With mechanization representing 25 percent of operating costs on a farm, choosing the appropriate agricultural equipment is a key factor for successful farming. A profitable business simply cannot function without machinery!
Thousands of different machines and brands are currently available to choose from and they all differ in quality, functionality and price. Confronted by such a large variety of options, it can sometimes be difficult to decide which products are best suited to a small farm. Too often, farmers get carried away and purchase far more equipment than they initially need. Another common mistake is to acquire machines that are either too big or small for the tasks at hand.
The good news is that the agricultural equipment market is highly competitive and you can easily find all the information you need to select the appropriate machines for your property. All it takes is preparation: understand and evaluate your farming business requirements, learn as much as possible about the available machinery, and compare your options.
Identify your needs
For many reasons, the material that fits one farmer does not necessarily fit another. You will find yourself limited by practical reasons, such as the particular configuration of your farm buildings, and economic reasons, related to the purchase price and cost of running a machine. The choice of farming equipment also comes down to personal preferences and convictions. This is one of the reasons why there is such a large range of machines available on the market.
When buying agricultural machinery, a good starting point is to be clear about what tasks need to be done around your farm and what tools are required to accomplish those tasks.
Ask yourself the right questions. For example:
- Are you going to be working the land or herding animals?
- What animals will you be working with?
- Will you just be mowing an acre or two, or will you be cultivating soil and spreading fertilizer?
Once you have decided what you truly need, you can start looking for the equipment that will best suit your specific requirements.
Define your choice of farming equipment
The following list of essential agricultural items will help you get your small farm business started.
Used for pushing or pulling agricultural tools, the tractor is without doubt the most iconic piece of farm equipment available. It’s a definite tool for any farmer, whether you intend to cultivate crops or herd livestock. Since the nineties, tractors have benefited from important technological breakthroughs and some machines are equipped with control consoles which look more like airplane cockpits. To run a small farm, all your requirements should be found within the compact tractor utility range that presents versatile machines ranging from 15kw to 50Kw. They have many of the features found in larger, more expensive tractors and they should enable you to do just about anything around your farm. You can read more about how to select a compact tractor on Mother Earth News.
On their own, compact tractors are pretty much useless, but when equipped with the right attachments, they can accomplish an endless variety of tasks. Popular rear or front-mounted tools include mowers, loaders, tillers, seeders, sprayers, hay balers, manure spreaders and more.
Select the implements that will add flexibility and versatility to your tractor. Avoid purchasing oversized equipment in the hopes that it will get the job done quicker. On the contrary, this can labor the engine and force you to operate in low range. The tractor and implement should match in size in order to operate at their optimum speed.
Modern harvesting equipment allows farmers to save precious time and labor costs during harvest time. Without these machines, which average 150 acres per day, there can be no cereal, potato or beet harvest. It is important to be equipped with quality machines that meet the specific needs of each individual farmer. Harvesting equipment includes combine, forage, potato, beet and flax harvesters.
As these machines have increased in size and power over the past few years, prices have also risen and can easily reach half a million dollars. To justify this purchase, a farmer needs to use his harvester for more than 300 hours a year. Should this not be the case, more cost-effective options include renting or buying a used combine harvester.
A pickup truck will obviously never replace a tractor but it can offer an interesting transportation alternative for farmers. Being both fast and strong, the latest generation of work vehicles can be used for a large variety of light, medium and heavy-duty assignments. Not only can they be applied to a wide range of tasks around the farm, they also have the ability to get off the farm and out into the woods. They basically represent an attractive choice to get a job done quickly.
Focus on your true needs and take a realistic look at your situation. What are the most common jobs you need a truck for? If you plan to pull a trailer, what will the maximum weight be? Will your truck strictly be a working vehicle? Or do you also plan to use it for everyday family transportation? How many people will be riding in your truck on a regular basis?
Agricultural equipment specific to livestock farming covers everything from food to water supplies, shelter and transport options. Animal feeding equipment includes range feeders, feeder platforms, hay racks and feed buckets. Watering systems, nipples and water bowls are equally essential to supply flocks, herds and broods with clean water.
Livestock trailers are also a must-have piece of equipment that will give you an easy time moving your animals from one place to another. Your choice should be influenced by the animals and numbers being carried. The important factors to take into consideration when buying a livestock trailer are animal safety and comfort level as well as the carrying capacity and durability of the piece of equipment.
When it comes to livestock, fencing will always be on top of your equipment list. To keep your livestock safe, always use the proper fencing type to contain the specific animal you are raising. For instance, to properly contain the cattle, fencing needs to be at least 54 inches tall. If you plan to move your livestock around, you might prefer to choose portable fencing. Electric fencing is also an option. In such cases, make sure the charger is powerful enough to electricity the entire length of wire you are using. You will also need to post signs informing people approaching the fence that it is electrified.
There are basic tools that no farmer can do without. The top gardening tools include a shovel, digging fork, hoe, rake and wheelbarrow, which can be used for just about everything around the farm. Look for brands that offer a lifetime guarantee on premium quality tools and be sure to look after them. When left outdoors for weeks on end, their working lives can be considerably shortened.
Finally, any appliance you would expect to find in a traditional toolbox is sure not to go unused around a farming property. Manual tools such as screwdrivers, hammers, wrenches, tape measure and power tools such as a circular saw and electric drill are on top of the list.
Try out the equipment
Farming vehicles represent an important financial investment and it makes sense to take extra care when making your pick. An important consideration is ergonomics. The seat, pedals, steering wheel, throttle and transmission control should be well placed and feel comfortable.
Try to drive all of the vehicles you are interested in more than once. Do not rush your decision; a second look will often confirm your first impression. Pay attention to how you feel while operating equipment—if you are uncomfortable, this will result in fatigue, stress and loss of productivity in the long run.
Another important factor to remember is that you will be sitting in this confined space for hours on end. Check for comfort features such as storage and microclimatic features that will protect you from vibrations, noise and other adverse influences.
Look out for the best price/quality ratio
All farm equipment makers have extensive websites where you can find a vast array of information. You can get a good idea of what models, options and prices are available right from your home. When buying expensive machinery, remember to consider the seven p’s:
- Product support
Choose your brand wisely. During harvest time, time pressures are at their peak and a machine needs to be reliable. Beginning farmers might prefer to stick to well-known brands with a reputable dealer performance and product backup. John Deere, Massey Ferguson, Case IH, and New Holland, for instance, all have a wide network of dealers. Find a dealership that is not too far away so that you can easily and quickly get your vehicle fixed should there be a problem. Inquire whether the dealer offers mobile truck repair services, which can be very handy come harvest time. Always keep in mind that it is essential not to spend too much on farm machinery in the early years of starting your business.
If you have no farming experience whatsoever, the most helpful and practical resource will be other farmers. Talk to fellow growers operating at a similar scale and ask them about the advantages and drawbacks of the machines you are planning to purchase. Find out where they source equipment and learn about their experience, methods, and systems. You can hugely benefit from their expertise and save a lot of frustration, money and time by avoiding to make the same rookie mistakes.