Think of machinery attachments as “apps” for your farm equipment. Instead of crushing candy or finding Pokémon, the machinery attachments make farming easier. When a farmer can streamline their production, everyone benefits — especially the farmer who just might catch a break in a day that will always begin at sunup and end at sundown. Here are some of those must-have apps … attachments:
A rotary cutter is a lawn mower on steroids. It is hooked to a tractor and turns the machine into a super-charged power mower. This helps clear acres of grass in a matter of moments. This is beneficial if that land is going to be turned into a field for planting. Grass also needs to be trimmed in order to manage consumption by cows. A rotary cutter is also a good “starter” attachment for a young farmer in training, as it provides a good workout on a tractor without putting much at risk beyond the grass.
Can you imagine a tractor without some kind of plow? Many folks might think a plow is a permanent attachment for a tractor, but there are as many plows as there are plants to grow … once the field has been plowed.
A moldboard plow is the go-to attachment for churning up soil that hasn’t been planted in a while. It has large wings meant to cut deep into soil to give it the once-over. A disk plow also cuts the soil but doesn’t turn it over as deeply as a moldboard plow. The disk plow works fields that are used to plant rotations. A chisel plow uses its long shanks to turn over a foot of soil with each pass. This is best used after a layer of nutrients is applied to the topsoil. The chisel blow then becomes a riding “mixer,” thoroughly infusing that soil with much-needed additives.
A good portion of a farmer’s day involves moving hale bays from one spot to the other. It’s important to quickly bale hay when the weather is just right, because too much (or too little) moisture can cause nutrient loss and increase leaf shatter. Whether you’re unloading from a truck at the barn or picking up from the field, bale grabs reduce machine stress. That reduces expensive machine maintenance down the road and improves your final product, a true win-win.
Legend has it that Johnny Appleseed wandered the country spreading seeds from a bag around his neck in the hopes of getting apple trees to grow. If only Johnny had used a broadcast seeder attachment — then he would have been a lot more productive. Like plow blades there are many variations of broadcast seeders, but the basic goal is the same: Disperse seeds across a wide patch of plowed field. Most broadcast seeders can be adjusted for width, which makes them very versatile attachments.
A transplanter attachment will be the closest thing you can get to turn your tractor into a living video game. Transplanters are for planting seedlings. One variation of this attachment has seats for occupants to operate either a foot-pedal or hand-lever drop of the seedlings. Those seedlings are in trays that have to be constantly swapped out by the seated operator.
Next to the plow, the front-end loader is the most popular attachment for a tractor. It is an extremely versatile piece of equipment as it can dig, move heavy objects, lift bulky items, grade soil, and transport dirt. It’s kind of like the Swiss Army knife of attachments.
The front-end loader’s cousin would be the backhoe. The primary function of the backhoe is to dig and dig deep. The excavator bucket is smaller than than front-end loader. A backhoe can typically dig a trench down to nine feet. You can also swap out the bucket for different types of functions.
If you’re just starting out farming, you might be wondering which attachment you should get first. Sooner or later, you’ll probably find benefits for all of them. Before buying, you might be able to rent or lease an attachment for a farming season to see if it is a good fit. There are certainly lots to pick from — just like apps.
Photo by Fotolia/Franco Nadalin