Types of Farm Equipment and Their Uses

Types of Farm Equipment and Their Uses

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Modern farmers have a huge range of equipment options for the various activities they do on an annual basis. From high-tech combine harvesters to simple tractors, the various kinds of farm equipment available can meet the needs of small-scale homesteaders and industrial-size farming operations alike. However, it can be difficult to keep track of all the options. New farmers especially may wonder what the different types of farming machinery are for. For small- and mid-size farms especially, determining the different types of farming machinery you may need to make your operations more efficient can be frustrating.

While all the equipment available may seem confusing, knowing about the basic farm equipment options can be an enormous help. If you're looking into purchasing new or used farm equipment, take a look at this guide. We'll go over the different types of agricultural machines and their uses, as well as some of the options for small, mid-size and large-scale farming operations.

Farming Vehicles

Of the different types of farm equipment and their uses, vehicles are the most important and represent the largest investment.

Of the different types of farm equipment and their uses, vehicles are the most important and represent the largest investment. While a truck is often a staple of farming life, there are several other farm-specific vehicles, too.

1. Tractors

To say that "tractor" is a broad category is an understatement. The tractor is ubiquitous in the farming world, and it comes in a range of sizes to fit any farming operation. The primary purpose of a tractor is to pull farm equipment, but modern tractors can be outfitted with a variety of attachments to suit just about any farming need. For this reason, tractors are common-sense purchases for small and large-scale farmers alike.

To say that "tractor" is a broad category is an understatement. The tractor is ubiquitous in the farming world, and it comes in a range of sizes to fit any farming operation.

There are several types of tractors, including the following:

  • Compact tractors: Compact tractors, as their name implies, are small, high-powered tractors that can assist with all the basic functions needed on a farm. Compact tractors are ideal for material handling and working in tight spaces where traditional tractors can't fit.
  • Wheeled tractors: Wheeled tractors are general-purpose tractors that help you get the most out of your machinery. These utility tractors can meet a variety of demands and can be outfitted for tilling, material handling and equipment pulling. With a range of options in horsepower, lifting capacity, control and cab style, you can choose the wheeled tractor that works best for you and your application.
  • Track tractors: Track tractors are farming vehicles mounted with rubber tracks instead of tires, allowing them to plow fields with more power while providing a smoother ride for the operator.
  • Orchard tractors: Orchard tractors are a special type of tractor adapted with features to work optimally in orchards. These slender tractors can more easily fit between lines of trees while still providing the power needed to do landscaping and maintenance.

The specific attachments that are used with tractors are extremely varied. For more detail on the types of attachments available and what they do, see the section further down covering tractor attachments.

2. Combine or Harvester

Combine or Harvester Grain farmers require combines, also known as harvesters or combine harvesters, that help to harvest their crops efficiently. Even small-scale grain farmers can benefit greatly by using a combine.

Grain farmers require combines, also known as harvesters or combine harvesters, that help to harvest their crops efficiently. Even small-scale grain farmers can benefit greatly by using a combine. These massive pieces of machinery use a complex system of gears, blades, belts and wheels to turn cereal crops into grain. Combines accomplish this through three primary processes:

  1. Reaping: Reaping is the process of cutting the plant, which is accomplished by the header, reel and cutter bar on the combine. The header gathers the crops while the reel pushes them toward the cutter bar, which cuts the crops at their base.
  2. Threshing: Threshing is the process of separating the edible parts of the crop from the non-edible parts. This is accomplished by the threshing drum, which beats the cut crops to separate the grains from their stalks.
  3. Winnowing: Winnowing is the process of separating light chaff from the grain, and it is usually accomplished while the grain is in the threshing drum. Chaff is usually separated from the grain through the use of sieves.

There is a huge array of combines and combine attachments to meet the needs of any farm. Many newer combines are even able to track yield data, showing which areas of the field did well and which areas did poorly so that these issues can be addressed the following year.

3. ATV or UTV

All-terrain vehicles, also known as ATVs or four-wheelers, are becoming increasingly common on farms of all sizes, as are utility vehicles or UTVs.

All-terrain vehicles, also known as ATVs or four-wheelers, are becoming increasingly common on farms of all sizes, as are utility vehicles or UTVs. These smaller vehicles can move across rough terrain more effectively than most road vehicles and more quickly than a typical tractor. Additionally, several types of attachments will work for these vehicles, including small trailers, spreaders and mowers.

Tractor Attachments

Tractor attachments are attached to tractors or pulled behind them to add a new level of functionality. Their uses range widely from soil management to seeding. The different types of farm machinery attachments are detailed below.

Tractor attachments are attached to tractors or pulled behind them to add a new level of functionality. Their uses range widely from soil management to seeding.

1. Plows

A plow is a large tractor attachment that drags behind the tractor, using long blades to cut furrows in the soil. This process not only loosens and turns the soil, but it also helps kill off any surface vegetation that is not intended to be there. While the soil has to go through several subsequent steps to be ready for planting, plowing is an essential first step.

