ask-tom-pictureHey Tom!

A farm where I work is interested in chatting with someone about walk-behind bush hogs. Do you have any opinions on them?

Thanks! — Beth

Beth –

As you may recall, I am a fan of walk-behind bush hogs. We have limited flat land on our farm so our fruit crops and ornamentals are on land that is too steep to comfortably work with a tractor. The walk-behind brush cutter can work on steeper terrain and also can get closer to blueberries and apple trees.

We have an old Bachtold Brothers big wheel brush cutter that was originally developed to mow corners and ditches of large corn and soybean fields. We can still get parts so we keep repairing it as it ages, but more modern designs have more features (like reverse gear.) We replaced the engine last year and added electric start (what a luxury).

These devices cut brush with ease up to about an inch in diameter. They move at walking speed in open ground so if the bush isn’t too high, it covers several acres a day if the operator is that ambitious. Close trimming around plants will be slower. With larger trees a chainsaw is needed but the brush cutter can mulch the smaller branches that are too small for firewood. They are popular with Christmas tree growers for weed management and even harvest with addition of a large circular saw blade.

The best way to decide if one of these devices fits your farm is to rent one of the more modern versions. Asheville Rental in Woodfin on Riverside Drive has a DR brand with a great price for the weekend. To purchase one the price appears to be between $2000 and $3500. Here’s the website for the brand.

Home Depot tool rental in Oakley has the Billy Goat brand, for roughly the same price.

Your neighborhood equipment rental place may have something similar. I would try both before making a purchase. You might find that rental is the way to go if you only need it a few times a year.

Earth Tools which exhibits at the Organic Growers School has a brush cutter attachment for a BCS in the $800 to $1500 range. I have not used this one but I love my BCS walk-behind tractor and all the attachments that I own. I suspect it will work well.

The last photo illustrates that you can keep going up in size and destructive potential (search on land clearing equipment). I suggest caution if you use a machine like this anywhere near your house. You could lose the kitchen before you get your foot off the gas.

Happy Farming!
— Tom
bush hog

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Tom Elmore

Tom Elmore

Tom Elmore is co-owner and operator of Thatchmore Farm in Leicester NC. He has grown certified organic fruits and vegetables for 25 years and serves on the Boards of the NC Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Association and the Organic Growers School.