Small Tractors on Horse Farms

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Credit: Thinkstock A small tractor can be useful for smaller jobs, but make sure you don't overtax the horsepower of the equipment.

Credit: Thinkstock A small tractor can be useful for smaller jobs, but make sure you don't overtax the horsepower of the equipment.

Most horse owners use some type of labor-saving equipment or machinery to make management tasks easier.These labor-savors may range from a 4-wheeler to pull a hay cart or a small manure spreader to a small tractor for powering a larger manure spreader or front-end loader, to a larger tractor to handle big round bales.

People need to figure out what they actually need when selecting a utility vehicle or tractor.“If we truly address our needs when we purchase, we may have to spend a little more up front, but it might give us more flexibility going forward," said Bob Coleman, state Extension Specialist at the University of Kentucky.

“If you are composting manure, you probably need something that can turn the manure," he said. "A small tractor that you could put a bucket on can be very useful." You can use a small tractor to move things, load manure, turn compost, clean out the pens, etc. as long as you are aware of what that tractor can handle and don’t exceed its capacity.

“We need to think about proper composting because we shouldn’t be hauling manure straight from the barn to the pasture (to make sure we’re not spreading parasite eggs onto the pasture)," noted Coleman. "Some people try to get around that by saying they’ll just put it on ground that isn’t going to have horses for a while.This is not the best management practice.Composting isn’t necessarily easy, but there are some very well laid-out methods for doing it. You have to think about how you can turn it and handle it.It doesn’t have to be a big tractor, but you need to understand the capacity of the tractor and front-end loader, and what to expect.Don’t try to do what it can’t do or you may get yourself into an unsafe situation.”

Small tractors are generally just for mowing, spreading manure, pulling a trailer, blading snow or mud, ditching runoff or creating irrigation ditches, etc.You can also put an auger or a post pounder on it for building fences.Often you can rent a post pounder or an auger or seeder, but you need a tractor.

“A small tractor is great for harrowing because they are more durable than a 4-wheeler or pickup for bouncing over the pastures, and better for pulling an arena drag," said Coleman. "A 4-wheeler can pull a chain drag around to level the outdoor or indoor arena but won’t be suitable to deal with the equipment needed for proper arena maintenance.You need the capacity of a tractor so you can do it right.”

There are some great pieces of equipment, but you need something with a power take-off or a hydraulic system in order to use them.And for some tasks and equipment you need a bigger tractor so everything works the way it’s supposed to.

“If the small tractor has the capacity to move 300-400 pounds, you can’t pick up a big round bale with it," he said. "If you are utilizing round bales or some of the larger square bales, you need a bigger tractor with more capacity.A person can still buy small square bales, but they are getting harder to find, and more expensive.Depending on where you live, these may or may not be as readily available as in the past.”

If you choose a small tractor, make sure it will do everything you want it to do, without overloading it.