Fitting a backhoe to a small acreage tractor can really increase the type of tasks you can take on around the farm. The beauty of a backhoe is it can still be removed and other implements fitted, extending the versatility of your tractor. Advances in affordability, quality and performance have also made the backhoe far more accessible to the average small acreage farmer.
This article provides an overview of what you can do with a backhoe, some tips on operation, types available and things to consider when purchasing one.
What you can do with a backhoe
A narrow bucket around 180mm is used for trench work. It is ideal to take the back breaking work out of laying pipe, drainage etc.
General Purpose Digging
A slightly wider bucket is generally used for general purpose digging – around 300 to 500mm. Uses include digging pits, digging out tree stumps, digging holes for tree planting or breaking up soil so it can be handled with a 4-in-1 bucket.
Wider buckets around 900mm can be used to transfer soil that is already dug up. It can also be used to scrape surfaces for final trim applications.
A hook type fitting can be attached to the backhoe to break up hard soil or rip out objects such as tree roots.
Changing Backhoe Attachments
Buckets or rippers can be easily removed by pulling out the two pins that hold them in place. This means buckets can be changed over in a matter of minutes.
Digging must be done such that the machine is stable. Work on flat ground and always put the stabilisers down. On larger commercial machines the stabilisers lift the wheels off the ground. However on small acreage machines the stabilisers should be pushed onto the ground firmly but the wheels should not be lifted into the air. If the tractor has a loader mounted on the front lower it to the ground for increased stability.
Digging should be done in small increments. Best practice is to scrape material to loosen it and then scoop it out. If you simply plunge the bucket deep into the soil and pull it straight out it may simply not come out and work the tractor hydraulics excessively.
Types of backhoes available
There are 2 types of boom options available. The ‘Fixed’ boom is for all-round general requirements and the ‘Side-Shift’ boom brings a new level of performance to the small acreage farmer. Previously only available in commercial level equipment, this feature enables the boom to be hydraulically shifted to either side of the tractor. This allows digging closer to fence lines, building etc. It also enables more compact stowage when driving around. This is very handy when going through farm gates etc.
Backhoes come in two drive styles. Universal models can be retrofitted to many brands of tractors and are driven by the tractor PTO. Other models are factory issued for a particular brand of tractor and driven through the tractor’s hydraulic system.
Variety of attachments
Buckets are easily removed for quick changeover
Side shift models are good for digging up close
Side shift models stow away neatly
Things to consider when purchasing a backhoe
Backhoes come in different sizes so you need to ensure the one you choose is rated to the performance of your tractor. Manufacturers will generally provide a guide based on tractor HP. There are backhoe models for tractors as small as 20HP through to 55HP and up. Also consider the following.
The bigger the backhoe, the bigger the hydraulic rams fitted. This means more digging force can be applied. However if you are looking at a hydraulically driven backhoe, the hydraulic pump on the tractor must have sufficient flow to drive the rams.
Think about the depth you may need to dig. Various models range from around 1.7m to 2.7m. Adding a backhoe puts a lot of weight on the rear of the tractor. It is important that the front of the tractor does not become too light. If the tractor has a front end loader, the balance will probably be OK. If the tractor does not have a front end loader, ballast will probably need to be added.
Backhoes for small acreage tractors are generally designed to be mounted to the three point linkage. Have a look at how easily the system can be fitted/removed and also how secure the attachment method is. A robust ‘A’ frame system will prevent the backhoe from moving up and down on the linkage arms allowing the full force to be applied to digging.
And of course check out prices – they start at around $7,500.
Safety is always the highest priority. Always use a tractor that complies with Australian Standards, including Roll Over Protective Structure, seat belt and protective covers. Only take on tasks within the capability of the machine and operator. Follow all relevant safety warnings, instructions and regulations. Wear appropriate safety equipment and use common sense.
* This article is a general guide only. Conditions vary from site to site. Judgement relating to your individual conditions must be exercised. East Wind Tractors, Hanmey Implements and refurbished tractors feature in this article.