COOPERATIVE EXTENSION WORK IN
AGRICULTURE AND HOME ECONOMICS
rVERSITY OF FLORIDA DIVISION OF AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION AND UNITED
STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE COOPERATING
P. H. ROLFS, Director
TRACTORS IN FLORIDA
BY FRAZIER ROGERS
The purpose of this circular is to present important facts and
rures, from the farmer's standpoint, as reported by owners of
actors in Florida. These figures represent average results,
id are certainly worth more in determining the value of a
actor than would be figures from tests conducted under ideal
editions. These averages represent 93 tractors valued at
07,163, and operated by incompetent as well as competent men
d under actual service conditions which would be difficult
duplication in tests. A prospective purchaser may reasonably
unt on equaling the average performance as given in this
rcular. Of course he should strive to equal the record of an
GETTING THE INFORMATION
Thru the cooperation of the Agricultural Extension Division
f the College of Agriculture and the farmers of the state, who
ook the time and trouble to answer our requests, it has been
possible to obtain these figures and other information which
lake this publication possible.
Three hundred and fifty questionnaires, containing the most
portant questions on tractors, were sent to tractor owners.
f this number 103 were returned filled out, 10 of which concern
;arden tractors and are not considered herein. If in the future
farmers will bear in mind that this is the best and our only
source of information, and will cooperate by filling out these
ists of questions and returning them, it will be possible to
include a greater number of machines in the calculations and
Averages. However, there are enough machines, 93 in number,
.1 different makes, and 6 different sizes, to make this summary
)f considerable value.
Florida Cooperative Extension
SOME QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1. Have you found your tractor profitable?
This, the all important question with the prospective p
chaser, headed the list and to it five different answers we
received. Of the 93 tractors represented, 72, or 77.5 pierce
were considered profitable; 12, or 12.9 percent, were consider
unprofitable; 2, or 2.2 percent, had not decided; 1, or 1.1 pierce
was doubtful; 1, or 1.1 percent, stated that it depended up
the operator; and 5, or 5.3 percent, failed to report on th
It is interesting to note that the tractors reported profitab
had been in use slightly longer than those reported unprofitable
The averages given by the owners indicate that the age of t
profitable machine, or rather the average age, was 12 month
while that of the unprofitable was only 10 months. It should
not be understood that the oldest of the profitable machines w
only 12 months in service, for some of these had been in use f
three seasons while others had been in use only a few month
The average was 12 months. This shows that other than th
new machines were reported as profitable.
2. What are the principal advantages and disadvantages o
Theoretically, there are many, but it is desired to know th
principal ones from the users' points of view. A summary o
the replies to these questions would indicate that the most im
portant advantage of a tractor is "its ability to do a large
amount of work in a short time." This point was emphasized b
63 percent of the replies.
"Saving man labor" is next in importance of advantages, a
this is the logical result of using a machine which will permit
one man's doing work faster than with the outfits previous
used. "Does better work" was mentioned quite frequently.
"Economy," "available for belt work," "clearing land," and
"works in hot weather," were all given as advantages, but by
fewer owners. In our warm climate the last is an important
The principal disadvantages given in order of their frequency
of mention were, "the excessive wear on the parts," "difficulty
in securing efficient operators," "costs of repair parts," "the
initial cost of the machines," and "the inability to make short
Circular 12, Tractors in Florida
What size tractors do you consider best for Florida?
The 2-plow machine was found to be the most common. Of
e 69 farmers who answered the question regarding the size
tractor for best use in this state, 57, or 82.6 percent, were in
vor of the 2-plow machine. The 1-plow was second best but
very poor one as only 8, or 11.6 percent, of the farmers recom-
ended it. There were only 3 3-plow and 1 4-plow outfits re-
rted. A smaller percent of the 2-plow outfits failed than
other of the others. Of the reported failures 10 percent were
the 2-plow, 25 percent were of the 1-plow, and 67 percent were
the 3-plow types. All of the 4-plow types were failures. The
16 and 9-18 horsepower tractors seem to be much more success-
ul than the larger or smaller ones.
How many days per year do you use your tractor?
The number of days per year that a tractor can be used in
his state is greater than in most states. A number of farmers
tated their machines were in use all of the time, weather
permitting, but the majority gave a much shorter period. An
average of the number of days given indicates that 123 days is
probably correct. Farmers of New York and Illinois report
sing their machines only 45 days per year. Of course a machine
in Florida cannot be expected to last as long as one in the
ast or Central West which is used only a third as much.
