OT - Lawn Tractors & Small farm tractors

I recently purchased a home a few miles out of town with ~4-1/2 acres and it's getting time to mow some grass. There is approximately 1-1/2 acres for
the yard and another 3 acres of brush & small trees. I recently bought a backhoe for the brush cleanup but haven't decided what to do about the mowing yet. One idea is to get a lawn tractor for the lawn and later on come up with a tractor & bush hog for the field. I've been looking at Sears lawn tractors at the local store. They have one with Automatic transmission, 17.5hp Kohler, cast iron axle, for $1399. There is a similar unit with a Briggs engine for around the same price. They also have some higher priced mowers with ~25hp engines for $2100 to ~$2500. What I don't like about the larger tractors is that it would probably be more difficult cutting around trees & bushes with the larger turning radius and all.
I'm trying to decide on just buying a used tractor, bush hog, & perhaps finish mower or get lawn tractor now and tractor/bush hog later.
Also, if I get a lawn tractor, should I get one with a Kohler or Briggs engine? Is the Craftsman mowers a good value or is there something better I should look at?
Thanks for any helpful advice!
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shouted from the rooftop:

Hi. We sell both commercial and consumer lawnmowers: If your thought is to expand the current lawn, then a cheap garden tractor isn't going to be up to the job- anything over an acre is pushing it. You need an LCE (Landscape Commercial Equipment) type mower- like a Toro Z Master zero-turn rider or a Proline walk behind with a 52 inch deck. See www.toro.com for more details. They are not cheap, but will last forever in single-lawn service.

Realistically, there's not a lot of difference. The Briggs Vanguard is one tough engine. So is the Kohler.

No. Sears, Kmart, John Deere, and most other garden tractors are lightweight toys built by either MTD or American Yard Products (owned by Electrolux). The product label will tell who built it. Cub Cadet and Toro (Wheel Horse) are heavy-duty machines built to work hard. They cost about twice as much as the 'home owner' tractors and are worth every penny.
-Carl
"An honest man doesn't need a long memory"- Jesse Ventura
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wrote:

You can get a real John deere, or a cheepy at Home Despot. The expensive one isn't a bad tractor. The Cub Cadet is made by MTD, so do not tar all MTD products with the same brush. That said, I'd be looking at a commercial ZTR with a diesel on it.
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Nope not 100% true. If you buy a John Deere from a John Deere dealer and not from Home Depot, it will be a John Deere made unit. My understanding is that John Deere tried the cheaper home owner market and it didn't work out. I don't think they sell the MTD made units anymore. My John Deere riding mower is made 10 times better than a John Deere unit I found at Home Depot. Mine has a massive (well for a riding mower anyway) cast iron front axle on it, not one made from two pieces of stamped sheet metal riveted together.
Lane
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RogerN wrote:

I think that a lot depends on how good of a job you want to do. I've watched my brother tend his orchard and cut the grass under the trees with a full-sized tractor and mowing attachment. It did a surprisingly good job and he was *fast* with it.

