- April 1, 2017 at 10:37 am #90254Tyler SageParticipant
Wondering if anyone has any insights into what size tractor works well with a horsed based harvesting system. Im curious if anyone has opinions about a “sweet spot” in tractor HP where it’s big enough to handle 16′ butt logs but small enough to easily get through the forest. Any thought on minimum tractor HP for work in the woods?
My intention is to use the tractor mostly to handle logs on the landing, mostly stacking. Maybe for use in a two man operation along with the horse to do some forwarding type work. Would also like to be able to move 2000lbs around the farm without too much trouble.
Any experience/thoughts?April 2, 2017 at 8:09 am #90261Carl RussellModerator
30-40 hp is good enough, but the bottom line as far as I am concerned is purchase and maintenance cost. Production is low, and cash-flow is slow with horses, but percent profitability is high. Once we invest capital into technology, we change the cost structure. When a piece of complementary equipment rises above the cost of the horse-based operation, it begins to change the profitability demands.
In my experience, it is very difficult to make horses pay for equipment that adds cost. There are certain tasks such as building trails, or stacking logs, or perhaps even forwarding logs that can alleviate time-related production restrictions on horses. The challenge is to find the piece of equipment that is capable of doing those for a price that is equitable to the cost of those activities.
When a piece costs more, it needs to be used more, especially if the extra cost provides capabilities that surpass the horses. I finally bought a $3000 JD1010 bulldozer about 5 years ago for stacking logs and improving trails. I have skidded three hitches with it during that time, firstly because it is just not in good enough shape to handle that much travel without putting another $3000 into undercarriage, but more importantly because I want to work horses, not machines.
However, in fifteen minutes I can push up a day’s production that could take me 2 hours to do by hand. I found that it allowed me to increase production with the horses by as much as 50%, which has been a huge value. Especially in comparison to the cost….
A two-wheel drive tractor with forks is less sexy, but probably costs much less than the little 4×4’s, and could be a great landing rig. It can also be a great affordable addition to the small farm, for hauling, brush-hogging, haying, and handling compost, etc.
Anyway, if you want to keep using horses, just make sure that you don’t make investments that change the economics so that you can’t afford to use them anymore.
CarlApril 2, 2017 at 8:20 am #90262Rick AlgerParticipant
Lots of variables here, but in my experience for forwarding on established trails, bigger is better. For getting around in the woods, no tractor I’ve seen is as efficient as a good twitch horse, so I wouldn’t weight maneuverability greatly. Transport weight may be an issue, and weight for stream crossing etc.April 2, 2017 at 8:24 am #90263Rick AlgerParticipant
I guess Carl was posting simultaneously. I agree with his comments.April 29, 2017 at 8:45 am #90340TaylorJohnsonParticipant
I also agree with Carl and have considered that same thing he has for certain jobs. A little 1010 would be a good choice because you can get into them cheap enough to not force you out of the horse business . Even an old 1010 or something like it can be made to last a LONG time if you let the horses do most of the work. Save and pay as you go for equipment when ever you can , you do not want to have to make a payment and be forced to do thing you would not normally do with your animals or be forced into just running equipment.
Another thing to consider is cost of transport of equipment. If you have to pay to have a piece of equipment hauled to a job it takes a lot of the profit our of the project ,especially if it is a small project . There are a lot of ways to skin a cat . it will depend of what you are already equipped to do . What do you have to haul a tractor with , will you need a trailer to haul it , will you need to licence another truck and trailer to haul extra equipment? I am not saying to never make adjustments , just make sure it is worth the extra investment and do not stretch your self farther than you and your horses can stand.April 30, 2017 at 7:26 am #90341RonParticipant
I agree with all the comments so far. I would suggest an alternative to buying a tractor and that is to rent from someone close by. I have found that there is lots of smaller tractors bought for doing specific jobs on farms and business that only work a few weeks a year and most owners see them as a necessity but a bleed on their finances. If you know them it sometimes works out well for them to rent and you both win. On the farm I like working with my horses but my tractors are a trap. As everyone has noted they are a capital cost expense and in order to maximize that expense you have to use them. However there is another trap with tractors. No mater how level headed we all are tractors become a source of pride. I can plow five acres a day more then my nieghbour or I can cut three cord more wood a day then my brother,therefore if I only had a few more tractor hp … soon you have a hundred horse tractor and looking for a second. Horses tend to be self limiting while I think my horses are the best they are like me made of flesh and blood. They think they feel and can be offended and time is their enemy just like it is mine. Tractors seem to play right into the worst parts of us and we forget who we are. Keeping the tractor strictly as a business expense by leasing or renting I find makes sense when the rent is done the tractor and its expenses and its lure goes out my lane and over to my friend who gets the joy of feeling his tractor isn’t big enough and his payments and repairs are killing him.
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