5. How long do you think your tractor will give good service?
This is a very important question. A large number of farmers
had not used their machines long enough to give a fair estimate
as to their probable life, thus we find that 33 omitted this
question. However, the average of the estimates given by those
reporting, while varying from 3 months to 10 years, is reliable
and can, under most conditions, be depended upon. This average
is 3.98 years. Twelve farmers did not report the life of their
machines in years, but stated that it depended entirely upon
the operator. Very few failed to mention this important point.
6. Who operates your machines?
The owner or owner's son seems to be able to get more out
of the machine than a hired operator, as only 2 of the 12 tractors
reported unprofitable were operated by owners or their sons.
Sixty-five of the machines were operated by hired men, 16.67
percent of which were failures; 28 were operated by owners
Florida Cooperative Extension
-or their sons and only 7 percent of these were reported
unprofitable. It was a little more than a 2-to-1 chance for t
machine to make good with the owner or his son operation
The wages of the hired operators averaged $3.75 per day.
7. How many acres per day can you plow with your tracto
While a number of farmers used harrows exclusively for gro
work others used plows at certain seasons. As the 2-plow out
constitutes 82.6 percent of the tractor outfits here consider
only the figures on this size will be given. An average for
10-hour day was 5 acres per tractor.
8. Does the use of a tractor reduce the number of work anima
on the farm?
Sixty-six farmers reported a reduction of horses raging fro
6 to 2 per farm. The average was 3.3. Sixteen reported n
reduction and one-half of the farmers who reported their tractor
unprofitable are among these. We find that 13 have done awa
with horses altogether and are doing all of their grove wor
9. Are tractors dependable?
On this question 78 farmers, or 88.6 percent of those reporting
answered in the affirmative, against 10, or 11.4 percent, wh
answered in the negative. The operator was frequently mention
ed in regard to the dependableness of the tractor.
10. Do you think an operator should take a course in tracto
operation before attempting to handle tractors?
In view of the fact that the operator is so important in
determining the profitableness or unprofitableness, length of life,
dependability, as well as the cost of plowing an acre, this question
was included. Some of the answers were as follows: "By all
means"; "certainly"; "should know all about them"; "not
necessary"; "useless expense". The number replying in the
affirmative was 66 against 18 answering in the negative. Nine
did not report.
11. Does the tractor do good work?
The quality of work done by the tractor as well as its reliability
was almost wholly dependent upon the operator. It is the
opinion of 71 farmers, or 80 percent of those reporting, that
the' tractor is capable of doing better work than horses; 14
farmers, or 16 percent, report it equally as good; while 3, or 4
Circular 12, Tractors in Florida
cent, consider it inferior. Many times poor work is due to
ws being out of adjustment. When this is the case it is
fair to charge it against the tractor.
SDoes the tractor make possible an acreage increase?
The tractor not only permitted a reduction in the number of
>rk animals, but also increased the acreage on 64.3 percent of
e farms reporting. Forty-seven farmers reported an increase
lile 26 had no increases. The number of acres per tractor
ried from 25 to 300, an average of 136.
.How much fuel and oil consumed per acre?
The amounts of gasoline and kerosene used to plow an acre
ere about the same, very slightly in favor of the gasoline.
or practical purposes there is no difference. There was a
ght difference between large and small machines, but an
erage of all was 2.62 gallons of fuel per acre. There was
so quite a variation in the amount of lubricating oils, some
porting only a fraction of a pint while others reported almost
gallon. The average amount was 4-5 of a quart.
Is the repair cost large?
The yearly cost of repairs could not be obtained very accurate-
.Some of the tractors had not been in use a year and their
owners could not foretell the repair cost. Others had used their
machines one year without any repair charges, while with others
ese charges were the big item. However, the average repair
ill of the 29 reporting was $54 for the first year. This can
e expected to increase as the machine is used, and the average
or the second year was given as $93, and the third year it
pproximated $150. These charges might look excessive to
persons from other sections of the country, but when one has
considered the conditions under which tractors must operate
ere and the long operating season, the cost is undoubtedly low
5. What was the initial purchase price of your tractor?
The average purchase price of the 1-plow outfits as reported
)y the owners was $780, while that of the 2-plow types was
This investigation shows that 77 percent of the tractor owners
considerr their machines profitable, and it also points to the fact
Florida Cooperative Extension
that with more efficient operators this percentage would be m
The principal advantage is shown to be in the tractor's abil
to do a great amount of work in a short time. There was
reduction of 3.3 horses per farm as well as an increased area
The yearly repair bills were high in dollars per year wh
compared to the East and Central West, but less than for th
sections per day of service.
