No tractor is less mollycoddled than the one hooked to a muckscraper. Slathered in slurry from dawn ‘til dusk and shunting back and forth with monotonous regularity, these machines have a notoriously hard life.
Yet, they’re expected to start without fault every day of the year and soldier on with the bare minimum of maintenance.
Classics such as Massey Ferguson 135s and Ford 4000s have long been favourites for this type of work, but with prices for good examples steadily climbing, they’re becoming less attractive.
As a result, there is now a broad selection of competitively priced new tractors that have come in to fill the void.
Many of the cheaper options are compact models brought in from China or India, with the odd South Korean brand thrown in for good measure.
Generally, they’re rebranded with a slightly more Western name before being sold here. These tractors aren’t necessarily basic, though, with four-wheel drive, cabs and air conditioning often on the options list.
Stepping up the budget brings in candidates from the Japanese makers, such as Kubota and Iseki, and there is even a growing market for small conventional tractors from some of the big names.
These tend to make it onto some of the larger dairy units.
One of the attractions of buying new is that all of these machines come with a warranty, which can often be extended.
We take a look at 10 options, which we have sorted roughly in ascending price order.
One of the cheapest new scraper tractor options comes from Landlegend, which imports Chinese-built tractors that it sells under its own name.
According to the firm, more than 2.5m of these machines have been sold worldwide since production of them started in 1952.
The tractors arrive in kit form and are assembled in the UK by Landlegend. Customers are able to buy from the company directly, as well as through dealers – the main one being Somerset-based Cowling Agri.
Power on the 50hp model comes from a four-cylinder direct-injection engine that drives a 12×12 synchromesh transmission with forward/reverse shuttle.
All models have selectable four-wheel drive, diff-lock, oil-immersed discs and power steering as standard.
The back end is home to a Cat 1 three-point linkage that’s capable of lifting 1.7t, two spool valves and a 540/1,000-speed pto.
Prices for the 50hp model start at £9,995 with a roll-over frame, and there is the option of a cab which costs £2,750. Standard warranty is 12 months, but this can be extended to three years.
Competitively priced Solis tractors from India have had a considerable amount of recent success in the scraper tractor market, particularly in the North West.
The Solis 50 is the most popular model for this work, featuring an in-house three-cylinder engine that drives an 8×2 synchromesh transmission.
Brakes are oil-immersed, power steering comes as standard and rear lift capacity is 1.6t. There is also a two-speed pto and two spool valves.
Two-wheel-drive models cost £9,995 and four-wheel drive and/or a cab add £3,000 apiece. Opting for the cab brings in air conditioning as standard.
Solis tractors are available through a network of 24 UK dealers and come with a three-year warranty.
According to the firm, there is a fairly even split between two- and four-wheel-drive models destined for scraping duties, and most are purchased without a cab.
Those used to muckscraping with a pre-1990s Massey Ferguson will be well at home with Tafe’s range of simple, old-school tractors.
All models coming into the UK share the same basic platform, which is essentially an MF 240 with a modern fuel-injected cylinder head. Even the parts are interchangeable.
The links between the two firms run so deep that they could almost be considered the same organisation.
All Tafes are built in India and they’re sold under MF branding in most countries. Tafe’s owner is also reported to have a major shareholding in Agco.
In the UK, the 45DI is one of the most popular models purchased for muckscraping, and features a 47hp fuel-injected three-cylinder engine allied to an eight-speed mechanical transmission with a 12in dry clutch.
It comes with oil-immersed brakes, and the option of two- or four-wheel drive. However, according to Tafe, very few are sold with four-wheel drive for scraping duties.
Cabs are also available, but again, these are rarely chosen for this type of work.
Steering is hydrostatic, the hydraulic functions are powered by a 15-litre/min pump and the maximum rear lift is 1,450kg.
These tractors are about as simple and mechanical as it gets these days and, other than lights and gauges, the only electronic component is the Bosch fuel-injection system.
Two-wheel-drive tractors are 1.65m wide and weigh 1.96t, while four-wheel-drive versions sit at 1.68m and tip the scales at 2.2t.
They come with a two-year warranty as standard and the importer, Tractors UK, stocks parts required to keep them going. They can also be serviced and repaired with Massey Ferguson-compatible parts.
