When most people think of farming equipment the first thing they think about is a tractor. Even on a small farm a tractor can be a wonderful labor-saving device, and a wide range of new and used tractors are on the market. Take time to learn some basics about how tractors work and decide how you will use the tractor before making your fist purchase. You should not buy more horsepower (hp) than you need (see guide below on tractor size). Most grain farms use tractors with 100 hp or more, but a small vegetable farm might be fine with a 25-30 hp tractor. Be aware that tractor hitches are classed by size, such as “Category 1” (small equipment) or “Category 2” (mid-sized equipment). You need to match the category of a three-point tractor hitch with the implements you will attach to the tractor, such as mowers or planters. Equipment pulled by a tractor drawbar, such as a disk or wagon, is not affected by category rating. Front end loaders can be a great help on many farms, and knowing the number of hydraulic links you need is a factor, although extra links can be added to most tractors. A cab can offer protection from noise, dust, and weather but will add to the price of the tractor, especially a new one. For small acreage farms, also consider that a powerful walk behind rototiller may be able to do much of the work in place of a tractor, especially the kind of tillers that have multiple attachments.
Used farm equipment can be purchased at farm auctions, through farm equipment dealers (especially tractors), or found through website listings such as Craigslist or tractorhouse.com. For tractors, combines or other powered equipment the number of hours on the unit is a consideration. When buying a piece of used equipment look on the internet to get prices of similar used equipment. If buying a piece of equipment from a distant area you should be able to find a trucking firm willing to custom haul tractors or other farm machinery. Attending farm shows or fairs that have equipment displays can be a good way to familiarize yourself with various manufacturers and types of equipment. Some farmers have found it works well to jointly purchase equipment, or arrange for a neighbor to do planting, tillage, or harvesting on a “custom” basis, paying a per acre fee. Another option is to lease a tractor, combine, or possibly other equipment for the season, or rent a tractor for a short period.
Safety is paramount when operating any farm equipment, so take time to familiarize yourself with safe operation of equipment, such as reading the MU guide on safe tractor operation below. Hearing protection is also very important when operating any type of noisy farm machinery.
MU Extension sources