Tractor Attachments: How to Use Rotary & Grooming Mowers

A rotary mower (commonly called brush or bush hog) and grooming mower can, in turn, help you tame overgrown areas and give open spaces a manicured look.

by Rodney Wilson
PHOTO: Land Pride

Tall grass on the farm is a high-stakes gamble. Predators use overgrown grass to ambush free-range chickens, bandits sneak into veggie patches and snakes take cover on the shadowed earth. But tractor attachments provide the grooming and brush-cutting power needed to keep your land manicured and clear.

Rotary mowers (also known as brush or bush hogs) clear out overgrown grass and weeds that leave other mowers stalled in the rough. Finishing or grooming mowers (like the one pictured above), meanwhile, cut wide, open areas with ease, with functions designed especially for manicuring uneven farmland. A bonus of these attachments is that you can do it all from the seat of your tractor.

Most farms need a rotary mower (like the one pictured below) to handle tall pastures or brush. No other implement can handle the rocks, stumps, dense grass and small trees (as wide as 2 inches in diameter) common to brushy areas. Not a mower in the traditional sense—the powerful engine and cutting blades don’t leave things looking pretty—a brush mower delivers brute-force strength against tough vegetation.

rotary mower tractor attachment bush hog brush hog

What to Look For

When purchasing, know what’s right for you, which is determined by your tractor. Identify the horsepower of your power take-off (often called PTO); this defines what you can safely pull. Next, measure the width of your tractor from one tire’s outside edge to the other. You’ll need a cutter at least this wide so your tractor and mower move over the same area.

To keep your rotary mower in good shape, mind how you ride; large rocks and stumps will take a toll and create danger when fast-moving blades throw them, and holes in the ground can cause damage. Check your radiator screen occasionally to ensure it’s not clogged.

The rotary mower’s multiple blades are the most important components, so keep them sharp and in shape. Replace worn, damaged blades; periodically make sure blades are sharp and balanced; you might need a pro to remove and tune them.

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A finishing mower is your tool for a tidy lawn, which, in the country, can be expansive and well beyond the capabilities of residential-grade mowers. Usually equipped with two or three blades, grooming mowers deliver a sharp, smooth cut to keep turf looking good.

When you first get attached, adjust the pitch at the three-point hitch so that the front is slightly lower than the back; this keeps grass from gathering under the deck. Set the height to your desired length of grass. This is often done by adding or removing spacers on the wheel shafts to raise or lower the deck.

The correct height is determined by preference, conditions and the species of grass; cool-season grasses such as fescue or Kentucky bluegrass do better cut high, while it’s better to cut short for warm-season grasses, such as Bahia grass or Bermuda grass, at the beginning of spring to remove dead blades.

Neither rotary nor grooming mowers do well in small areas, so you might need to keep a push or riding mower handy for tight spaces. But for large areas, both will help you keep control with power and minimal time investment.

Safety First

Thrown objects can cause property damage and serious injury to people or animals in the vicinity. Before you mow a field, area or yard, follow these safely procedures:

  • Make sure machine guards or shields are securely in place and properly maintained.
  • Make sure a machine and all its moving parts are fully stopped before nearing the discharge area.
  • Never point a mower discharge chute toward people, pets, homes, structures, streets or vehicles.
  • Always wear eye protection.
  • Be aware of the distance and direction of potential thrown objects.
  • When working with machinery that can throw objects, don’t allow others in the area.

Source: Mechanical Hazards: Thrown Objects. (2013). Farm & Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice

This story originally appeared in the May/June 2018 issue of Hobby Farms.

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