Newer Is Better

Tractors made in the latter half of the 20th century will be much better than those built in the early part of the century.

While an old tractor may be cheaper, they simply don't have the power or features of a newer model. You also won't get as many safety features to protect you from harm.

Always Choose Diesel

Although you won't find many gasoline engine tractors anymore, always stick with diesel. Diesel engines are much more powerful and efficient. They don't require as much maintenance on a per-year basis, especially if you get an older model before electronic ignition was included in tractors.

Get A Three Point Hitch

You cannot get a tractor with a three-point hitch. Too many modern farm equipment requires this setup, and you'll be out of luck if your tractor doesn't have it. There are attachments for older tractor models but they're inefficient and clumsy.

Two Sets of Hydraulic Outlets

Having two sets of hydraulic outlets is a must for anyone who plans on using their tractor for more than plowing fields. Many different attachments require hydraulics, so you won't be able to use them if your tractor only has one set of outlets.

Front End Loader Is Convenient

Many farm activities are helped out tremendously with a front end loader. From plowing to loading hay bales, a front-end loader is an incredibly useful tool. It'll take up one set of hydraulics which is why two sets are incredibly powerful.

Lower Hours Logged

Tractors have an hour meter that tracks how long the engine has been running. The longer it's been running, the closer it is to needing replacement parts. As a general rule of thumb, you want to find a tractor with as few hours on it as possible.

Safe and Protective Cab

Safety is a priority out on a farm. There are many dangers that come with the territory, so you want to be sure your tractor has a cab that is fully enclosed or at least includes a Roll Over Protective Structure (ROPS).

Four Wheel Drive Is Preferred

As the saying goes, there are tractors that have been stuck, and those that are going to be stuck. Make sure your tractor can handle whatever terrain you're going to throw at it by opting for four-wheel drive. It's well worth the extra money.

Live Power Take Off

Only older models that are hard to find have a non-live power take off so this shouldn't be a big concern. This makes handling your tractor's activities more difficult.

Good Horse Power

A tractor between the range of 45 - 75 horsepower should be enough to get the work you need done on a farm. Different brands have different methods of describing horsepower but that range should hold up for most models.

What Are Some Good Tractors For A Small Farm?

International 656 Tractor - This tractor was produced between 1965-1973. It has 4.3L gasoline engine, 4.6L diesel engine, and 4.3L LP gas engine variants. With the hydrostatic power steering, it made the 656 a relatively maneuverable and versatile tractor.

John Deere 3130 Tractor - This is a great all-around tractor and many people are using one today. It was produced between 1973-1979. It has a 5.4L direct injected diesel engine and an optional cab.

Ford 4000 Tractor - Another solid old tractor. It was a very popular model and is actually the one pictured for this blog article. It was produced between 1962-1975 and has a 3.3L diesel (and gasoline) engine. 

Using An Old Tractor For A Small Farm

Use the tips in this article to help guide your tractor decision. Do your research on the tractor that meets your needs. Have a friend who knows about the subject come out with you to take a look at the machine. As long as you stick to the steps in this article, you'll have a tractor that helps you finish your activities faster and lasts long enough to make the investment worth it.

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