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I'll admit to knowing little about tractors, but I find myself thinking "Farmall Cub".
The below is from: http://www.ytmag.com/profiles/cubprof.htm The Farmall Cub Today
Today the Farmall Cub is still extremely popular - for many of the same reasons it was popular 50 years ago. One of the advantages of this popularity is: if you own one, you enjoy a ready supply of new after-market (replacement) parts.
One of the most popular uses of this tractor today is for mowing large lawns or golf courses with a belly mower attached. New after-factory belly mowers are available from Woods brand equipment dealers. There are also 3-point hitch kits available for these tractors which makes it possible to use many of todays popular 3-point implements. You do need to consider the horsepower of the tractor before using a modern implement and make sure that it is rated for the small size of the Cub.
Many of these tractors are also still in use by gardeners with a large vegetable patch. The Cultivision setup simply can't be beat for cultivating rows of tender young vegetables.
You'll find quite a few Farmall Cubs restored and parade-ready. You can always find at least one at an Antique Tractor Show with it's proud owner standing by. They are not rare machines by any means. But due to their continued popularity they can command a pretty high purchase price. Be prepared to pay anywhere from $1000.00 to $3500.00 for a running tractor, depending upon condition and available implements.
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If you can find one this is a pretty good setup. We have a Farmall B with a 6' Woods belly deck. The thing can mow down about anything. The tractor itself is nearly bulletproof, but if you do break something parts are available. The deck is built out of heavy steel plate with three overlapping blades. The blade shafts are in heavy bearings and with decent lube maintenance will last forever.
I have a Schweiss Zero Turn now that the wife likes to use more, but if I am mowing I have to think about which one I want to use. The ZT is way more maneuverable, but it just can't climb ditch banks and mow down heavy weeds/brush like the B can.
They are both about the same rated HP, but the B has a lot more torque and low end power.
Can generally be found for around $3000 w/ the deck on them. If you don't have to many trees to mow around the B is hands down the way to go. If you can mow in a pattern you can get around the trees without wasting lots of time. With a 6' deck you take a heck of a swath out of the lawn at a time. W/ lots of trees, maybe look at the B and a push mower for trim work or find a used commericial ZT that a municipality is upgrading. Depends on your budget and level of AR.
I bought mine from a trade-in that a local municipality had done to upgrade. It was due for upgrade based on budgets, not because it was worn out. I have seen this several times.
JW
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wrote:
||
|| ||> RogerN wrote: ||> I think that a lot depends on how good of a job ||> you want to do. I've watched my brother tend his ||> orchard and cut the grass under the trees with ||> a full-sized tractor and mowing attachment. It ||> did a surprisingly good job and he was *fast* ||> with it. ||> || I'll admit to knowing little about tractors, but I find myself thinking ||"Farmall Cub". || ||The below is from: http://www.ytmag.com/profiles/cubprof.htm ||The Farmall Cub Today || ||Today the Farmall Cub is still extremely popular - for many of the same reasons ||it was popular 50 years ago. One of the advantages of this popularity is: if you ||own one, you enjoy a ready supply of new after-market (replacement) parts. || ||One of the most popular uses of this tractor today is for mowing large lawns or ||golf courses with a belly mower attached. New after-factory belly mowers are ||available from Woods brand equipment dealers. There are also 3-point hitch kits ||available for these tractors which makes it possible to use many of todays ||popular 3-point implements. You do need to consider the horsepower of the ||tractor before using a modern implement and make sure that it is rated for the ||small size of the Cub. || ||Many of these tractors are also still in use by gardeners with a large vegetable ||patch. The Cultivision setup simply can't be beat for cultivating rows of tender ||young vegetables. || ||You'll find quite a few Farmall Cubs restored and parade-ready. You can always ||find at least one at an Antique Tractor Show with it's proud owner standing by. ||They are not rare machines by any means. But due to their continued popularity ||they can command a pretty high purchase price. Be prepared to pay anywhere from ||$1000.00 to $3500.00 for a running tractor, depending upon condition and ||available implements.
I'll second that. In fact, I have a 1970-ish Farm Cub LowBoy for sale in the Dallas TX area. It's been restored, but has no mower or other implements. Pay me $1300 for my tractor and buy a $1200 Woods 60" mower and you have a very nice commercial-grade mowing machine. Rex in Fort Worth
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I have owned two lawn-tractor/mowers since I moved to Houston. The Briggs and Stratton engine in both machines (MTD and Murray)outlasted the rest of the machine.
The lawn mower type tractors are not heavy enough for real tractor work. They lack brakes and only have one wheel powered up at a time (No axle lock up or positract action) The MTD unit has variable cone pulleys for changing speed. Big joke. It is MUCH more reliable to have gears in a sealed up gear box. I have to screw with the belts all the time. The bushings on the wheels for turning are plastic, and wear out within a couple of years. Hassle Hassle Hassle.
Brownnsharp
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I do agree that Ariens, Toro (some), Cub Cadet, etc. are probably better than sears, but, Sears isn't all bad and no I'm not a Sears salesman.
I bought my Sears after discussion with my father in law who has been using the same Sears 11.5 Hp 42" mower yard tractor since 1975. He mows 3.6 acres of grass once a week and blades snow (northern Ohio) off 400' of driveway as needed, and he is anal about his lawn.
I bought the 20hp Briggs Vanguard with the big rear wheels, 48" 3 blade, with a 48" two-stage snowblower. I live in the mountains of NE Oregon we get about 160" of snow, and I mow 2.5 acres of rough terrain grass. I use and abuse it, big time. I have been using this Sears for 10 years now, and I am pleased with the VALUE I have gotten. I have had to do the usual tune-up change out some bolts, belts, etc. but the only big parts I have had to replace were the Bearings and driveline for the blower. The original was made from mild steel, Sears wanted $140 for shaft, bearings and shipping. I had one made by the local small machine shop out of better steel and I put better bearings in it for less than $90.
Sure I would rather have a $6K toy but I only had $2800 to spend..
Get the very best that you can afford without selling your soul. Go with a true "Tractor"style mower (easily detachable attachments), high ground clearance, Either Vanguard or Kohler engine and I think that they have a couple of models with the new Kawasaki engines.
I would actually prefer a hydrostatic drive on mine for the snow, but it was $600 more money that I didn't have. You for sure need the 2peed if you don't have the Hydro.
Parts are hard part if you need them more than 10yrs down the road, but I think that's something that is industry wide. It is not in a manufacturers best interest to sell something with a long life span. We're not dealing with the same levels of business integrity as our parents did.
BTW, Cub Cadet and Toro, Wheel Horse, etc. aren't the same machines they were 20 years ago either.
The Old addage "you get what you pay for" is not necessarily so in these days of corporate greed and bottomlines; comes from bean-counters and lawyers head up companies as opposed to R&D and people who have their hearts in quality.
Good Luck, hatter
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shouted from the rooftop:

His Sears was probably built by Bolens- a good, solid machine. The new ones are crap by comparison. Take a look at the chassis on the newer Sears units- it's nothing more than a light guage sheetmetal box built to the same level of quality as a disposable bar-b-q charcoal grill.

I'd like to know how you arrived at that conclusion. Toro still builds the 1132 rider (also known as "The Brush Hog" because it's 32 inch wide blade will slice and dice small trees), which is an old design, along with the Wheel Horse Classic series- cast iron axle, electric lift, cruise control, Peerless gearbox- a real tractor.
-Carl "An honest man doesn't need a long memory"- Jesse Ventura
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Toro also sells some consumer grade crap no better built than a Sears. I know, I was fool enough to get rid of my 31 year old Snapper for a 16 hp "Wheel Horse". BTW, the Snapper, an 8 hp model with a single 30 inch blade, which I gave to a lady friend of mine, still cuts better, and faster, than the Toro, though I will admit the Toro has a tighter turning radius.
What I really wanted, and what I should have bought, was a John Deere 48 inch front deck zero turning radius mower. That's a hoss, tough, dependable, and able to do things you'd otherwise need a trim mower to do (I have one up at the farm). A Grasshopper and a Dixon were also in the running. But I Cheapistaned out and bought that blasted Toro instead. (Wheel Horse my ass!)
All that venting aside, I agree with Carl that you should buy a commercial grade mower. Buy it once, keep it forever, you'll be glad you did. Zero turning radius front deck machines are so far ahead of tractor style mowers for the average yard that it isn't even funny. They're so much more nimble you'll get done much faster, and you can get rid of your trim mower.
Gary
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shouted from the rooftop:

None of the above. Contractors around here won't use John Deere and JD's commercial turf equipment is the joke of the industry. Good tractors, lousy mowers.

Never heard of Grasshopper. As for Dixon... The inside scoop is this: Toro and Jacobsen are the industry leaders. Ford and Chevy. There are some other good machines out there (Stiener and Husqvarna come to mind) but their support is small and that limits sales. The rest are all built in a three-sided barn by a bunch of liquored up hillbillies with a Montgomery Wards buzzbox.

Agreed. But don't confuse the 'consumer' zero turn mowers with the commercial units.
-Carl "An honest man doesn't need a long memory"- Jesse Ventura
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In the 10 years I've owned that machine, it has mowed 3.5 acres weekly (hired hand driving). In that time, one bearing in the mower deck has had to be replaced (obviously wasn't being greased by the hired hand). I also replaced the belts and the blades while I was at it, though they both had some life left. Other than that, it has been solid as a rock.
I can't say the same for the Toro piece of crap I have here, which has eaten 2 (expensive) belts and split a pulley in the 2 years I've owned it (won't keep the damn battery charged either). The Toro (Briggs) engine bogs on any bit of tall grass too. I can take the JD out into a pasture and cut there. No way the Toro could.

Grasshopper is a popular brand in the South, lower Midwest, and the Plains states. You see them everywhere in this part of the country. Grasshopper has been making these ZTR machines since 1970. They're very solidly built. The frames are heavy wall 3 and 4 inch square tubing, decks are welded up from heavy steel plate. No brittle castings or flimsy sheetmetal here. They use a real hydraulic motor drive system with Ross wheel motors and Hydrogear pumps. They use Vanguard or Kohler engines on the smaller mowers, Kubota gas or diesel engines on the larger machines. They're fully powder coated. Never seen one with any rust. Prices *start* at $5700 for their smallest model (which would do nicely for my mowing needs here), and go up from there.