The concept of a plow may seem simple enough, but there are a variety of different plow types. Each plow type is suited to a specific soil type, soil condition and crop type. Here is a look at the three most common types of plows:

  • Moldboard plows: Moldboard plows consist of wing-shaped blades, which are specifically designed to cut into and turn the soil. This is an ideal type of plow for shallow but thorough soil turning, which is often necessary for land that hasn't been used for crop production for several years.
  • Disc plows: Disc plows consist of rows of discs that work to turn the soil and cut up weeds. These are less common than moldboard plows as they are less effective at turning the soil, but disc plows may be more useful for soil that is particularly sticky or rocky.
  • Chisel plows: Chisel plows consist of exceptionally long shanks. These shanks turn the soil at a depth of a foot or more. This is often necessary for land that has been used for consistent crop production.

Plows can range widely in price from a few hundred to several thousand dollars depending on the type, size, brand and condition of the plow.

2. Harrows

Where plowing primes the soil, harrowing further agitates it in preparation for agricultural work. These attachments break down clumps of soil, make the soil surface level and redistribute crop and weed residue to make it easier for new plants to take root and grow. Harrows can also be used after distributing manure and fertilizer, as they can help break up clumps and distribute the fertilizer more evenly.

Common types of harrows: spring, roller, chain, and disc

Some common types of harrows include:

  • Spring harrows: Spring harrows are an older style that isn't commonly found today. These attachments use flexible iron teeth mounted in rows to loosen and agitate the soil.
  • Roller harrows: Roller harrows look like large spiked tubes and, as the name suggests, are rolled across the soil to help crush the soil and prepare it for seed planting.
  • Chain harrows: Chain harrows look like chain nets with spiked attachments. These are run over the surface of the ground to help aerate and spread soil and fertilizer.
  • Disc harrows: Disc harrows are the more modern version of spring harrows, and consist of rows of large discs that break up soil and weeds more thoroughly after plowing.

Often, multiple types of harrows are used for different purposes and may be used multiple times during the soil preparation process. Harrows can be pulled behind tractors or ATVs, depending on their size and complexity. More advanced harrows require a tractor, but they often combine the benefits of multiple types of harrows all into one.

3. Fertilizer Spreaders

Fertilizer spreaders function as the name suggests — they spread fertilizer across a field. While there are fertilizer spreaders that can be run separately, most farming operations require a tractor-run fertilizer spreader for quick, evenly distributed fertilization.

There are multiple types of fertilizer spreaders, varying primarily based on the type of fertilizer used. These are some of the more common types of tractor-mounted fertilizer spreaders:

  • Broadcast spreader: Possibly the most common fertilizer spreader is the broadcast spreader, which works by taking fertilizer and dispersing it using gravity.
  • Manure spreader: Manure spreaders take solid manure from livestock and spread it across a field. This is an easy way of utilizing manure effectively, though the solid manure will often need to be run over with a harrow to break it up and mix it in with the soil.
  • Slurry spreader: Liquid manure spreaders are also known as slurry spreaders, which spray a slurry of liquid manure across a field.

Fertilizer spreaders vary widely in size and price, so consider your application closely before making a decision on which type to buy. It's also worthwhile to note that fertilizer spreader attachments are available for ATVs and UTVs as well as tractors.

4. Seeders

Seeders, as the name would suggest, are designed to spread seeds across large plots of land quickly and efficiently.

Seeders, as the name would suggest, are designed to spread seeds across large plots of land quickly and efficiently. While small farms may use small mechanical seeders or even hand-seeding methods, tractor-pulled seeders are most commonly used in large-scale farms today. There are different machines used in agriculture seeding, however, such as the following:

  • Broadcast seeders: Broadcast seeders are also known as seeders or rotary spreaders, and they come in all sizes. These seeders work by placing seeds inside a hopper. Inside the hopper, a plate turns, taking seeds in for dispersing across the field. While this method is very effective to plant cover crops and grasses, it is not ideal for garden crops that need more organization, such as to be laid out in rows.
  • Air seeders: Air seeders are very large seeders that use compressed air to shoot seeds into the ground. Though highly effective, air seeders can only be used on small, round seeds because of the way they operate, which limits their utility.
  • Box drill seeders: Box drills are the preferred seeder for most farming operations due to the fact that they are easy to use and work with a wide variety of seed types. These attachments drill into the soil and drop seeds at a specific depth.
  • Planters: Planters are the most accurate seeders, though they also tend to be the most expensive. Planters consist of several blades and wheels topped with seedboxes that contain the seeds to be planted. The planter works by cutting into the ground, dropping individual seeds, then closing the ground behind them, all in quick succession.

Like other attachments, seeders vary in price based on the size, type and condition of the seeder.

