Don’t Fence Me In: Finding the Right Tractor-Mounted Posthole Digger for Your Project

For many farmers and ranchers, a manual posthole digger is necessary equipment. A fence post, or several, get knocked down in the north pasture, and this simple tool helps keep your herd in or the critters out. But after about the third hole, everyone starts to wish for a more mechanical solution.

Thankfully, contractors and homeowners have a number of options depending on their project and available equipment. A handheld, gas-powered auger is fairly easy to come by, but, for those with access to a compact utility tractor, a hydraulic earth auger can be more efficient and easier to operate. Here are a few things to keep in mind when renting or buying a three-point posthole digger.

When Do I Need a Hydraulic Posthole Digger?

The benefits of a tractor-mounted auger attachment are most evident with larger projects. For simply installing a deck, planting a few trees or repairing a short span of fence, getting all the necessary equipment to the jobsite might be more hassle than it’s worth. However, for larger projects, a posthole digging attachment will significantly reduce time and physical effort that’s required. It will also produce cleaner, more uniform holes for better results.

Soil composition is another factor to consider. Rocky or high clay soils can be nearly impossible to dig through manually, especially in the dry, hot summer months. These soil types can be more physically demanding for powered augers as well. Both one- and two-person gas augers run more risk of kickback with hard, rocky soils. A hydraulic auger just makes sense for compact utility tractor owners or operators needing to dig a significant number of holes.

How Do I Choose a Tractor-Mounted Auger?

Again, selecting the right attachment will depend on the project. Three-point posthole augers come in three grades:

  • Light duty, best suited for loamy or softer soils and smaller scale projects.
  • Medium duty, heavier and provides more downforce for clay or harder soils.
  • Heavy duty, best for commercial applications. Probably far more attachment than necessary for the occasional application.

There are a few tractor specs to keep in mind when pairing a posthole digging attachment. First, PTO horsepower. This is not the same as the engine horsepower. It’s also important to take note of the tractor’s three-point hitch categorization. Light-duty augers are almost all Cat. 1, which limits their use to smaller horsepower tractors. Medium-duty augers can usually be paired with Cat. 1 or Cat. 2 hitches, making them compatible with most utility tractors. PTO horsepower and hitch category can be found in the owner’s manual, or check the manufacturer’s website.

You will also need to determine the right diameter and boom length for your particular application. This will depend on your dealer or rental center, so make sure to clearly communicate your intentions and existing conditions.

Operating Tips

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Some bonus advice from an experienced posthole digger is always good to have. Digging postholes in the cooler, wetter months is easier and more comfortable than doing it in summer. Schedule projects for the winter, if possible, when the ground is moist and somewhat softer. For projects that must be completed in the summer, make the ground softer by predrilling holes a few inches deep, fill them with water and let sit overnight.

Additionally, a spotter isn’t just a good idea, it’s a matter of safety. In posthole digging applications, the spotter can help ensure the auger is straight up and down throughout the digging process for perfect posts. A PTO auger can be a valuable tool, whether you’re fencing in a horse pasture or just redesigning your backyard space. Work smarter, not harder, especially when it comes to digging holes.

Garrett Davis is the tactical marketing manager for Massy Ferguson’s CUE lineup. He is also the host of At Home with Massey Ferguson, a YouTube series for CUE owners.

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