The utility tractor can be a versatile piece of iron. Ask any farmer, landscaper or large estate owner — a compact tractor is a great way to tackle that long must-do list hanging up in your garage or warehouse. Cut the grass, mulch the flower beds, bale hay, spread gravel, level a field, install that sprinkler system and then pick up dinner — it can tackle almost all of those labor-intensive chores. The diversity and approachability of compact tractors have made them big business in North America. Today compact tractors are often defined by their attachment system. The American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE) defines compact tractors as small agricultural tractors equipped with a 540-rpm power take off system (PTO) and a three-point hitch designed for (mostly) Category 1 implements.
Compact tractors quickly appeared from 40 hp down through the early 1980s, filling the market gap left by tractor manufacturers gearing up to meet the market demand of American farmers for larger and higher horsepower ag tractors. Invariably, schools, parks, landscapers, cemeteries and hobby farmers all took an immediate liking to these high-production, economical-to-own and user-friendly compact tractors. There are hundreds of model choices and unique features galore (from air conditioned cabs to power transmissions), along with a zillion different implements (mowers, landscape rakes, augers, buckets, backhoes, hay bales, fork lifts, seeders, brush cutters and beyond). These implements can be attached on the front, belly or rear of the tractor and can be powered by PTO power of hydraulic power.
Today’s compact tractors generally have a mass less than 4,000 lbs and use less than 40 PTO hp to run their attachments. John Deere, Kubota and New Holland are the three most popular manufacturers of these machines — all with decades worth of compact tractor experience. Yet, there are plenty of players primed to accommodate the growing compact tractor market (Case IH, Yanmar, Kioti and Massey Ferguson are all bringing innovative alternatives to the small utility tractor market).