5. Balers

Balers are essential for hay, straw and corn stalk collection. These tractor attachments collect these materials and wrap them into more easily manageable bales. There are three general kinds of hay balers:

  • Round balers: Round balers work by rolling hay into round shapes and then wrapping it.
  • Square balers: Square balers collect hay, straw or stalks into compactors, which help pack and compress the material into a square shape. Once the baler has enough material, it ties it with two lengths of twine or wire and then deposits it in a particular area. Square balers come in multiple sizes to work for a variety of applications.
  • Large square balers: Large square balers function the same as regular square balers, but they handle significantly larger volumes for industrial-size farms.

Typically, square balers are less expensive than round balers, but the best type of baler for your farm, as well as the wrapping method you use, depends on your application.

6. Wagons or Trailers

Farm wagons and trailers are a necessity for any operation. Wagons and trailers are available in a wide range of sizes and materials, and they may be used for a range of purposes, including the following:

  • Harvesting: Wagons and trailers may be used to move hay bales and other harvested goods from one area of the farm to another.
  • Material handling: Wagons are often used to move large quantities of materials, including fertilizers and feed, across large areas.
  • Human resources: Wagons and trailers with seating may be used to move employees and visitors across large areas of land.
  • Equipment transportation: Trailers are often equipped to move farming equipment, smaller vehicles and attachments.

Tractor wagons and trailers vary widely in size, and many operations may need multiple types to handle all the various duties involved in daily farm operations.

Other Tractor Attachments: Sprayers, Mowers, Transplanters, Cultivators, Plastic Mulch Layers, and Rakes

7. Other Tractor Attachments

While the attachments listed above are the most common tractor attachments purchased, there are a wide variety of other tractor attachments commonly used in farming and related applications. Some of these different types of farming machinery attachments include:

  • Sprayers: Sprayer attachments can be used to spray pesticides, fertilizers and other substances across large areas. These are a must-have for any farming operation that handles large acreages.
  • Mowers: Mowers are a necessity for any large plot of land, but tractor owners can benefit from mower attachments. There are a variety of mower types to meet a range of farm needs from grass management to harvesting. The specific type of mower you require for your application will depend on your land, and you may need multiple attachments to attend to different areas of your property.
  • Transplanters: Tractor-pulled transplanters make transplanting easy by taking large quantities of growing plants, digging holes for them and depositing them, all using machinery.
  • Cultivators: Cultivators are used for soil cultivation, specifically in the area of weed control. These are used for shallow tilling and are often used in smaller farming operations.
  • Plastic mulch layers: For large-scale farms that use methods involving plasticulture, a plastic mulch layer tractor attachment is a necessity. This equipment takes a ream of plastic and lays it flat along the bed using a series of wheels.
  • Rakes: If your farm operation involves making hay, raking attachments are essential for your tractor. Several types of rakes are available as pull-behind attachments, including wheel rakes, parallel-bar rakes, rotary rakes and belt rakes.

You can also find backhoe tractor attachments if your application requires digging holes on a regular basis. These attachments can dig up to 10 feet. For larger-scale applications, however, renting or purchasing a standalone backhoe may be more effective.

Front-end loader attachments can be very versatile as well for small to mid-size farms. While they are not an option for all tractors, these attachments can dig, move and lift heavy or bulky items, and do some land-grading tasks.

There are even more kinds of farm equipment attachments for tractors beyond those listed above, but these summarize the primary ones. It is important to note that not all farms need all of these attachments — small-scale farms will need fewer types of agricultural equipment than large-scale farms, and a farm's need for specialized equipment will vary based on the local environment and farming methods used.

Choose Holt Ag Solutions

Choose Holt Ag Solutions

There are even more types of agricultural equipment beyond those listed above, but these represent the most significant types. Whether you know what you want or you need some help making a decision, you can trust Holt Ag Solutions to provide the guidance and expertise you require.

Holt Ag Solutions is a top supplier of new and used farming equipment from a variety of manufacturers. Our diverse product line includes CLAAS LEXION Combines as well as AGCO's full line of Challenger®, Fendt, Massey Ferguson and Ag-Chem™ products. Our Yuba City, Woodland and Willows locations also have Kubota tractors and utility vehicles for sale. No matter what you need, we offer an excellent selection for you to choose from.

On top of our huge range of products, Holt Ag Solutions offers the service you need to select and maintain your farming equipment. We commit to being the one-stop farm machinery shop from Merced County all the way up to the Oregon-Washington border, and we deliver on our commitment. Our farming machinery experts can guide you through the different types of agricultural machines we have and provide some insight into what may work best for your application. Our top-notch service and parts department is also ready to keep your equipment running with proper maintenance and thorough repair services. From sale to salvage, your needs are our top priority.

Because we are based out of California and Oregon, we know and understand the needs of both states' farmers. Our experts stay on top of the latest emissions requirements and can help you discover how to attain and maintain compliance with state regulations. Holt Ag Solutions is here to help get you up-to-speed and up-to-date in a way that is as cost-effective as possible.

If you're ready to partner with a farming equipment provider that focuses on your satisfaction, contact Holt Ag Solutions today!