On-farm prices are £12,800 for a two-wheel-drive 45DI, four-wheel drive adds £1,400 and the optional cab is £4,500. They are available through a network of UK dealers.
Siromer has been importing Chinese-built tractors for the past 20 years and says it has sold more than 4,000 examples during that time.
Some of the smaller models are available as a flat-pack kit for the buyer to assemble themselves, but the larger versions come fully constructed.
The 504CH is a popular choice for scraping duties, with a four-cylinder 50hp Yangdong engine, 12×12 synchromesh transmission with clutched forward/reverse shuttle and a 10in dual-stage clutch.
Switchable four-wheel drive comes as standard, as do oil-immersed brakes and hydraulic power steering. Models with ag tyres also have 180kg wheel weights for additional grip.
At the rear, there is a Cat 2 linkage that is capable of lifting 1.7t, a 540/1,000rpm pto and two spool valves. Width is 1.65m, they weigh 2.78t and the turning circle is 6.8m.
A cab is optional, and this comes complete with a heater and air conditioning. Prices for the 504CH start at £12,900 and the cab adds £2,550.
They can be purchased direct from Siromer or through its dealer network, and they come with a 12-month warranty that can be extended.
Hailing from South Korea, Branson’s range of compact tractors has proven popular with smallholders and livestock farmers.
In the scraper tractor sector, the firm has had a fair amount of success with its F47 model, which comes with a three-cylinder engine developing 45hp.
Transmission options include a 12×12 synchromesh manual with power reverser or a three-range hydrostatic, which is the bestseller.
Power steering comes as standard, as do oil-immersed brakes, and buyers have the option of ag, turf or industrial tyres.
The rear linkage is Cat 1 with a 1.5t lift capacity, there is a 560/780rpm pto and two spool valves.
It measures 1.3m wide, weighs 1.45t and comes with four-wheel drive as standard. A cab is available too, with heater, air conditioning and radio.
On-farm prices start at about £14,800 for a manual model, hydrostatic versions are £15,278 and cabs add about £3,700. Prices include a two-year, 1,000-hour warranty. Tractors can be purchased direct or through a network of dealers.
Livestock farmers are a key customer for Kubota and the firm offers a number of new scraper tractor options, including a couple of compacts and a conventional model.
The L1421 is the entry-level compact machine in our power category with 45hp available from its four-cylinder engine.
It comes with the choice of an 8×8 manual with clutch-free shuttle or three-range hydrostatic transmission, and a roll-over frame. On-farm prices for a base-spec hydrostatic model start at £17,900.
However, the most popular variant is the higher-spec L2421 that brings in the option of a fully enclosed cabin with a heater, air conditioning and a radio as standard.
The engine and power output is the same as the simpler models, but the manual transmission is a 16-speeder with clutchless shuttle and the hydrostatic option has a dual-speed setting.
These tractors have oil-immersed brakes, hydraulic power steering, a 540/750rpm pto and a Cat 1 three-point linkage with 1.7t lift capacity. Two spool valves are included.
Kubota only builds tractors with four-wheel drive, but the axles use a bevel gear arrangement to give a turning circle comparable with that of two-wheel-drive competitors.
A realistic on-farm price for an L2421 with cab and manual transmission is £24,300.
The final option is the smallest of the firm’s conventional tractor line-up – the M4062 – which is available with either a roll-over frame or enclosed cab.
These tractors have a 3.3-litre four-cylinder engine that develops 66hp, which is teamed to an 18- or 36-speed manual transmission with electro-hydraulic shuttle.
All of these models have a two-year warranty as standard, with the option of extending to five years.
Iseki sits alongside Kubota as one of Japan’s biggest exporters of compact tractors. In the UK it offers a range of models from 23-65hp.
The cabless TLE is the firm’s so called “premium economy” line, which makes them well suited to muckscraping.
The top-of-the-range TLE4550 is fitted with a three-cylinder engine that develops 55hp and has the option of a 12-speed manual transmission or three-range hydrostatic.
Brakes are multi-plate oil-immersed discs, power steering is included as standard and it comes with the option of turf or ag tyres.
At the back end, there is a Cat 1 three-point linkage with 1.2t lift capacity and a 540rpm pto.
