Thursday, January 9, 2014

Building Unity Farm - Thinking about Automation

Every year at Unity Farm, I move 10000 pounds of manure, 10000 pounds of logs (18 inch segments), 10000 pounds of wood chips, and thousands of pounds of snow.    I've done this to date using a hand cart and wheelbarrow.    I turn 52 in a few months and its time for automation.

But, what's the ideal device?   We have hills, forests, meadows, mud, ice, and grass.

A tractor such as the Kubota B3200HSD seems reasonable with industrial R4 tires that provide traction without too much damage to underlying soil.   John Deere offers a competitive model of tractor, the 3032E.

However, many of the trails at Unity Farm are narrow and the manure access is via a crusher rock access path about 5 feet wide.  Are there alternatives?

Many have recommended a compact track loader such as the Bobcat T110.

Others have recommended the Terex PT30

Track loaders provide maneuverability and good hill climbing capabilities, but they can be rough on grass.

My answer - I have to experiment with each machine.    Since they vary in price from $16000 to $25000 (0% financing for 5 years may be available), it's best if I "test drive" them.

For $200 per day, I can rent these devices from local dealers.   I can move manure, wood, rocks, and mulch.   I can run them up and down hills in a variety of conditions.

To me, the device design/engineering is important but access to dealer service is also critical.

The Kubota/Terex dealer is 12 miles away.  The Bobcat dealer is 35 miles away.   The John Deere dealer is 35 miles away.

I'll report back on my experiments with moving, hauling, and transporting around Unity Farm.   I welcome input from others on comparing Kubota, John Deere, Bobcat and Terex.


Brandon said...

John you may also wish to investigate pairing a Toro Dingo compact utility loader with a Polaris Sportsman 570EFI ATV. May not provide as robust a level of automation as some the others you are investigating but a versatile combination, probably easier on your natural footprint and would likely work well with your trail network. The dingo comes in wheeled as well as (narrow & wide) tracked versions with various attachment options (buckets, backhoes, etc.) The Polaris Sportsman ATV can be paired with a 1K lb dump-bed wagon trailer and can add-on winch, plow, tracks, other options as needed.

Also local dealer/servicing is easy Toro is in Sudbury and Polaris in Foxboro.

Grahame Grieve said...

hi John

I just use a ride on mower with a trailer. It's got no hydraulics - so it can't dig, or shovel. So it won't save you shoveling - but the trailer carries 300lb+, and mower goes anywhere with little impact.

Lyle Schofield said...

Keep in mind the Bobcat is the most fun piece of farm equipment you'll ever buy! Controlled like a tank and pivots in place, although those treads will tear up the ground (there's a wheeled version that would be softer on grass).

Isn't part of the equation whether you'd need a plow, mower, snowblower? The Bobcat option is a strong loader option, especially when maneuvering into a barn or small building. But, they only lift I think; a small tractor might be more versatile.

I like Brandon's ATV idea as well; they can be surprisingly good snowplows, and they're really small and nimble without tearing up the ground.

Bob H said...

I recently downsized from 45 mixed use acres to 5 sloped wooded acres (ginseng?), and I'm going through the similar assessment on a smaller scale more. I've had a 29hp compact Ford diesel for over 30 years, with many 3pt and front-end attachments. Too large now. I still need the lift, pull and snow removal features, but mainly for narrow trail and bed maintenance. My only suggestion to you is to go with a diesel engine -- super dependable and none of the issues related to the addition of ethanol to fuels. [Unfortunately, the smaller 2 and 4 cycle engines really suffer unless the fuel is fresh (3-4 weeks at most) and drained or run dry between any periodic use -- even with additives and stabilizers.] I'm leaning toward the ATV side, if I can address the lift need. I'll be interested in your assessments and choice.

Terry said...

John, I have had a 32 hp JD compact tractor for the past 10 years. Bought it new with a 5 ft bush hog, a blade and perhaps the handiest attachment a front end loader. The tract of land I live on is similar in size to your farm (but on a good day I probably reach 10% of your productivity-where do you find the time?). I looked at Kubota as well, both good machines, could not recommend one over the other, but as they say, nothing runs like a Deere!

A couple of points, tractors are more like planes than cars, if well taken care of they do not depreciate quickly and they will likely last longer than we will...still I bought a new one.

Proximity to the dealer is not a big deal in my experience.

Finally, once you own one, you will wonder how you did without-one of the finest pieces of equipment I have owned.

Good luck,