When it comes to keeping farm fence lines clear of overgrowth, there is no substitute for brushcutters. These machines are so good that it’s hard to find a bad one.
With four different types on the market – wheeled, backpack, cow horn/bicycle handlebar and lance – the terrain and nature of the job will dictate which machine best suits a farmer’s needs.
As they are often needed for multiple tasks, much comes down to personal preference.
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They are flexible and all but one can be used with either cord or a blade.
Budget is another consideration – prices start from £200 but top-notch machines can cost nearly £1,000.
Today’s machines are easy-starting and have a high power-to-weight ratio and come in different sizes and power capacities, depending on the sort of work they’re designed to do.
At the top of the price range is the backpack. The engine is strapped to the operator’s back, which takes weight off the shoulders. For this reason, a more powerful engine can be used so it delivers a lot of power, but requires less of the physical effort associated with some of the other models.
Match the engine size and power delivery to the job. More power is needed where grass is very dense or where there are tough weeds or young saplings to cut.
With safety mind, the most comfortable way to protect eyes, face and hearing is with a helmet/face shield/ear muff combination. This offers protection from flying debris and is more comfortable than separate safety glasses and ear muffs.
Consider using metal-reinforced line. This is less prone to breakage.
Backpack strimmers are also useful for working on embankments and rough ground.
Probably the only drawback is that the weight of the engine unit raises the total centre of gravity of the operator’s body, making balancing more difficult during cutting.
Wheeled or pram style
The wheeled, or “pram-style”, cutter is least common, but farmers who have them love them for many reasons, not least because they take much less physical effort to operate.
Strimming can be a back-breaking job but the beauty of a wheeled device is that they are pushed along, removing that strain.
This machine runs parallel to the ground so it is at its best when used on flat ground. The one shortcoming is that it doesn’t have the option of a blade attachment.
Cow Horn/bicycle handlebar cutter
The cow horn, or bicycle handlebar cutter is used in conjunction with a shoulder strap. This machine is ideal for areas where the ground is flat and there is a lot of mowing to be done.
With this style of unit, it is easy to use a swaying or scything motion. This model is comfortable even when it is used for long hours of work.
Straight-handled lance cutter
At the budget end of the market, the straight-handled lance cutter can be used with a strap or held only with both hands.
It is a good choice for cutting vertical hedges or where vegetation needs cutting on banks or hilly ground and along the edges of ditches or streams. The engine needs to be small because it is the operator who largely takes the strain.
Strimmers can be used with different blade attachments or cord. Blades are generally accepted as being the safest option because they tend to throw less debris at the operator.
A blade, which scatters debris away from the operator as it cuts, is effective where the vegetation is thick and there are tough weeds or where the grass is dense when there has been a long gap between cuts.
Nylon-line heads are designed to rip through grass and are ideal for trimming around the base of trees, but when the line is lost the operator has the fiddly and time consuming job of hooking it out again.
There are clear differences between models that are intended for the homeowner and for working environments. The following guide looks at some of the brushcutters that have the strength to deal with those tough jobs on the farm.
Stihl FR 460 TC-EFM
Features: This machine has been redesigned to include an electric start. This new feature means it can be restarted when strapped to the operator’s back.
- Sits comfortably and securely to allow for balanced work posture and easy control.
- Softly padded carrying system balances the weight of the engine over the user’s shoulders and hips.
- Regulates the ignition timing and fuel mix in every operating state to optimise performance, even when temperatures and altitudes change.
- Memory function saves the settings from the last time it was used which means that full engine power is available straight away.
- A tool bag is set into the backpack’s support frame – great for stashing accessories and cutting tools.
- High cutting performance and pulling power
- Wide engine speed range
- Self-tuning engine
- Another practical feature is the long-life paper air filter, which is easy to reach and can thus be quickly inspected or replaced.
- Perfect for jobs that require cutting over large, difficult to access, areas
- Plastic guard can weigh a lot when clogged up with wet grass
- Flexible drive shaft needs regular attention
- Recommended retail price: £865 + VAT
Cow horn/bicycle handle
Makita EM4351UH 43cc 4-Stroke Brush Cutter
- Low vibration makes this machine comfortable for all-day working.
- Comes with a professional harness.
- Weighs 8.6kg.
- Pressurised lubrication system protects the engine for use at any angle.
- The handles can be adjusted or folded for transport and storage purposes.
- Not ideal for use on steeper ground or areas with lots of hidden obstacles.
RRP: £616 + VAT
Wheeled Petrol Trimmer
DR 6.75 Premier
- 22in cutting width
- Adjustable 1.5in-3.5in cutting height
- Powered by Briggs & Stratton 675 EXi series engine
- The offset frame design allows the cut to reach outside the wheel path, making it easy to trim up against fences and foundations
- Mainframe is made from heavy-duty 14-gauge steel and powder-coated to resist rust and corrosion
- At 26kg, it is light enough to manoeuvre in tight quarters
- Will easily cut through long grass and weeds
- Handlebar is easily adjustable without tools
- Trimmer head only turns when the controls on the handlebars are engaged
- When the controls are released, the cord stops spinning while the engine continues to run
- Engine needs no regular oil change, just an occasional top-up
- Weeds are prone to sticking around the shaft
- Not suitable for accessing rough ground
RRP: £440.83 + VAT
Efco Stark 3800 S
Straight shaft brushcutter
- Driven by a 36.2cc two-stroke petrol engine
- Semi-transparent, 0.87 litre fuel tank
- A recoil starter system smooths engine pick-up with no kickback
- Dual nylon line ‘Tap & Go’ trimmer head, which enables the operator to extend
- the line to the required working length by tapping the trimmer head against the ground
- Capable of clearing large areas of long grass and weeds
- A plastic debris guard deflects grass, stones and soil thrown up by the trimmer head
- A generously proportioned flywheel improves engine cooling
- A protective felt filter gives added engine protection in dusty environments.
- Good for maintaining balance in difficult positions
- Self-lubricating bearings on the transmission reduce vibration levels to reduce fatigue
- A single-shoulder harness prevents strain when machine is used for long periods
- Overall weight of 6.8kg
- Vibration can be an issue.
RRP: £315.83 + VAT.
Efco Tonkawa mulching tractor
- Designed for covering large areas
- 65cm turning radius
- 110cm width of cut
- Lockable differential to enable the machine to negotiate difficult conditions
- Drive is hydrostatic
- Roll bar to protect the operator.
- Cost. Around £8,600 + VAT.
What to consider before buying a brushcutter
- Type and condition of vegetation
- Type of terrain
- Size of area
- How frequently do you intend to use it
- What periods of time are you likely to be using it for each job
- Does it have a good comfort balance and weight
- Can it be adjusted to suit height
- Does it have a harness
- What are the vibration levels
- Is it noisy
- Is the maintenance straightforward
- Does the manufacturer offer a good back-up service, including spare parts