Farm Duty on 4-Wheels

Written on 12/31/2020

When we first took on the farm responsibilities, the previous owner sold us their Quad 4-wheel ATV to carry out most of the motorized farm chores. And, for the most part, it was up to task. All of the other implements we purchased for the farm were ATV-compatible, and they towed easily with the trailer hitch mounted on the back of the quad. We also had an ATV in the states, so we were very familiar with how they worked and, what it was – and was not – capable of handling.  

For the first year or two, the ATV was easy enough to maneuver in and around the paddocks and we used it primarily for topping (mowing) pastures and spreading lime or manure on the various fields, as required. However, the quad had been heavily used and was therefore a bit tired, so it was difficult to start and ran somewhat rough.

As a result, when we loaded our 20' moving container back in the states, we decided we would bring over our ATV from Wisconsin. It was in excellent condition, lightly used with only 340 miles on it, and, at 13 years of age, it would not have sold for what it was worth. Harry and I both really liked it. The suspension was lower and, it was not only simple to start up, but it started up every time – so it was reliable out in a field.

Over the next year or two, we used our Wisconsin ATV for everything. We towed a nice utility trailer for brush, barn muck and occasional timber we cut up from fallen trees over the winter months. Frankly, it did the trick – MOST of the time. A quad is easy on pastures, preserving grass quality and leaving little trace of its presence behind. With the exception of really muddy periods, it was easy to get in and out without hassle.

In 2018, the rainfall in the west of Ireland was relentless. It started to rain in August and didn't stop until mid-February of the next year! Needless to say, the flooding was terrible. The mud was mind blowing, and feeding the sheep at pasture was a spectacular mess. But, even then, the quad pulled it off with its wonderfully nubby tire treads and a front rack for toting two bales out to the ladies once a day.

That same year, we decided we should buy a tractor for the farm. It was a spontaneous decision. We were down at the farm implement shop looking for something totally unrelated, and in the front parking lot was a really nice Massey Ferguson 135. It was a 1968 fully restored beauty – and we both commented on how it looked like a red version of the tractor in the TV show "Shaun the Sheep". So, after a small bit of haggling over the price, the lovely red working antique was delivered to our house.

At first, being used to only an ATV, it was a bit intimidating. It was without 4-wheel drive, but the huge, farm-tread rear wheels looked to be capable of going through pretty much anything. Many of our neighbors had similar, less pristine versions on their farms, so I was sure it would be what I had hoped would become the work horse for us. It certainly looked the part, sitting nice and tidy in the stone parking lot behind the house. 

The configuration of the tractor was a classic, large rear wheel/small front wheel design. It was easy to drive, but I found the braking system to be quite scary – requiring having to essentially STAND on the pedal to get the tractor to stop. It also was tricky to drive on a slope of any kind – providing an unwanted panic that it might tip over. Most farmers accustomed to this style of tractor found my Massey 135 fundamentally sound, but could see how it would be scary to drive on our very sloped pastures. So, sadly it remained parked in our back lot unused, and I continued to rely on our ATV for all things farm related.

As time passed, and we realized the Massey wasn't going to fit the bill for our needs, I began to look into other tractor options. The quad was fine – but as we began working with round bales of hay and straw (instead of small square bales) – we really needed something with lifting capability. Perhaps a front loader with optional pallet forks, and perhaps a front bucket scoop for mucking yards and gravel drive maintenance.

I was determined to take on as much as possible of the farm-related work myself, at this point. Local friends and neighbors were fabulous help, but understandably waiting for their availability behind their own farm requirements got tricky with the unpredictability of the weather. For a lot of reasons, I wanted to be able to do as much myself around the farm and rely less and less on others. 

So, after a good bit of investigating, reading reviews and watching demo videos, I dialed in on the sub-compact category of tractors. Of the three major manufacturers, Kubota seemed to be the best option for our location, simply because we had a dealer right here in Westport. Handy for service and maintenance, as well as being able to possibly trade in the Massey we purchased from him a few years earlier. I rang the owner of the dealership, and he was understanding of my issues with the original tractor, and was delighted at the prospect of selling me a brand-new Kubota, complete with front loader hydraulics, a bucket scoop and pallet forks. 

The tractor was in stock and was delivered straight away. I was delighted!

After a bit of adjustment to the joy stick that operates the front forks or bucket scoop, I became a manure-moving, heavy-lifting "tractoress". The number of chores I was capable of completing without help was outstanding. Carrying round bales to pastures, feed pallets to the barn – even taking on our long gravel drive's maintenance with the bucket scoop was soon high on the list. The power steering was easy on my arms (although I still use the quad enough to maintain my svelte biceps), and the compact size of the tractor suited me, with little worry of rolling the rig on an uneven slope. The unexpected bonus is that the weight and size of the machine does little damage to the pastures and, most importantly, their below-the-surface drainage systems. 

The model we purchased comes with a PTO on the back – the common drive mechanism on tractors for various implements – but we had so many trailer-hitch machines already from using the ATV, we simply continued on with them. If and when we replace any of them, we will likely make the conversion to the PTO-driven implements. Managing the controls from the seat of the tractor is appealing, and the power/load options are a bit better as well.

If you are looking into a tractor for your small holding – I can't recommend enough the Kubota sub-compact tractor. It is an excellent and affordable buy for all sorts of farm work. (And, nope, not a dime for the recommendation here for Kubota!) Motor on.