Do you want to fire up your 300 horsepower tractor to run an auger or move a bale of hay? Or is that the machine of choice to mow weeds from the road up to your barn? Probably not, in both cases.

The utility tractor – the 40 to 100 hp – unit better fits the job. But choosing the right utility tractor requires nearly about as much attention as what goes into selecting the big row-crop machine.

It gets down to the power needed for specific applications, the number of acres covered, the type of land to be covered and your budget, says Colby Flaming, general manager of Western Equipment, a West Texas-based John Deere dealer network that includes eight locations in Oklahoma and Texas.

Colby Flaming, Western Equipment

Colby Flaming, Western Equipment

The number of applications doesn’t come close to apps available for today’s smartphones. But there are dozens of mowers, blades, rakes and boxes that all require different hp and power take off (PTO) for different jobs.

The good news is utility tractors on the market today can meet the task for any job short of pulling a wide planter or grain cart. “There are so many variables and types of tractors on the market,” Flaming says. “Utility tractors are the largest growing sector in the equipment market place by far. Probably one out of every four or five units we sell is a utility tractor.”

Utility tractors typically range from 35-100 PTO hp. A key in selecting the right one is to match the unit with the implement to be used. Deere, Case IH and other manufacturers offer a wealth of information on their websites about which equipment works best with what tractor. For example, the Frontier Equipment Compatibility Chart can be used to marry the right equipment with the right tractor, the types of engines, transmissions and torque needed for a particular implement.

For example, in looking at various types of blades and which tractors they match with, considers Deere’s 5000 series tractors, which range from 37 PTO hp to 100 PTO hp. A medium duty rear blade, 3-point-hitch model matches with all units up to 70 PTO hp. But a heavy-plus duty 3-point-hitch model requires at least a 47 PTO hp. tractor.

A standard duty box blade 3-point hitch matches well with a 37-53 PTO hp. A medium duty box blade works with units up to 70-79 PTO hp.

Case IH and its Farmall tractors with 50-90 PTO hp can also be matched up with various implements via online product brochures. For example, a Case IH pull-type disk mower requires a minimum 60 PTO hp unit, minimum relief pressure 1500 psi and ASAE Category II drawbar requirements.

Also, Case IH brochures show that L300 series loaders require a Farmall 31-60 PTO hp unit, depending on which loader is used. In the L700 series loaders, utility Farmall tractors in the Farmall 70-105 PTO hp range are needed for the smaller units, but larger loaders require a jump to the Magnum or Puma line of tractors.

In looking at other implements, New Holland and its smaller round balers require as low as a PTP hp of 40, according to the New Holland agriculture website. A larger New Holland silage harvester pushes PTO hp requirements up to 60.

Service availability
It’s a big consideration in selecting a utility tractor. “There are a lot of choices out there, a lot of good tractors,” Flaming says. “The biggest key is to be able to turn on the key and go.

“That’s whether you’re a ‘weekend’ farmer or a dairy operator who uses a smaller tractor to move hay every day. You want a dependable tractor that you can keep running. Make sure it’s a tractor that has parts and service availability.”

Flaming says a common mistake for tractor buyers is “buying too small.” “Sometimes sticker shock may impact a buyer,” he says. “The customer will then select a smaller tractor that is too small to handle the job they are trying to accomplish. That can become a safety issue.

“But for many, the auto industry has conditioned them to expect higher prices. There are many financing plans available to help buyers get into a unit they need for their operation.”

If looking for a used utility tractor, there may be slim pickings. “Because of the greater demand for them, there are very few out there,” Flaming says. “There are usually two types of used tractors we see. There’s the weekend farmer who might put 70-100 hours on a tractor or a year. Then there’s the dairy or feedyard used tractor that has 6,000 hours after three years. Those units can be in the ‘salvage category’ if not properly maintained.

There’s also the question as to whether the buyer wants a cab or not. “If you select a unit with a cab, the probability of a larger selection of use will be available,” Flaming says.

He advises potential buyers to study product literature from their local implement dealers and via the Internet. “There is much literature out there on tractors and the many applications for them,” Flaming concludes. “A little homework on the type of utility tractor you need can help a lot.”

Here are links to tractor manufacturer websites, which also help in the matching process:
John Deere
Case IH
Massey Ferguson
TYM Tractors