Sponsored by: Kubota
October 2018 - By: Tim Nephew
A strong June storm hit our area last summer. Winds clocked at 85 miles per hour at the local airport created a lot of downed trees and damage to structures. Fortunately, for my wife and me, we only lost four trees and avoided any damage to buildings. Even though we avoided any serious damage to our property, we still had two twelve hour days of cutting up downed trees and hauling the brush away.
One of the trees that came down was a big pine in our front yard that blew over and ripped a huge root ball out of the ground. I was able to cut up and remove the tree but the exposed root ball was still attached to the roots and was half buried. The best choice to remove the root ball was a backhoe, but we had just sodded our yard the previous summer and I was hesitant to have a heavy backhoe cross the lawn to work on the root ball.
I decided to call a landscape contractor I knew and he said that he could get the root ball out without damaging the sod. Using his compact tractor with turf tires, loader and backhoe attachment, he was able to dig the root ball free in a short amount of time. The turf tires on his tractor didn’t leave a mark on the new sod even after multiple trips back and forth with debris and extra fill.
I own a compact tractor with a loader, but I was always somewhat skeptical of the benefits of owning a tractor mounted backhoe – especially on compact tractors. My own personal experience from the storm damage gave me a new respect for their use and versatility coupled with a front end loader.
Tractors with loaders and backhoes or “TLBs”, are offered by most of the major compact tractor manufactures. The units can either be frame mounted or attached via the three point hitch. Depending on the size of the tractor, there is a corresponding backhoe attachment to match the tractor horse power and frame size. For example, in the compact tractor market, the TLBs usually have a digging depth of less than 10 feet and are coupled with a tractor under 35 horse power.
You may have a list of different projects or tasks on your property that you would like to accomplish with some best suited for a backhoe. A big benefit of adding a backhoe to a tractor is that it gives you the opportunity to take on more of the projects yourself that may be cost prohibitive if it would require hiring someone else to do the work.
Some of many uses for the backhoe in a rural environment may include moving heavy stone or putting them in place, digging out stumps – of which I personally have many – to digging large footings or installing culverts. Landscaping projects like building ponds or preparing retaining wall foundations are quick work compared to the alternative of using just a front end loader or hand shoveling.
If you currently own a tractor and you are considering adding a backhoe, it is important to understand a few basics before shopping for a backhoe. There are two ways to attach a backhoe to a tractor; some manufactures use the tractors three point hitch attachment while other models use a more integrated frame mounting configuration. The three point hitch attachment is the preferred method for lighter duty backhoes while the frame mounted backhoe provides a more rigid attachment to the tractor which helps eliminate frame stress to the tractor chassis on the larger models.
Other considerations when looking at adding a backhoe include knowing if the unit requires hydraulic power to the backhoe or if it runs via the PTO of the tractor linked to a hydraulic system built into the backhoe. Does your tractor have the capability to run another hydraulic line to the backhoe or will you need to look at the self-contained units? How about horsepower? It goes without saying that you need sufficient horse power to operate the appropriately matched backhoe. It is always a good idea to call a dealer of your tractors make and model to find out exactly what type of backhoe is suited to your particular tractor.
Prices for tractor attached backhoes can range from $6000 to $15,000 depending on model and capability. As mentioned before, your local dealer is a good starting source for information and prices. Equipment dealers may also have used equipment on hand and the capability of adding a rigid mounted backhoe to your existing tractor if that is the style you decide to purchase. Once you have educated yourself on the specifications needed to add a backhoe to your tractor, you may want to check out the used market online to see if there are any suitable models available in your area.
I’ve focused on the backhoe portion of the TLB, but the addition of the front end loader is what makes these two a winning combination. In my estimation, the front end loader is the most beneficial and useful attachment that you can add to your tractor in a rural environment. When used in tandem, the front end loader provides stabilization to the added weight of the backhoe and also provides a method to haul additional fill or remove excavated material. When used by itself, the front end loader can move snow, manure, gravel, and even clean out the stables and stock pens.
Loaders are matched to the specific tractor frame and horse power and start at around $3000 and up depending on size and quality. Again, talk to your local implement dealer or a knowledgeable neighbor or friend before purchasing a loader for your tractor. A quality loader is constructed of good material and can withstand the extra stress and heavy use. I’ve personally seen many loaders with bent or damaged buckets from either poor craftsmanship or inferior construction. Purchasing a model that is specifically matched to your tractor will give you the added assurance and in most cases a warranty to know your investment will last.
If you are looking to add versatility to your tractor and tackle additional projects on your property, consider the benefits of adding a backhoe and loader to your equipment tool kit.