Compact tractors finding a place in agriculture

Brenna Ramsden, Freelance Contributor
Bill Redman delivers a compact tractor.

It’s all about finding the right tools for the job. That’s what Bill Redman, a salesman at Hersruds Equipment in Sturgis says about tractors on the farm or ranch. A tool that many people may not consider: a compact tractor.  

While some might think a compact tractor should be considered as “hobbyist toys” or “too small for the job,” Redman says that may not be true. Compact tractors today are equipped with 3-point hitches, four-wheel drive and all the versatility in the world, giving the traditional skid steer a run for its money.  

So for the consumer who is looking to add another tool to the toolbox for landscaping, fencing or odd jobs around the farm or ranch, what should they consider while shopping for a new compact tractor?  

Redman says the most important part to consider is the task at hand. What tool will handle the terrain the best? How will one tool have an advantage over another? And what is the best tool for the job? When considering these things and weighing the options, one might compare a compact tractor and skid steer to get the job done. 

Most compact tractors on the market today can handle the same attachments as the traditional skid steer, making it an easy transition for those who want to make the switch. The advantage of a compact tractor would be the four-wheel-drive and higher axles, giving it better mobility in muddy or snowy terrain. According to Redman, nearly 98-percent of all compact tractors are equipped with four-wheel-drive.  

“But it really depends on what (the consumer) wants to do with it,” said Redman. “It varies by project.”  

Redman said there is still a place for the traditional skid steer, but there are certainly advantages to a compact tractor beyond drive and axle placement. 

Dennis Jenner, a salesman at Jenner Equipment in Rapid City said consumers will find a better price point with compact tractors as well. Just a step below the skid steer on the price list, a compact tractor may fit a budget a bit better. 

A lawn or garden tractor may be considered as well when looking at budget. Lawn and garden tractors are a step lower on the price list, but they may not be the right tool for the job. Once again, both salesmen recommend finding the machine that fits the tasks at hand.  

Jenner and Redman pointed out the ability to run PTO systems from compact tractors is a game-changer when compared to the traditional skid steer. Redman says tasks like running grain bins or post hole diggers become easier with a compact tractor because of the PTO ability.  

With different 3-point hitch and attachment versatility, ranchers could use compact tractors to fix fences, feed cattle, build driveways or new water systems. Redman believes there is definitely a spot for these machines on the ranch, and it doesn’t have to be confined to the lawn.  

While many construction or landscaping companies still use a skid steer, Jenner says those who wish to have minimal impact on landscaping or grass may want to choose a compact tractor. Tractors boast minimal ground disturbance while doing the same job of a skid steer. 

While compact tractors and their attachments are slightly more affordable than the traditional skid steer, there are more things to consider. Jenner reiterates that having an understanding of the task at hand, and picking the right tool for the job is the most important.  

Salesmen at both locations say many people were asking about compact tractors this spring. Redman says at Hersruds of Strugis, he alone has received more than 40 inquiries about compact tractors just this month. He said a big selling point is the 7 year warranty most tractors have, compared to the 3-year warranties on older models. 

Jenner says many of his customers are interested in the Kubota BX Series. The most popular model is a 3-cylinder with 17.7 PTO HP that can lift 1210 pounds. Customers can also customize the machine with a backhoe accessory as well.    

While some people may get caught up in the looks of the tool, Jenner says there are many more things to consider. 

He recommends going to a dealership and talking to an actual person. Often, customers do their research online, which could lead them to problems down the road. Jenner says online shoppers could end up with a product that can’t be fixed or serviced by local dealerships because of parts or material shortages.  

Jenner also suggests going to a dealership to check out the actual size of the tractor. While online shopping or phone conversations with salesmen can give customers dimensions of the product, it is hard to imagine without seeing it in person. Jenner recommends actually sitting on the equipment and operating it if possible.  

“There is a certain comfort feature there,” said Jenner.  

Whether it be the distance to the joystick or levers or simply the comfort of the seat, there are many advantages to seeing the machine in person. Jenner says some people may prefer the feel and operation of a skid steer over a compact tractor, so it is best to discover that before making a large purchase.  

As Redman said, it is all about finding the right fit for the projects at hand. If you are looking for the newest tool to add to your toolbox, call your local dealership and discuss your options. You might end up with a small tractor you never thought you’d own!