The cheapest version comes with one spool, with the option of upgrading to two, and these are powered by a 20.7-litre/min hydraulic pump that is separate to the one used to operate the steering.
Those looking for a cab and a little more sophistication have the option of the TG range, which gets you either a double-clutch IQ transmission or hydrostatic.
On-farm price for the TLE4450 is about £21,000 and it comes with a two-year/2,000-hour warranty.
Iseki also builds Massey Ferguson’s 1500 and 1700 compact tractor ranges.
The X2 from McCormick is sold as a scaled-down version of its conventional tractor range, rather than a compact model.
However, with a four-cylinder Yanmar engine developing 44-51hp and a weight of just 1.46t, it has a comparable power and stature to most of the compacts featured here.
The X2.35 is the largest of the three-model line-up, and it comes with a 12×12 synchromesh transmission, which can be upgraded to 16-speed with the addition of a creeper box.
There is also a clutchless shuttle for speedy direction changes.
Buyers can pick two- or four-wheel-drive front axles with an electronically controlled locking diff on the latter.
Lift capacity of the Cat 1 three-point linkage is 1.2t and it has a 540rpm pto as standard, with the option of adding a 750rpm option or a ground-speed pto. Hydraulic flow is up to 48 litres/min and it can be loaded with three spool valves.
Buyers can specify the tractor with or without a cab and there is the option of adding heating, air conditioning and a radio. On-farm prices for the 12-speed X2.35 start at £18,500.
Those looking for a slightly bigger machine also have the larger X4, which has a 70hp engine, 12-speed transmission and the choice of a cab or open platform.
On-farm prices for the open version start at £22,300. Both models come with a one-year/1,000-hour warranty as standard and the option of upgrading to five years/ 5,000 hours.
New Holland T4.55
New Holland’s smallest conventional tractors are strong sellers in the scraper market and the firm brings in a significant number of two-wheel-drive models specifically for this purpose.
The engine is a 3.5-litre four-cylinder that develops 58hp, which is coupled to a 12×12 synchro shuttle or 12×12 power shuttle transmission – the latter being the most popular for scraping duties.
A mechanical rear diff lock is standard fitment and four-wheel-drive models also have a limited-slip front diff. Turning radius on these is 3.82m – up from 3.66m on two-wheel-drive versions.
At the rear, there is a Cat 1/2 linkage that is capable of lifting a sizeable 2.7t.
This is controlled by the firm’s so-called Lift-O-Matic controller that allows the linkage to be raised and lowered without touching the draft/position control.
Hydraulics are powered by a 47.5-litre/min pump and there is the option of having up to three rear spool valves.
The tractors are available with or without a cab, but most models are specced with one. On-farm price for a two-wheel-drive unit with cab is about £27,000, including a 12-month warranty, which can be extended.
In the compact sector, buyers also have the option of the Boomer 50 that is built by South Korean maker LS Mtron.
John Deere 5058E
The smallest machine in John Deere’s conventional tractor line-up is the 5058E, which sits at the bottom of the firm’s latest 5E range.
It is certainly at the pricier end of the scraper tractor market, but according to Deere it’s fairly popular with those who want a bit more luxury for the daily chore.
Power comes from a 2.9-litre three-cylinder engine that develops 58hp and it has the choice of a 12- or 24-speed manual transmission, both of which come with a clutchless power shuttle.
The back end is home to a Cat 2 linkage with 1.8t lift capacity, two spool valves that can be upgraded to four and a 540/540e pto. The hydraulic output is 43.5 litres/min.
All models have four-wheel drive featuring electro-hydraulic engagement, and there is a mechanical diff-lock. Steering is hydrostatic with a 55deg steering angle that gives a 8.5m turning circle.
It is possible to get a 5E with a roll-over frame, but most come fitted with a cab, which has the option of adding air conditioning. List prices for the open model start at £33,668 and a cab adds about £6,000.
Dropping into Deere’s compact tractor range brings the 4052M into the conversation. It has a 2-litre, four-cylinder engine that delivers 50hp, which is teamed to either a mechanical transmission with power reverser or a hydrostatic.
List price of the open station model is £26,130 and the “R” version with cab is £38,546.
Deere doesn’t provide on-farm prices, but it says its figures are competitive with similar machines from other makers. The warranty is 12 months.