Dixon has been around nearly as long, since 1974. Their machines are more oriented toward the homeowner than Grasshopper, smaller, with a fiberglass body shell over a tubing frame, but still good machines in their niche.
No hydraulics on these small machines. They use variable ratio belt drives to the wheels. A friend has one that's 15 years old, and still going strong on the original belts (!!!). It won't keep up with my John Deere, but it cost a lot less too, prices start at $2300 for the smallest Dixon, the Deere cost me right at $5000 10 years ago.

I think you might be surprised if you toured the Grasshopper plant. It is a modern 300,000 square foot facility with CAD/CAM, CNC machining centers, robotic welding cells, powder coat booths and ovens, etc. Dixon is a bit more mom and pop, but it is no shed either. Both are in Kansas.
Either one of them produce machines that are light years ahead of my Toro Wheel Horse. Hell, my 31 year old 8 hp Snapper is light years ahead of the 16 hp Toro in what it will ride over and cut, and in the abuse it has tolerated too.
I've seen Toro commercial turf equipment, and it is *much* better built than *my* Toro. OTOH, put one beside a Grasshopper and it looks downright flimsy. Grasshoppers are the Terex truck of the mowing business.
I've had enough of this crappy Toro, I'm going to buy the small Grasshopper that I should have bought in the first place.
Gary
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A friend of mine bought a grasshopper from a dealers selling both Dixon's and Grasshoppers. The dealer told him that the Dixon wasn't even in the same category with the grasshopper. I was talking with a guy that used to do commercial mowing and he mentioned many top end commercial mowers (including Grasshopper) and said his favorite was the "Turf Tiger".
Here's a link I found searching for Turf Tiger. http://www.scag.com/zeroturns.html
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||BTW, Cub Cadet and Toro, Wheel Horse, etc. aren't the same machines they ||were 20 years ago either.
I understand there are two levels of Cub Cadet now: The consumer variety sold by Lowes et al, and the commercial machines sold at a CC dealership. You can look at both and see the difference. I had a 32" Murray cheapo, nearly new, that I sold off to buy a 5-year old CC 1864. Kohler power, Hydrostatic, Power steering, 48" cut, 3-pt hitch. Came with a disc harrow and a rear blade, for $1000. Best money I have spent on mowing equipment. It will mow faster than I care to drive it on my hillside acre. Rex in Fort Worth
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I've got an old Gravely 2-wheel tractor. Walk-behind unless you use a sulky. Rugged and easy to work on, with all parts available.
With a 30" deck you're set for brush hogging, but the finish cut is a little rough. 40" or larger multi-blade decks do a good finish mowing job. You should be able to pick up a tractor and deck in good shape for $500 or less, and it won't depreciate. You can also use reel mowers for a really fine cut - a gang of three will give you a 72" swath.
Then you can add a snowblower, snowplow/dirt blade, rotary garden plow, dump cart, rototiller, stump grinder, sickle bar, chipper/grinder, ditcher, wood splitter, sprayer, scoop, backhoe, generator, leaf blower, circular saw, chain saw or about anything else you can think of.
You do have to be willing and able to tinker with them, though.
John Martin
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On 14 Apr 2004 21:22:04 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com (JMartin957) wrote:

I have an old Sears "Suburban" lawn tractor. My neighbor has a new Sears tractor. He is envious of mine. That thing is so heavily built it'll last forever. And, there are people who restore these things. Maybe, because you posted on this metalworking group, you might be inclined to buy some used iron that has either been fixed already or that you fix yourself. If I didn't have the 9N, Surburban, and the Gibson I'd be looking for a farmall cub. I did need to weld up and turn down one of the shafts the blade rides on in the Suburban. But it was bad when I paid $150.00 for it and I didn't know it. After three years of use the bearings started to make noise on that shaft. And it was obvious, when opened up, that the bearings had been bad for more than three years. So I spent two hours fixing it and having a good time doing it. ERS
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shouted from the rooftop:

Is that the Bolens-built one> IIRC, the front PTO is on the rights side by the tire. Good machine.
-Carl "An honest man doesn't need a long memory"- Jesse Ventura
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wrote:

They were made by Roper. I have a '71 model ST 12. I replaced the engine about 10 years ago with an OHV 14 hp. I have the mowing deck apart now to repair some sheet metal. I would like to buy a new mower shell. Any idea if they are available still?
Our rural neighborhood has tractor races each Labor Day. Mine is undefeated three years running. Wheelie starts usually psych out the younger participants. The Powder Puffs are run with the "bulls" (husbands) in the trailer. With my 100# wife driving and my 245 in the rear of the trailer, which unloads the tractor, we can do ten foot "burnouts".
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