Four Things to Consider Before Cutting Hay with a Compact Tractor Thumbnail image

Compact utility tractors are hard-working machines capable of tackling an endless variety of chores and projects—including cutting hay.

And, while larger tractors may be better-suited to cutting and baling on sprawling hayfields, nimble and efficient compact tractors excel at haymaking on small to mid-size properties. John Deere offers a variety of hay and forage mowing equipment. A number of these models are compatible with compact utility tractors. 

Consider the Horsepower

Choosing the right hay mower for your compact utility tractor requires considering a few factors, including the tractor’s power take-off (PTO) horsepower. This is generally based on a measurement with the engine set to spin the PTO shaft at a standard speed such as 540 RPM. You’ll need to know this because mowers require a minimum PTO horsepower to operate safely and efficiently. This varies between different mower models. For example, the Frontier DM5050 Disc Mower requires 40 PTO horsepower, while the larger DM5070 needs 50 horsepower.

Note that PTO horsepower is different than gross engine power. For example, the John Deere 3046R Compact Utility Tractor provides 44.7 gross engine horsepower and 33.9 PTO horsepower and comes standard with an independent rear 540 RPM PTO. When in doubt on this or any specification—and how it applies to choosing a mower or other attachment—ask the experts at Minnesota Equipment.

Consider the Hitch

If you plan to mount the mower on the tractor’s 3-point hitch, you’ll also need to make sure the mower and tractor hitches are compatible. For example, some mowers attach to tractors with Category 1 or 2 hitches, while others strictly require a Category 2. One option besides mounting the mower on the 3-point hitch is using an attachment that allows you to pull a 3-point-compatible mower, like the Frontier DC 10 Series Disc Mower Caddy. Besides expanding your hitch and tractor options, added benefits include ease of hook-up and improved maneuverability for negotiating sharp turns and avoiding obstacles.

Consider the Mower Type

Type of mower is another major consideration. Top options for smaller producers include sickle bar mowers, disc mowers and mower-conditions. John Deere offers industry-leading choices in all three categories.

Sickle bar mowers trace their roots to horse-drawn models. Advantages include light weight and typically low horsepower requirements. Frontier SB31 Series Sickle Bar Mowers are a great fit for 25- to 50-horsepower tractors. The rugged and efficient mowers come in 69- to 92-inch working width options. The SB31 Series’ double-action cutting design increases effective blade speed and reduces vibration for quieter action and longer lasting performance. They’re designed for mowing speeds from 6.2-7.5 mph and the cutting arm flexes upward 90 degrees and downward 45 degrees to easily handle uneven terrain such as hilly hayfields. As a bonus, adjustable skid shoes control working height, while the sturdy, double-action cutter bar slices and dices tough forage or thick grass and weeds. Sickle bar mowers also tend to kick up less dust, which is a welcome benefit for you and your freshly cut hay.

Disc mowers like the John Deere R160 Disc Mower (requires just 30 PTO horsepower) cover ground in a hurry, allowing you to cut more acres per hour than a sickle bar mower. They also tend to clog less in thick cover or lodged hay.

A mower-conditioner crimps hay stems so the crop dries faster and can be baled sooner than if a disc or sickle bar mower is used, but many models are too large or require too much power for small tractors. However, the John Deere S250 Side-Pull Mower Conditioner requires just 55 PTO horsepower and sports a compact design that’s a perfect fit for smaller tractors and acreages. Plus, the standard clevis hitch allows you to pull it with just about any tractor drawbar.

Consider Minnesota Equipment

Whichever style hay-cutting machine you choose, selecting a high-quality, reliable John Deere mower from Minnesota Equipment ensures the kind of efficient, uniform mowing that sets the stage for easy baling and better hay quality. Browse our selection here.