Compact tractors pulling their weight

compact tractorsMore farmers and other equipment operators are buying compact tractors instead of full-size machines these days. Joel Hudnall, owner of Turf’s Up Landscaping, said one of his most useful tractors has only 48 horsepower and a smaller frame.

“It’s a John Deere 4320 compact tractor. It’s a four-wheel drive automatic tractor, so it’s just like driving an automatic car,” Hudnall said.

The compact tractor gives him the flexibility to do different landscaping projects with just one machine. And many small property owners don’t need the power and expense of a full-size tractor.

“You’ve got compact tractors that start just a little bit bigger than a lawn mower and go up to what Joel has here, which is one of the larger compact tractors on the market,” said Tucker LaForce, general manager of James River Equipment Co. in Tappahannock.

“We knew that Joel cuts grass, and he does some other work. But he does some hardscape work as well and some loader work and (brush clearing) work. So we needed to match the tractor with what he was doing. We needed a little bit heavier tractor to pick up some of the blocks he was picking up for patios and also running some of the bigger mowers he was using for cutting his clients’ properties.”

Tractors are big business in rural Virginia’s economy. There is about $3.3 billion worth of equipment in Virginia farm fields, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture.

“Agriculture equipment sales as a whole over the last 12 months have been really good,” LaForce said. “Compact tractor sales were up 5.7 percent in 2014 over 2013,” and that’s the category of equipment expected to continue selling well this year.

LaForce said farm economists are predicting lower grain prices in 2015. That will reduce demand for his larger equipment. But he has plenty of options available for prospective owners of compact tractors.

“Do you want a geared transmission? Do you want a hydrostatic transmission? Do you want to put hydraulics on the front of the tractor for implements on the front? Do you want to put hydraulic implements on the back? There’s a lot of different things you look at, and you just have to really start to learn the customer’s operation so you can match the perfect tractor to his job,” he said.

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