COST OF OPERATION
The one point in which all owners as well as prospective tr
tor purchasers are intensely interested is the cost of plowi
per acre. There are five factors that must be taken into consi
eration in determining this cost. They are: (1) operating e
penses, including fuel, oil, grease; (2) repairs; (3) depreciatio
(4) cost of man labor; (5) interest on investment.
The average *mount of fuel necessary to plow one acre is 2.
gallons (page 5). The retail price of gasoline is 33.5 cents p
gallon. Therefore the gasoline cost is 88 cents per acre. T
amount of lubricating oil was found to be 4-5 of a quart p
acre. The retail price of this oil is 30 cents per quart, maki
an oil cost of 24 cents per acre. The amount of grease used w
small, not more than 4 cents per acre. Thus, the total cost
fuel, oil and grease is $1.16 per acre.
The amount of repairs necessary was variable and depend
upon (1) the proficiency of the operator and the care he gave t
tractor; (2) conditions under which used; (3) load required
pull; (4) quality of the tractor. If the same time had bee
spent on the tractor each morning and night that horses receive
the repair bill would have been reduced. As was shown o
page 5 the repairs during the first year for the 2-plow tracto
was $54. The machine was used on an average of 123 days ani
plowed five acres per day, making a total of 615 acres per yeai
and a repair charge of 9 cents per acre. Of course, as wa
shown on page 5, we must expect this charge to increase anm
for the second year it was $93, or 15 cents per acre. The their
year it was $150, or 24 cents per acre.
Circular 12, Tractors in Florida
The average life of a tractor being 3.98 years and the cost
the machine $1,180, the average annual depreciation will be
96. This is an item often overlooked. Here it is second to
n labor in cost. The charge per acre based on plowing 615
es per year would be 48 cents. The operator, of course, could
duce this depreciation by giving the tractor the proper care
d attention as well as by knowing his business.
Cost of Man Labor
The wages paid hired operators was very variable, but taking
e average wage of $3.50 a day would leave a charge of 70
nts per acre for man labor.
The interest on the investment is another item often over-
oked in determining the cost of plowing, but, as shown here,
is an important one. This charge should be a fixed sum, and
would not vary from year to year. With money worth 6 percent,
e yearly interest charge for a 2-plow tractor, costing $1,180,
would be $70.80, a per acre charge of 12 cents.
Total Cost per Acre
The approximate cost of plowing per acre, based on the above
gures, with a new tractor is: Gasoline 88 cents, oil 24 cents,
ease 4 cents, repairs 9 cents, depreciation 48 cents, man labor
0 cents, interest 12 cents, a total of $2.55. The cost of plowing
er acre with a tractor used already one year would be a little
ore than a new one. The only charge that differs materially
s depreciation which is $93 instead of $54 the second year.
his would change the charge per acre for repairs from 9 cents
o 15 cents, a total of $2.61 per acre.
The same holds true the third year with a repair charge of
4 cents, instead of 9 cents the first year and 15 cents the
second year. The approximate cost of plowing per acre the
third year is $2.68.
All of the above figures are based upon the 2-plow outfits,
with a purchase price of $1,180. The figures show clearly that
exclusive of man labor the cost of doing work with a tractor is
about the same as with horses. While the wages paid a tractor
operator is somewhat larger than paid the average plow hand,
the amount of work done justifies it. It is best to pay a little
g Florida Cooperative Extension
more in order to get a good man to handle costly machine
than to try to economize on labor. The machine will not ha
the proper care from a poor laborer. Paying a poor operate
more money will not make him a good one.
While a tractor means a considerable saving in man labc
it is not the most important consideration. Being able to
your plowing more rapidly at the proper time is undoubted
the most important factor in the use of a tractor. A tract(
works the same on warm days as on cool days. With horst
one must be particular not to over-heat them in summer.